rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Strange Days

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, 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?


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
The stock
The hookers and blow

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

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

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.
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