My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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The Cultural Divide Between LiveJournal and Six Apart

Ah, shit. If Brad is willing to sell, i suspect that this rumor is definitely true. It doesn’t require a brain to know that buying LiveJournal would be a brilliant move on Six Apart’s part. That said, i’m not sure that i like this move at all.

Live Journal is a culture, not simply a product or commodity that can be bought. From an outsider’s perspective, it might appear as though they are similar properties – they are both blogging tools, right? Wrong.

Jump inside LJ culture. People who use LJ talk about their LJs, not their blogs. They mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart’s tools. During interviews with LJ/Xanga folks, i’ve been told that MovableType is for people with no friends, people who just talk to be heard, people who are trying too hard.

LJ folks don’t see LJ as a tool, but a community. Bloggers may see the ethereal blogosphere as their community, but for LJers, it’s all about LJ. Aside from the ubergeek LJers, LJers don’t read non-LJs even though syndication is available. They post for their friends, comment excessively and constantly moderate who should have access to what.

While you cannot generalize about LJers, a vast majority of them are engaged in acts of resistance regularly (think: subcultures, activists, youth rebels, etc.). They value LJ because it values them. They value LJ because it is a tool of resistance, an act of going against mainstream and representing those already marginalized by society – the geeks, freaks and queers among us. They don’t want to be mainstream. They don’t want their parents/authorities/oppressors using the same service. At the same time, LJ provides shelter, support, community. When someone threatens to commit suicide, LJ doesn’t throw up its hand and scream “not my problem.” There are folks who actually work to help friends help each other. They’re not just an anonymous service – they care.

I would love to know why people donate to LiveJournal. My hunch is that it has to do with cultural identity. When you donate, it says so on your page. When you donate, you signify that you value LJ. Forget increased features, you’ve just made the ultimate commitment to a community – a commitment of money. And aren’t you jealous of the permanent members and early adopters?

Friends have asked me if people care about Brad. Craigslist users often talk about knowing someone who knows Craig and that they value the intimacy of it because they know that Craig loves them. I don’t think the same is true for Brad. The geeks definitely give me the 6 degrees relationship status, but most people talk about it being their community. In other words, i think that as far as most LJers are concerned, LJ is run by an attentive benevolent dictator who cares about them. They don’t care about Brad – they care about the freedom that he appears to give them without any indication of reality.

Movable Type is a product; LiveJournal is a community. Six Apart is seen as a community that provides tools, not culture. I suspect that if LJ goes to SA, there will be discontent from LJ users even though the media and blogosphere will hail it as an exceptionally [insert business rhetoric here] deal. Even if Six Apart doesn’t change a damn thing, i suspect that LJers will feel wary, unloved and co-opted by The Man. I can’t imagine them going anywhere fast but i can’t see them being happy either, nor can i see them continuing to contribute economically.

My biggest concern is that a merger will stunt the cultural growth on LiveJournal that makes it so fascinating. My second concern is that Six Apart will not be prepared to deal with the userbase and will initiate practices that are more detrimental because of fear. [For example, what’s the best way to handle an LJ community dedicated to cutters trying to outdo each other via images?] It takes a resistance-based culture to support a community of resisters and Six Apart is by no means a resistance-minded company. My third concern is that LiveJournal will shift because of investor value. It’s already compared to blogging, but as its own entity, it doesn’t have to be evaluated on those terms. If bought by Six Apart, i’m concerned that SA’s investors will evaluate it on SA blogging’s terms instead of in terms of LJ. My fourth concern is that fear of control will limit the evolving identity production/consumption that makes LiveJournal so valuable for youth and marginalized populations. It’s already far too public for more people, but easy access to LJ from MT/Typepad could be a disaster for many LJers.

While many bloggers love to talk about LJ with disdain, as a low-brow version of the culture, i adore LJ from the bottom of my heart and i’m truly concerned that LJ’s culture will be corrupted by an acquisition. It is not like any other blogging service and the needs that it serves are fundamentally different. I understand that Brad would gain much from selling, but it breaks my heart all the same. I can totally understand what he will gain, what Six Apart will gain… but what will LJ folks gain?

