Ning is taking a short break! Our experienced technicians are currently hard at work so as to bring Ning back online shortly. Thanks for your patience.
This appears to be an expansion of the Slashdot effect, the phenomenon in which waves of traffic from a link on Slashdot crashes the recipient site. As Digg has grown into a major traffic driver, many sites have reported a similar Digg Effect. Now it seems we're seeing a similar effect in which sites whose launch announcements are featured on prominent blogs are quickly overwhelmed with traffic. It's not quite the "TechCrunch Effect," but that blog seems to serve as the leading edge of this traffic wave, as links on TechCrunch are quickly picked up and other blogs link to the featured site.
Am I overanalyzing the impact of the collective blogospheric traffic? You might wonder if Ning has the industrial-strength scalability to accommodate major traffic. But consider that its co-founder is Marc Andreessen, who ran a managed hosting company (Loudcloud/Opsware) after his stint at Netscape. And Yahoo certainly has serious infrastructure.
A common factor is that both were Software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps featuring drag-and-drop interfaces, which tend to be more complex that standard web sites. Since these Saas/Web 2.0 sites are the target demographic for TechCrunch and other high-traffic blogs, it seems to raise the bar on pre-launch engineering of SaaS services.
Then again, the launch-and-crash syndrome could become a badge of honor for the affected sites, giving the impression of geeky hotness that will keep folks coming back to see when the site is up again. Think of it as the Internet equivalent of the line in front of Best Buy when a console launches.
UPDATE: Ning appears to be back now, so it looks like it was a fairly brief outage.