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Strange Days [Jan. 5th, 2005|05:51 am]
rejectomorph
If you haven't heard The Rumor yet, you're hearing it now. (For those who don't feel like clicking the link, the rumor is that LJ is about to be purchased by Six Apart.) Brad is not answering questions and, as some who have commented in that thread have observed, silence is usually an indication that something is going on. I submitted a post asking the same question to lj_biz last night, and the moderators have chosen not to post it. Further indication that there is some truth to the rumor? At first, I doubted this, given the considerable difference in corporate culture between LJ and Six Apart, but this silence is leading me toward suspecting that, at the least, some sort of negotiation is taking place between the companies.

If it proves to be true, it seems strange to me. Six Apart, a company often praised by the pundits of the business press, is the outfit behind Movable Type and its hosted weblog site, TypePad. Despite superficial similarities, it appears to me that TypePad and LiveJournal are very different sites, with very different user bases. I'm also not too pleased with the way TypePad markets its product.

Their basic service, at $4.95 a month, provides this:
TypePad Basic is the right choice for starting out with your first weblog or getting up and running as quickly as possible. There's no confusing technology to learn, just the simple tools you need to get your blog up and running while still being able to choose a design that suits your personality. Basic weblogs include all the features you'd expect in your weblog, including the ability to display images, enable comments, and to assign your posts to categories.


Their second level of service is $8.95 a month:
TypePad Plus gives you control if you're comfortable with weblogs but not interested in managing technical details. In addition to having up to three weblogs on your account, you can create photo albums, password protect any or all of your weblogs and photo albums, create custom site designs using the TypePad template builder, use your own domain name (like example.com), post to your site with mobile devices (moblogging), and schedule posts to appear in the future or date them to the past.


The premium service, at $14.95 a month, provides these features:
pePad Pro is the option for experts. In addition to being able to edit the HTML of your weblog, you can create an unlimited number of weblogs, invite other authors to contribute to your site, archive your entries in multiple formats, and control your weblogs and photo albums down to the letter. Pro is the right choice for group weblogs or advanced users who have experience in weblogs and web technology.


Oh, if you check their site, you'll find that they have recently added both a rich text editor, and spellcheck! Wow. Does it get any better?

Well, maybe Brad is being silent merely because he wants to scare us into being more appreciative of LJ. On the other hand, maybe he really does want to be part of an outfit (the rumored deal would involve both cash and stock in Six Apart) that regularly gets smoke blown up its ass by Fast Company. And maybe, if the deal is in the works and does go through, there won't be any substantial changes to LJ- at least not right away. But the longer term prospects are worrisome. It seems to me unlikely that the greater influence would go the other way- from the community-oriented culture of LJ to the slick, blog-serious, corporate-minded SA. And, most significantly, it seems more likely that LJ would move toward the world of proprietary software that SA inhabits than that SA would suddenly grow enamored of the world of open source software.

And there, I think, is the crux of the incompatibility. I don't think that LJ can revoke the open source license on its existing software, but it could stop improving it, and gradually move toward a proprietary model based on TypePad. It could be that LJ's various bastard children, such as DeadJournal and GreatestJournal, would take up the slack in some sort of co-operative effort, but then LJ would inevitably move away from those sites which continued to alter the original code while those of us who chose to remain here would be dragged into proprietary 6A-land. Something tells me that many of us wouldn't be willing to go along for that particular ride.

I've never expected LJ to remain the same, of course. It's inevitable that the place will eventually grow up. I just never pictured it getting engaged to a snotty yuppie, is all.

The bit of commentary on this event which I've found most interesting is this entry by a weblogger named Zephoria (who, oddly enough, uses Movable Type.) I don't think she quite grasps the full diversity of the LJ user base, but she gets the essence of the difference.


And now, because it is required by the LJ TOS that some sort of mindless fluff be included in every journal entry, here is an LJ Poll:


Do you think Brad will sell LJ to 6A?

Yes
0(0.0%)
No
0(0.0%)

If Brad does sell LJ, which of the following things offered to him by 6A will have been the most important factor in his decision?

The cash
0(0.0%)
The stock
0(0.0%)
The hookers and blow
0(0.0%)

If Brad sells LJ to 6A, how will it all end?

It will end in the triumph of 6A blandness over LJ creativity.
0(0.0%)
It will end in the triumph of LJ anarchy over 6A order.
0(0.0%)
It will end in disaster for us all.
0(0.0%)


OOPS! Well, there was a poll, but I screwed it up when I went back to correct a mistake elsewhere in the post. The poll has been re-posted in another entry. In fact, since it was posted after this entry, it's the one you just saw, so you already know that. Never mind.