Sad sad sad. I hope Malik is wrong. And if he’s not, i hope i’m wrong. But i’m very very concerned about the impact of this should be it be true.

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130 comments to The Cultural Divide Between LiveJournal and Six Apart

  • Maybe the logic from LiveJournal’s point of view was “We think Mena would make a cute goth”.

  • yes. took the words right out of my mouth. (not entirely sure how i got here, but i’ve been hopping posts talking about this potential merger all evening.)

    i joined LJ back in the summer of 2000 (as one of those early adopters everyone’s so jealous of 😉 ) with a bunch of my friends. at that point in time, i had a separate blog, but over the years, i grew to primarily use my LJ. why? because my friends were on LJ. i go to one page and see all of my friends’ recent posts – it’s the community. i’ve brought friends into this community; i’ve volunteered in support, and after five years, it really is an online home to me. more of my friends have LJs than don’t, and this was not the case when the “blogging revolution” came around – they weren’t even interested in having a so-called “internet presence.” most of them still aren’t; they’re on LJ to keep up with their friends’ day-to-day lives, because it’s easier than email.

    LJ humanized the internet for a lot of my slightly less tech-savvy friends. While blogs made it so that you could say anything, LJ perfected the feel of someone always being there to listen. And I agree that Six Apart’s fundamental mission seems to run against that particular je ne sais quoi.

    That being said, all we can do is watch and wait for official word to come.

  • It would be stupid for SixApart to buy Live Journal and squelch or significantly alter the culture. People sell companies or seek financing so they can grow. If you think the architecture or community of LJ is important, perhaps it can be stimulated by the injection of capital and expertise from MT? If growth is a bad idea for LJ, then this rumor could be bad news indeed. But without growth LJ might not evolve, and evolution is one of the most exciting things happening online.

    danah – what if LJ culture and architecture permeated the SixApart/MT product line? Wouldn’t that be a good outcome? Let’s look positive here.

  • That’s the thing Justin – i’m not sure it would be a good thing. I mean, HotTopicification of mainstream culture isn’t really what goths and ravers want. [And then there are the gravers.] Just because it works for the underground doesn’t mean it should be adopted by the mainstream – that’s often completely opposite to what oppressed groups want.

    I don’t think that Six Apart would be stupid enough to actually try to squelch or alter the culture – i just think that they will by putting their rubber stamp on it. It’s kinda like Playboy putting a rubber stamp on Suicide Girls. Affiliation alone affects the culture, like it or not.

    I think that LJ is growing plenty on its own, evolving plenty on its own. And i really don’t see what LJers gain by being affiliated with 6A. ::sigh::

  • I thought that some of the appeal of LJ was that it is not complicated to use. Lots of people I know who have LJs don’t identify themselves as bloggers. They see it as more of a easy-to-use public diary. Heck, without outbound links, I’d have to agree with them.

    If SixApart starts adding MoveableType-esque features to the free version of LJ, would those teenagers and LJ purists stick with it?

  • If Six Apart acquires Live Journal….

    As Ross noted earlier, there is gossip in the air that Six Apart will acquire LiveJournal. I’m concerned about the cultural effects of this, some of which i’ve addressed in a rather verbose entry entitled The Cultural Divide Between LiveJou…

  • Some good points in here. As an “ubergeek LJer,” I’ve been trying to stradle the line between having my blog/journal act as a typical “friends-based” online journal vs. having it being taken seriously in the MovableType-based blogging world.

    One positive I can see coming out of the SA purchase is that it would give an air of legitimacy to LJ which is viewed by so many in the online world as a mostly teen-based tool. While the stats indicate that it is teen-dominated, for those of us non-teen LJ users, it would be nice to see the same legitmacy given to thoughtful LJ bloggers just like the current top-level domain bloggers.

    As to your point on the mainstream-ification of LJ in a post SA-LJ merged world… the existance of subcultures and oppressed groups on LJ is not why I (and I think many other LJ users) use the service. I use it because it’s the most balanced of all of the lightweight publishing systems I’ve tried… easy to use, powerful, customizable, interoperable thru syndication, and with a great set of community features built in.

