For those who may not be familiar with the Ning networks, it is a free forum used to by groups of like-minded individuals to develop and enhance communities of shared topics… such as Steampunk. Alas, as with many other things in difficult economic times, aside from staff cuts, the Nings are changing to a "Premium" model (aka - no more free ride, you'll have to pay up to use it).
While understandable, it is unfortunate, as SL has a good number of networks which used the Ning to enhance their community. Many of these Steamland entities will go to the wayside, unfortunately, and will be lost to the proverbial "Sands of Time".
Screenshot of a Ning page - this one for an educational entity
However, two influential players who use the Ning networks will likely transition to the Premium status. First, the ever-growing Steampunk Empire is going strong, and Mr. Aloysius and Mr. Hephzibah have stated they will be ensure the "Empire stays strong" (aka, it will remain after the Premium migration). Additionally, Dieselpunks.org (a Premium site already, to my estimation) will also stand fast, allowing its excellent reporting on both Steampunk and Dieselpunk to remain intact.
Additionally, one of my own favorite sites, the Art of Manliness, also intends to remain vibrant, so consider paying it a visit as well - plenty of interesting insights gentleman-lyness topics!
Many of the SL Steamland locations, such as New Babbage, Steelhead, Neo-Victoira, New Champagne Rooms, Armada, New Toulouse, and others, will lose their Nings. New Babbage is currently under discussion on the next step, and further details will ideally emerge soon.
Not sure as to how long it will be until the plug is finally pulled - I've heard three months or so, but the Ning management says they will provide further information come May 4th on what will happen and on the Premium status. However, as a heads up, if you do have anything on a Ning you have posted and wish to save… make it a point of retrieving it asap!
(A few aformentioned Ning sites are listed below)...