I should mention that it's raining here again. Everybody wants to know that, I'm sure.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: niyabinghi
2005-01-05 01:54 pm (UTC)
Hi --- thanks for posting this, and gah, I hope it doesn't happen.
And by the way, your poll did not show up.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2005-01-05 02:06 pm (UTC)
I screwed up another part of the HTML (a link to another site) and then lost the poll when I went back to edit that mistake. Feh. So, I've posted the poll as another entry. It ought to be up now.

Really, I shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a computer, especially at this time of the morning.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: springheel_jack
2005-01-05 02:08 pm (UTC)
Another problem is that, despite the hype, 6A offers an inferior product. They are in the process of having their entrails handed to them by Google. They could well take the site down to Davy Jones' Locker with them.
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2005-01-05 02:21 pm (UTC)
There is the possibility that 6A wants LJ because Google is handing their entrails to them. It may be an act of desperation, and maybe they think that something like LJ is the only thing that can bail them out. If that is the case, then Brad is probably the one with the power in this deal. They need him, but he doesn't need them. More accurately, they need the LJ user base, but do they have the good sense to run the place in a way that would keep us happy? As they have been dumb enough to have just been blindsided by Google, I do have some doubt.
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[User Picture]From: springheel_jack
2005-01-05 02:24 pm (UTC)
They're very very dumb over at 6A. Not a fast company at all. This new MT 3 pricing debacle is indication of it. Nobody even understands the licensing price structure, much less really needs to pay it. It's asinine.
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[User Picture]From: annina_writes
2005-01-05 02:14 pm (UTC)
As a survivor/victim of AOL's takeover of CompuServe, who finally just threw up her hands in the air and left after AOL turned off the machine language server without warning in the four forums she managed I have to sigh big-time at the possibility of losing the LJ we know and love. If ever there were a case of, "...if it ain't broke, don't fix it," this would be it. [megasighs again]
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2005-01-05 02:45 pm (UTC)
AOL has done some serious miscalculation over the years. In fact, I don't think that their core services have ever turned a profit. They managed to take over Time-Warner only with the ill-gotten gains of their stock's bloated value, before the dotcom crash. If it hadn't been for that, they'd probably be in bankruptcy right now. And, now they've got not only United Online (Juno-Net Zero) providing essentially the same service they provide, at half the price, but People PC and the new Netscape Internet service, too. AOL's troubles will probably only get worse.

I don't know how much power Brad would have in a conjoined 6A/LJ, but if it happens, I hope his influence is sufficient to maintain this site pretty much as it has been. I do know that if the prices here go up to the level of those at TypePad, I'm probably going to be heading for one of the clone sites like DeadJournal. LJ would undoubtedly suffer the first decline in the size of its user base ever, if 6A tried to run it like TypePad.
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[User Picture]From: niyabinghi
2005-01-05 02:51 pm (UTC)
AOL owns Juno and Net Zero? sheesh.

Also, which Livejournal news community have you been reading on the Six Apart info?
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2005-01-05 03:19 pm (UTC)
No, no. I phrased it badly. I meant they have Juno and Net Zero and the others as competition. Their customer base is actually dropping because so many users are decamping to the cheaper providers.
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[User Picture]From: niyabinghi
2005-01-05 03:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, whew. Thanks for the clarification. You probably didn't phrase that badly, I probably comprehended badly, lol.
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[User Picture]From: annina_writes
2005-01-05 05:34 pm (UTC)
You can say that again...all of it. I used to use GreatestJournal...gave it up because I didn't have the time for both journals, but I can go there again if it's going to cost what TypePad does. [grrrr]
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[User Picture]From: waning_estrogen
2005-01-05 03:06 pm (UTC)
as I was reading through the 51 trackbacks (at about 1 am), I became more and more disillusioned with the bloggers. some few (very few) were insightful, but the majority were just jumping on for the joyride of giving and receiving trackbacks. at that time, I hadn't seen anything close to the apophenia/zephoria entry or post or whatever bloggers call their writing (but I can't keep your kind of hours).

I read a fair number of blogs and for the most part, I don't see anything I want to become a part of. I'll read them to look for specific information. it's really quite easy to find information in blog-world, more difficult to find connection or interaction in most of them, unless the scope is narrow. my take on blogs as opposed to LJ's community is they are either along the lines of a corporate culture or a high school popularity contest, with trackbacks being the exchange medium or brownie points. the more trackback links I clicked on, the less discussion was going on. the folks in blog-world seem to just want to be seen, not necessarily heard, actually, more like herd. they don't seek interaction, just visibility.

it's too early for me to attempt to be coherent. but I'd like to go on record as saying this is a bad move for LJ, a good one for brad.

I don't need no steen-king trackbacks.
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2005-01-05 03:23 pm (UTC)
Blogs tend to be very much alike. I prefer the diversity of journals at LJ.
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[User Picture]From: niyabinghi
2005-01-05 11:10 pm (UTC)

have you seen this?

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