    While I do agree that the non-mainstream LJ users will feel alienated… they’ll stay since a better alternative to LJ does not yet exist.

  • i think the best thing that SA could do is help guide the LJers about syndication. that would start to bridge the gaps between a well knitted community and those with MT installed.

    i never enjoyed LJ because i never had control over everything. i hoped to xanga, modblog, and tried out blogger. i still couldn’t get the control i was looking for (installing plugins, etc.). so i opted to get hosting and the guts to install MT. definitely worth it – but if you don’t want power, and just care about getting your word out there, then MT is not for you.

  • Ario – that’s part of my point – i think it’s terrible for LJ to receive Six Apart “legitimacy” (a.k.a. mainstream culture legitimacy). That ruins the key value of LJ IMHO. Fuck those who think it’s teen dominated – that’s their problem. I don’t think that LJ’s primary goal should be a lightweight tool for those who are deciding between blogging services. Most of those invested in the LJ community are not using it because it’s a simpler tool to use – they’re not even comparing it to other blogging tools. They don’t care. They care about the community of friends that they have on LJ and nowhere else.

    And you’re right – they will stay. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be affected by this. And it doesn’t mean that i’m happy about it. I think that mainstream legitimacy will be the worst thing for LJ in the long run.

  • I’m rather new to regularly using LJ myself as a blogging tool; I got my account to read friends’ access-protected personal journals. This does not mean that I’m not worried about what may happen to LJ culture and community once this merger goes through.

    Back in the wild and crazy late 1990s, I was a community leader at GeoCities; for all we were essentially working at building community in exchange for free webspace, it actually did work for a time. (Much like, apparently, the LJ Support and Abuse volunteers.) After Yahoo bought GeoCities, we felt that the community aspects of the site and the entire culture based around free homepages really changed. Eventually, the program was eliminated, along with a lot of other things that made GeoCities a unique community, like the whole “neighborhood” structure.

    I don’t like the idea of LiveJournal becoming another GeoCities.

  • Una mattina mi son svegliato…

    Insomma, pare che Six Apart (Movable Type, Typepad) stia per comprare LiveJournal , il servizio che non un servizio ma un mondo a parte (e che io non ho mai capito a fondo).

  • Will Six Apart Kill Live Journal Culture?

    With the news of Six Apart’s move to buy Live Journal comes an interesting piece from Danah Boyd on the cultural differences of the two blogging communities.

  • wouldn’t this go against the LJ social contract?

    Our Promise to You

    We at LiveJournal try to ensure that our service is as pleasant as possible for each user, so we’ve assembled a list of promises we will keep.

    We stand firm in saying that we will:

    Work with the community, for the community

    We promise to keep you informed of changes to the best of our abilities without being intrusive. We promise to run our business based on feedback from the LiveJournal community, and with the LiveJournal community’s best interests in mind.

    I would argue this isn’t in the best interests of the community, but i guess that really depends on who you talk to.

    PS you might be interested in an article I recently had published on LJ versus blogs (among other things) in First Monday: http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_12/raynes/index.html

    I, too found that LJ is really “ghettoized” in the academic community.

  • Six Apart to buy Live Journal?

    Om Malik reports that he has learnt that Six Apart are to buy Live Journal for ‘an undisclosed sum’.

    The deal is a mix of stock a…

  • Six Apart to buy Live Journal?

    Om Malik reports that he has learnt that Six Apart are to buy Live Journal for ‘an undisclosed sum’. The deal is a mix of stock and cash, and could be announced sometime later this month, according to those close…

  • Six Apart buying LiveJournal?

