LiveJournal on Life Support?

LiveJournal has just shed a substantial proportion of its 28 employees. Reports differ as to how many have been let go. As usual, ValleyWag tends toward the negative.

The bubble in social networking has burst, decisively. LiveJournal, the San Francisco-based arm of Sup, a Russian Internet startup, has cut about 20 of 28 employees… product managers and engineers were laid off, leaving only a handful of finance and operations workers — which speaks to a website to be left on life support.

Executives at Six Apart, the blog-software company which sold LiveJournal to Sup, are happily counting the money… they should consider themselves lucky that Vox, the LiveJournal knockoff it started, hasn’t been more popular…

LiveJournal, founded by engineer Brad Fitzpatrick in 1999, predated most blogging services and social networks, and anticipated many of their features… But Fitzpatrick never figured out how to turn it into a business. Instead, he sold it to Six Apart, which didn’t have much more luck.

On the basis of history, I tend to believe the negative. I certainly echo Nicholas’ advice to back up your LJ, if you have one.

This is sad. LJ has for years integrated blogging and social networking. But somehow that integration remains one of the big issues in social media.

So, it looks as though there will be an exodus from LJ soon. Where will the people end up? If I were running, I’d buy more servers, and make social networking an even higher priority than it already is…

LiveJournal, Against Advice of Advisory Board…

LiveJournal’s decision to stop offering new users a free of charge and free of ads option was one of the things that prompted the recent content strike. I expressed surprise that the strike went unremarked by some of the very blogs that had been impressed by the composition of LJ’s advisory board.

I shared my surprise with Marshall Kirkpatrick of RWW. He got right on to the story and found that LJ management had run the change past a couple of its advisory board members and been told that it was “the worst idea ever.”

I was going to question the purpose of an advisory board whose members are either consulted then ignored, or not consulted, over a decision like this. My first and most cynical thought was that the advisory board was an empty PR move. However, danah boyd describes herself as upset but optimistic about her role on the board, so I shouldn’t rush to cynical judgment.

LiveJournal Strike

I saw Lucius’ post on the LiveJournal strike just before the 24-hour content strike started.

For 24 hours, we will not post or comment to LJ. Not in our own journals, not in communities. Not publicly, privately, or under friends-lock.

Why? Because the new owners of LJ said they were going to listen to a user driven advisory board before making any changes, and didn’t. They instead tried to take away all GLBT related interest groups, and were about to take away all free, ad free accounts as well and make LJ paid.

I expected to see the story show up on the web-focused blogs to which I subscribe. These blogs had been impressed with the makeup of LJ’s advisory board. For example, Marshall at RWW described the board as “filled with awesomeness.”

The new Board is made up of an all-star cast. Copyright and corruption fighter Larry Lessig, tech pioneer Esther Dyson and brilliant social network analyst danah boyd make up the group, along with Brad Fitzpatrick, whose work has been key in the development of LiveJournal itself, OpenID, social graph theory and the Google-led OpenSocial. That’s hot.

Right now, RWW seems like the blog that didn’t bite on the strike. I hope to see coverage on the strike story soon from RWW – and from TechCrunch, Mashable, etc.

Talking of LiveJournal and Drupal…

After posting thoughts on LJ, it occurred to me that few of the blogs to which I subscribe are on LJ. The only two that occur to me are science-fiction-related. One is the group blog theinferior4+1. The other is Nicholas Whyte’s From the Heart of Europe, which has a fair amount of personal and political content as well as the sf.

I think that Universal Hub is the sole Drupal representative in my feed reader. I have recently found myself at another Drupal-powered site: Green Plastic, a site dedicated to Radiohead. The most recent post there is two weeks old: Anyone out there familiar with Drupal? If you can help, please email us.

Most of the sites to which I subscribe are powered by one of: WordPress, Movable Type, TypePad, Blogger. The order is some kind of approximation to the representation each has in my subscriptions.

From LiveJournal to…

200px-livejournal-logo.pngLiveJournal is, among other things, a hosted blogging service. It is interesting in many ways: it’s powered by free/open source software; it’s been sold recently, and for the second time; it has a strong social networking component; it’s one of the older blogging products/services, having been started in 1999; it’s popular, with the LJ stats page claiming over 14 million blogs at the time of this writing.

There are of course posts all over the place about the sale. The post by Frank, the LJ mascot, has drawn 5000 comments already. Even my posts on the LJ sale drew some comments. One of the comments was from that girl again, who also made her own post on the sale.

Having plundered everything they could from its code and staff, Six Apart have offloaded the troublesome Livejournal onto some Russians… I don’t trust SUP. I see even more ads and even less privacy in my LJ future.

Oh well, at least the guy who runs Insanejournal is happy. Every cloud…

The most solid silver lining to this “cloud” is that LJ is free/open source. The LJ code is available, and is indeed in use at multiple other sites, including InsaneJournal and, yes, DeadJournal.

I wrote “most solid silver,” not “cast iron” or “copper-bottomed,” because there is a loophole in the GPL. Nevertheless, if you like the software of LJ (or, for that matter) but dislike other aspects of the site itself, you can find other sites running much the same software under different policies.

Finally, I want to pick up on the point that LJ includes a stronger social networking component than most blogging products and services. This is particularly interesting, given the current spate of posts (e.g.) referring to “social blogs.”

Such hybrids include Six Apart’s Vox. Since the launch, it has seemed to me that: Vox is like LJ with the corners carefully rounded and polished; 6A acquired LJ, not because it wanted LJ, but because it wanted Vox.

Social blogging platforms also include trendy venture capital bait like Tumblr and Twitter. Hence it seems that LJ was ahead of its time: social blogging in the previous millennium.

SUP Fitz LiveJournal?

My previous post, in which I did little else than link to the first two announcements of the LiveJournal deal, seems to have received a disproportionately high number of visits. Since then, I’ve seen a couple of WTF reactions, including Justin’s.

Looking for fodder for a more substantive post, I searched for “livejournal sup wtf” and found comments on the deal by the LJ founder. Brad Fitzpatrick welcomes the new Russian overlords:

This is pretty cool because: They’re ridiculously excited about LiveJournal… They want to throw a lot of resources at LiveJournal… “, Inc.” now stands alone again, focusing on nothing but LJ… I’ll have more LJ influence (via new role as advisory board member) than I’ve had recently.

If I was on LJ, I would be reassured by this. I don’t see why Brad, who now works at Google, would feel pressured to post it. But now, as he says, we “get to sit back and watch all the community reactions and conspiracy theories.”

Six Apart Sells LiveJournal

I just saw a couple of posts about Six Apart selling LiveJournal to SUP, a Russian media firm. My reaction to the news was similar to Om Malik‘s.

The sale of LiveJournal shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. LiveJournal founder and lifeforce Brad Fitzpatrick recently left SixApart to pursue other opportunities. He currently works for Google.

Meanwhile, at Mashable, the headline states that: Six Apart Unloads LiveJournal. In the body of the article, Kristen Nicole puts a more positive spin on things, pointing out that SUP has managed the recent growth of LiveJournal in Russia.