On Six Apart and Livejournal…

01/06/2005

So Six Apart have bought Livejournal after all. Here’s a brief story about how I didn’t find out about it… I was chatting to Mena yesterday about something else and couldn’t resist querying her about the rumours. Very patiently, and I suspect with some kind of tiny smile just about visible on her concealed-by-IM face, Mena politely informed that she didn’t respond to rumours and speculation. To which the only real response was, “If you won’t respond, will Anil?”

I didn’t get a direct answer to that question, but I did promise to let Mena know if Anil spilled the beans. I figure she’d want to give him a present or a bunch of flowers or something. She’s so nice. But then I forgot to ask him anyway. And so it goes…

Anyway, the news was announced relatively late last night as far as I can tell, which means that those of us on this side of the Atlantic probably heard about it before most of the US webloggers. Mena’s done a comprehensive write-up on Mena’s Corner – as has Brad on his Livejournal. They’re both pretty excited about the acquisition – and I think with good reason. There are people who aren’t so sure about the whole thing – and I think their anxieties are pretty reasonable (Danah’s post on the subject in probably one of the best), but I really think there are more opportunities here than problems. Bringing Livejournal into the weblogging fold (or bringing weblogs closer into the Livejournal fold) could be tremendously interesting. I’d be interested to see whether there was any further development of Livejournal-style networking and social networking stuff. It would seem to have lots of possibilities (and even webloggers love this stuff – check out their adoration of Flikr if you don’t believe me). And if it was possible to bring some of that overt social stuff over into MT or Typepad – by cross-platform protocols or whatever – then I can’t help but think that would be a good thing. I’m also really interested in the role of Typekey in all of this stuff.

The real threat is to the successful integration of the whole thing is – I think – not that Livejournal’s community is put under threat, but that their understated aesthetic has a kind of punk-cool and authenticity that could be polished out of existence by the really terribly good designers at SixApart. Livejournal has the feel of a grass-roots, bottom-up, wildly successful community project, where MT, Blogger et al kind of don’t. The slightly ramshackle look-and-feel is a core part of that, I think.

Anyway, all in all a pretty interesting day for webloggery and Livejournalhood. I’m really interested in how Blogger fits into all this though. At the moment, it’s pretty clear that the fire and the dynamism is with SixApart. They’re the people innovating (at least publically). Which leaves me with two questions (1) are Blogger becoming also-rans or (2) what the hell are they planning?

PS. Hey, guess what! Latest rumour I heard was that SixApart were going to acquire the previously-public sector, non-weblog-producing national-broadcaster of the UK, the BBC. The move is expected to slightly increase their staffing levels from something like 70 people to something more like 35,000 while reinforcing their otherwise lacking “Eastenders” arm of the business! Ok, maybe I made that last bit up…