    Perhaps it’s time for a little shakeout in the blogging world. The industry is getting mature enough. Om Malik is reporting that Six Apart, the San Francisco company that makes blogging tools TypePad and Movable Type, is buying LiveJournal, the Portlan…

  • Talking about apophenia: The Cultural

    Talking about apophenia: The Cultural Divide Between LiveJournal and Six Apart

  • At first, I was a bit offended by your comment that “It doesn’t require a brain to know that buying Live Journal would be a brilliant move on Six Apart’s part”, because I just posted some negative commentary about it on my site. But then, you proceeded to list all the reasons why you don’t like it, and since I consider you to be pretty brilliant, I’m thinking that maybe this deal isn’t so brilliant. If all these things are true (you have much deeper insight into the LJ culture than I do… I don’t like it from a business perspective), then why is this such a great deal? If LJ users leave in droves, bash Six Apart, and create havoc, how much value will be left for Six Apart? I think your gut reaction to it is much more relevent than your business evaluation.

  • There is also a potential clash between developer cultures to watch out for.

  • apophenia: The Cultural Divide Between LiveJournal and Six Apart

    Link: apophenia: The Cultural Divide Between LiveJournal and Six Apart. Danah has more cultural insight into the blogworld in her pinky than I have altogether and assesses this deal from an interesting perspective.

  • Six Apart buying LiveJournal?

    Perhaps it’s time for a little shakeout in the blogging world. The industry is getting mature enough. Om Malik is reporting that Six Apart, the San Francisco company that makes blogging tools TypePad and Movable Type, is buying LiveJournal, the Portlan…

  • mike

    Since basically none of the details are really known, isn’t alot of this just fueled by fears of what either company will become ? and aren’t these fears unfounded, really ?

    I mean seriously, both companies have taken a great deal of care about their respective users/communities…we’re not talking microsoft here. In almost every mention of 6A and LJ in the blogosphere by the academics, pundits, etc, they (both the sites, and their operators) are held in high regard.

    I feel like any meta-arguments about intentions or fears with regards to either company trying to go ‘mainstream’ sound like the familiar rumblings of your local vinyl/music snob going on about how Echo and the Bunnymen lost their cred when they started playing clubs that hold more than 15 people. That is, silly.

    I say good for 6A, and good for LJ. Neither have any history of ‘selling out’ their communities, and for those folks who might fear it, I suggest re-reading Egger’s article on ‘selling out’:

    http://www.armchairnews.com/freelance/eggers.html

  • Thanks mike. I was reading through these comments with a great deal of disappointment and frustration until I reached yours where you nailed it.

    This is currently rumor. If it is true we know NOTHING about the details of the deals or the plan going forward. Any fears or criticisms or judgment are completely premature and unnecessary.

    (BTW Danah: Comparing LJ to MT is not the right comparison when TypePad is closer, though sill not the same as you pointed out. I’m not arguing that community is not LJ’s strongest asset.)

    I simple don’t understand why Six Aprt is regarded as evil and completely incompetent (yes, they have made some welll publicized mistakes) that some many would rush to judgment that a deal (if true) will be a disaster.

    I also don’t understand were this idea that a something popular must remain free to thrive as a community and anything else is bad or disruptive in a negative. Of course the community will be effected, but isn’t this type of significant event part of a culture evolution and lifecycle?

    There is a lot of talk about social software in terms of user behavior, but how does the group defended themselves from their finanical burden of their own popularity? That would be a much more constructive and germane discussion then all of this gossip and fear mongering to what may or may not happen. (Were’s Clay Shirky when you need him? He was an economist right?)

    While LJ is undoubtably a culture with some interesting social dynamics it is still a business. Developers have to eat. They have staff, they need servers and bandwidth and with that number of users a lot of them. As Om Malik pointed out in his post, LJ has 6.5 million users most of whom ARE NOT paying customers. 6.5 million users is A LOT of people to take care of even if you had they had a steady stream of income to work with. I know they get donations and all, but I would be shocked to learn it is enough to meet their ongoing operational expenses. If this is indeed true I would guess the financial and operational resources Six Apart would bring would be the motivation. Depending on the state of their finances and the cost of their operations this may be the best means for the communities survival. We almost lost Blogger which was dying under the crushing weight of its popularity unitl Google saved it.

    <tim/>

  • VASpider

    I actually left my MT-based blog when 6A first started charging for upgrades; I would have been more than happy to pay for the product, but the amount they asked for what I used it for was absolutely exorbitant, especially compared to LJ. The value just was not there for me; LJ offered the community, the support, and the features I wanted and needed for my online endeavors.

    It’s not that I don’t have the guts to install and run MT. I have, and I did, for several years. What I perceived as 6A’s inattention to their target audience and their users made me leave, and I haven’t looked back.

  • SixApart Buying LiveJournal?!

    I left the gallery early yesterday and tried to stay off the laptop last and and it seems in doing…

  • the crack theory:

    From Om Malik: I have learnt exclusively that Six Apart, the parent company behind hosted blogging service TypePad, and Moveable Type is about to acquire Live Journal, for an undisclosed amount. The deal is a mix of stock and…

  • “I say good for 6A, and good for LJ. Neither have any history of ‘selling out’ their communities…”

    Mike is historically correct, and hopefully a prophet. With the astonishing, yet probably conservative, blogging numbers that Pew announced Monday, 6A can afford to leave LJ as a separate community and have it evolve into a more direct competitor to MySpace. An intimate view into media authoring and consumption that innovative will let them evolve their mainstream/commercial/?adult? offerings in a lot more valuable way than if they try and smash all the properties together into a generic platform.

  • Live Journal Acquired

    Update: For a much deeper understanding of the differences between Live Journal (LJ) and Six Apart/Moveable Type, read Danah Boyd’s post. Oh and she clarifies that LJ users don’t call it blogging software. They call them their LJs. Blogging friend…

  • Six Apart Buying Live Journal?

    Rumor has it that Six Apart (developers of Movable Type) are planning on buying out Live Journal – a competing weblog system, and some say, a “community”. There’s some truth to that latter bit, but I’m not really sure I’d elevate it to protected status…

  • I didn’t even know this 6 Apart site at all, not being a part of the generalized blogging community. But personally, as long as livejournal remained the same after this merger, I wouldn’t care. Of course, if, like often happens to free services when they get bought up by larger companies, freedoms started to get cut, *then* I’d get annoyed. But why should I care who owns the thing?

  • Kauft Six Apart LiveJournal?

    Om Malik behauptet, dass Six Apart, das Unternehmen hinter Movable Type, LiveJournal, einen der größten Weblog/Diary-Dienst kaufen wird. Danah Boyd zeigt sich besorgt und schreibt über die kulturellen Unterschiede zwischen…

  • Rumors aside, this is one of the best encapsulations of LJ culture I’ve read in the outside world. I have to say that neither I nor [most of] my LJfriends are teen/subculture types, but the truth remains that LJ is all about community — whatever your style or interests, there are a lot of people there that share them, and the social network makes it easy to find them.

    I’ve installed MovableType and WordPress and run blogs with them. It still feels very lonely compared to LiveJournal. Blogging is a soapbox, a place to rant to the world. It’s too disconnected and too open (no friends-only posts) to be a place I feel comfortable in for anything but dry technical punditry.

    Honestly, what I really wish is that blogging would evolve some of LJ’s community structure. I’m all for distributed, non-monolithic solutions. But we’d need a federated identity system and efficient notification protocols. I’m not holding my breath, especially after watching how it’s taken years and years to do things that are much simpler (like coming up with a goddamn syndication format that’s slightly less broken than RSS.)

    On the other hand, if SixApart could design their own identity and notification stuff, modeled on LJ’s feature set, and push it into MT, that could be really wicked. (They’re already making a start on it with TypeKey.) Sure, people whine about it being proprietary, but at least something would get done.

  • LiveJournal, Six Apart, and the future of community governance

    SixApart, maker of TypePad and Movable Type weblog services and tools just bought LiveJournal, driving business praise and social angstabout…

  • Not being a LJer, I can’t comment on what the community is like.

    But as for change in an online community, I do know a bit.

    The rule to remember is that Everything Changes. Things do not remain the same. Rules, tools, people, logos, owners, colors and ideas all change. Accept this or your will be constantly disappointed.

    As one of the pre-www internet geeks, I remember with great dismay feeling that when AOL established access to the usenet, the internet was going to be ‘over’. It wasn’t over, it just changed.

    Change to online communities is a constant process. MMORPGs from 1997 are nothing like the MMORPGs of today. Is this good thing or a bad thing? It’s neither, it simply is the current state.

    Even if LJ doesn’t get bought today, it most assuredly will not be the same LJ a year from now. And there will be people angry that LJ2004 was better than LJ2006. Just as there are people angry that Ultima Online 1997 was better than Ultima Online 2005.

    If the LJ community cannot handle change, they will suffer.

  • danah is right

    6A buying LJ could really fuck things up there. danah boyd has pointed out that 6A is about blogging, while LJ has created it’s own unique form of social computing – in a hyrbid balance between real-time status and messaging with community activity tra…

  • Even before reading this rumor, I was walking home thinking about livejournal’s recent news post about how there would probably be six million members by the end of the year. Mainly, I was wondering how the community would sustain itself in the face of that kind of (post-invite code) growth. I guess I thought about in terms of how
    many degrees of Brad before people stop thinking of it as a community (because this is how I tended to think about it) and start viewing LJ as a service. From your comments, it seems like this isn’t how most users think about it, yet they still see it as something different from a ‘blog service.

    Like Ario, I kind of cringe when I see how the mainstream regards LiveJournal. But I’m more than willing to trade a little uninformed sneering for a larger community and a superior feature set (for what I want — the comment system and friendslist are, I think, the key to the community).

    You raise the question about whether users care about Brad (there are several “we love brad” communities, and lots of people comment on “news” and “maintenance” posts which might signify something), but I think it’s interesting to think about how Brad feels about members. While many users might think of him as a benevolent dictator, I get the sense that he might think of them as a not-too-troublesome source of interesting [mostly open-source] programming challenges that have resulted in some neat things that haven’t gotten a lot of attention. I mean, the world was swooning over kinja which is basically rss syndication + friends page.

    After all of this rambling, I share your feelings that the merger would be a “bad thing” and am choosing not to believe them for the time being. I’m pretending that Brad & co. still like their independence and aren’t ready to hand it off to someone else. And I’m treating the absence of a public “heh” post or comment to deny the rumor as a sign that working on load balancing was more interesting.

  • Jens in particular summarized some of the points I wanted to make about Livejournal. Michael, I don’t think danah’s arguing that LJ should be static or that their users can’t handle change, but that Moveable Type, though also a good service, has such a different user-base that the changes they may make to LJ would be more in the interests of the MT community (which they understand well and probably have more interest in) than the LJ community. Nicole explained above how the changes Yahoo made to Geocities killed its community, and I’d hate to see something similar happen on LJ.

    A property of Livejournal that I find intriguing is the number of empty or near-empty blogs on it. These folks sign up because their more active friends want them to read posts regularly and have access to the protected ones. As Airo and Josh also said, certainly my friends and I signed up on LJ because of the community features, and I have several friends who have empty blogs and just use their friends page. Several friends with MT blogs have two accounts on LJ – one syndicating their MT blog, and one from which to comment and sometimes post private entries. I’m not very familiar with the MT community, so I’ll refrain from making comparisons since they would be one-sided.

    Aside: danah, have you found many who see having a paid account as a status symbol? We’re probably at the geeky extreme on LJ, but in my circle of friends, people used to pay for their accounts because they wanted to syndicate more than two outside blogs, back when LJ had the syndication point system. Currently, they often want to add new syndicated accounts, get rid of the LJ look with customized layouts, scrape their LJ posts to put on their homepage, or just support a good service. We don’t look at each other’s user information pages very often and so aren’t likely to see how many of our friends have paid accounts.

    (Also, you got a few responses on your syndicated account on LJ.)

  • There are definitely folks who pay for features and syndication is an example amongst the geeks but the percentage of people who use syndication on LJ is quite small. And yes, i have found the status issue among mostly younger LJers.

  • By no means do i believe that Six Apart is evil – quite the opposite. I think they are a great company, but they have an *entirely* different set of cultural practices than LiveJournal and i don’t believe that the two can merge without bloodshed. I do believe that the users of both services have great disdain for many of the users of the others. LJers don’t give a rats ass about most MT/T bloggers and most MT/T bloggers think that LJers are childish.

    I also don’t think that LJ is dying.

  • timothy: actually, LJ only has about 2.5 million “active” accounts, out of 5.5 million accounts ever created. of those, the VAST majority are non-paying accounts – around 90,000 currently have paid status, but the statistics don’t tell us how many of those bought the full year, the six months, or the two months package.

    and scott, yes. to quote from an entry i wrote earlier: “essentially: make minor improvements on what already exists, but don’t try to force lj to be something it’s not. i hate the whole ‘if you want to control something, buy it’ attitude, and i’m hoping brad really has found the right people to pass along the care of his baby to.” and whom will respect the social contract – avoiding advertisements on users’ journals, even the non-paying ones; supporting open-source; and not heightening the digital divide between paying and non-paying customers by only offering support to paying customers. (the fact that typepad apparently requires a subscription fee of $5/month after a trial and thus has no long-term free users irks me, as that’s double the cost for a paid account with LJ, whose pricing was established years before typepad’s and hasn’t changed in the years since.) a similar suggestion – to offer better support to paying customers – once came up on LJ, and was promptly shot down – because a decent portion of the people doing the volunteer work in the support area pay the site through their time dedicated to it, and not necessarily with $. and stratifying users so would hurt the community feel.

    i, too, would be happy to see livejournal around in 50 years

  • ” I do believe that the users of both services have great disdain for many of the users of the others. LJers don’t give a rats ass about most MT/T bloggers and most MT/T bloggers think that LJers are childish.”

    What is this high school? This sounds like the cheerleaders talking about the chess club. “I’m not sitting in the same class as them they’re like so not happening and uncool.”

    I would consider myself a pretty major user and member of the MT community and I’ve never met anyone who spoke that badly of LJ other then to say — its not a good fit for me.

  • Much (all?) of the software on which LJ runs has been open-sourced. There are, in fact, LJ clones out there like DeadJournal and GreatestJournal.

    So a buyout scenario nobody’s mentioned yet that nonetheless strikes me as very probable is a repeat of the exodus from Movable Type to WordPress… the LJers defect to a similar system.

    It’d be complicated because of the whole “community” thing, but if enough of the well-connected make the leap, plenty will follow.

  • SixApart to buy LiveJournal?

    Obviously this is all in the rumor mill right now, but the rumor is that SixApart, the company that makes MovableType (the software that powers this site), is looking to…

  • Seb

    Hopefully, after such a move, LJ can benefit from 6A’s expertise in interface design, and 6A from LJ’s experience in clueful social design.

    Like danah, I don’t think LJ needs any sort of improvement in legitimacy. I hope the presence of 6A won’t be felt by the average LiveJournaler, so that the unique culture they have there is not upset by the change. Come to think of it, if I were Ben or Mena I’d concentrate on importing the good ideas rather than messing with the natives too much.

  • MT-Consolidation

    Interesting hot rumors on Six Apart (Movable Type, TypePad) looking to acquire LiveJournal. LJ is open source, and largely used for free. The deal is a mix of stock and…

  • They [People who use LJ] mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart’s tools. During interviews with LJ/Xanga folks, i’ve been told that MovableType is for people with no friends, people who just talk to be heard, people who are trying too hard.

    There are LJ-ers of all sorts of opinions. Personally, i read a lot of pseudo-professional blogs when i have the time, and i find them very valuable. And i know i’m not the only LJ user who feels this way. (Hell, you’re writing this very screed on a non-LJ blog, despite saying “i adore LJ from the bottom of my heart.”)

    While you cannot generalize about LJers, a vast majority of them are engaged in acts of resistance regularly (think: subcultures, activists, youth rebels, etc.). They value LJ because it values them. They value LJ because it is a tool of resistance, an act of going against mainstream and representing those already marginalized by society – the geeks, freaks and queers among us. They don’t want to be mainstream. They don’t want their parents/authorities/oppressors using the same service. At the same time, LJ provides shelter, support, community. When someone threatens to commit suicide, LJ doesn’t throw up its hand and scream “not my problem.” There are folks who actually work to help friends help each other. They’re not just an anonymous service – they care.

    Despite being an actual LJ user, i’m not going to attempt to speak for any sort of “majority” of LJ-ers or even to speak for the ones i regularly interact with. But to speak for myself, i do not use LJ because it is “subversive.” I use it because it allows me to easily keep people updated on my life and to kepe updated on the lives of others; i like the ease of the friendslist feature (though the terminology is problematic). I like the huge amounts of information i can tap through the usage of communities and asking friends (who then ask their friends, and on it goes). I am 21 years old and my parents read my LJ, which contains such “subversive” or “resistant” things as fanfiction and political opinions and religious musings that do not always agree with those of my parents or of some of my friends. In fact, one major reason i got an LJ midway through my first year at college was so that i could easily keep my parents updated as to what was going on in my life. While i don’t “friendslock” any of my entries, i really appreciate the existence of those privacy features, and think they are one thing that makes LiveJournal superior to other blogging services. I also like the way that LJ threads comments and e-mails replies — something that most if not all other blogging services (save those that use LJ’s open source, such as DeadJournal and GreatestJournal) lack. I adore the communities i have found on LJ and the way that LJ facilitates the formation of such communities. While many of my communities may in fact be “subversive,” that is now why i am doing this.

    I would love to know why people donate to LiveJournal. My hunch is that it has to do with cultural identity. When you donate, it says so on your page. When you donate, you signify that you value LJ. Forget increased features, you’ve just made the ultimate commitment to a community – a commitment of money. And aren’t you jealous of the permanent members and early adopters?

    Again, i won’t speak for anyone else, but honestly, i want those extra features. I’ve gotten addicted to having a plethora of icons to attach to posts/comments. I like being able to create polls. I do like knowing that i’m helping keep the service alive and growing, but i only think of that when someone mentions it. When i get a notice saying that my paid time is going to run out soon, my decision about whether or not to pull out my debit card is influenced by how attached i am to the services that payment will provide me with, not about making a tangible commitment to a community facilitator.

  • James

    One of the big features a community site like LJ offers is friends-only posts. There are huge numbers of friends-only journals, people have large amounts of social capital invested in LJ because of this feature. Let’s face it, being able to bitch about people behind their backs, online, is just what every teen needs. Moving to another service requires getting your entire social group to move with you, a huge undertaking, so they’re pretty much captive. In other words, even moderate amounts of fucking over the LJ feel would not produce huge defections.

  • As a user of LiveJournal and TypePad, I hope there is some truth to the rumor. Seb states it well, as there are great features to both sites/services. The desire to have more control (with design and categorization) led me to TypePad, but that site sits quietly, while discussion remains quite buoyant on LJ.

    I’m trying to understand the business case here. Instant community seems questionable. Perhaps MT would begin some clarification between selling “TypePad” for blogs and a “LiveJournal” product for journals. Distinct markets, with different needs.

    Conjecture, but more fun than “weird” as some put it.

  • UrsaMajor: Thanks for clarifying those numbers. 2.5 million users is still a lot of servers, bandwidth, support and maintenance.

    I think your expectations are not balanced out with the realization that both of the organizations are businesses that you are bound to be disappointed.

    Businesses exist to produce profit. Forgetting this very basic tenant is precisely how so many Internet companies imploded a few years ago and a few others (Blogger) barely made it out alive. If it does not help them profit then they shouldn’t do it.

    Could we all give them the benefit of the doubt that they have some idea of what they are doing? I trust that they would not make any changes to an aquisition that will lose customers or gut their investment, but they will make them to make/maintain/grow its profitability.

    Keep in mind that, while many still interchange “Six Apart” with “Ben and Mena”, the company has become much much bigger then just the two of them and that they have some extremely successfully and knowledgable business people on board in some capacity — Joi Ito, Reid Hoffman, Barak Berkowitz, Andrew Anker to name a few.