I’ve been putting off writing about Six Apart’s acquisition of Livejournal just because I honestly didn’t know what my feelings were for the buyout. Initially I felt disappointed and betrayed; I’ve never seen particularly good things come out of mergers and since I’m no longer a user of Movable Type, I could care less about the doings of the company that distributes it.
I’ve figured out what bothers me with this acquisition – call me idealistic, call me unreasonable, but I still find it funny that people can actually make money off of writing software that enables a person to simply post writings online. To this day, it boggles my mind. I’ve been writing online for six years; I started my first online journal in 1998 on a Geocities site, creating a new HTML page every time I wrote a new entry for my site. I remember tediously changing all the layouts for every individual entry every time I changed a layout; I cursed the laborious process and I wished for something better.
I moved from individual pages to a cgi script that allowed me to seperate the content from the actual layout of the site; I used that script for years until I wrote my own basic PHP script for my journal in 2001. I’ve sinced stopped writing in the online journal at its purest form, which I still miss from time to time. Online journalling in its old form ceased to be the dominant medium for personal diaries sometime in 2000 or 2001, at the time when the weblog became more well-known to the people who had been keeping online journals for years and years.
I remember Greymatter when it came out; I had been using Blogger for the first real weblog entries I wrote (in March of 2000) when I came across software that would allow me to post an entry from my site to my site; I fell in love with the idea of posting entries with the push of a button instead of writing, creating the HTML page, uploading it, and changing the links. I began my weblog just as a place to document day to day things in my life, but it eventually grew to be the main place to talk about my thoughts and feelings.
I also remember when Movable Type first arrived on the scene; one day, everyone still used Greymatter, happily posting to their weblogs blissfully; the next, this new, strange software dropped down upon the weblog masses and of course, everyone who wanted to stay on top of things installed it immediately. I didn’t make the switch to MT until the start of 2002; when I first used MT it did not yet run off of a mysql database and I remember setup being incredibly difficult. Still, I loved the little community and how new and innovative the software was at the time; however, I do remember, even then, how much I disliked the rebuilding process.
I found the perfect weblogging software in b2 during the summer of 2002; I didn’t realize just how powerful a simple php-based weblogging system could be and I knew I had found the perfect software for me. I figured MT would be better for other people, but b2 called my name the minute I installed and played around with it. It wasn’t as pretty as MT, but still, it worked.
The best part of all of the software I’ve used for years and years? I paid not a cent for any of it.
Granted, I could have given donations, but it wasn’t required to run the software, to write thoughts to publish on the web, to express creativity. Paying for such software seemed ridiculous to me, as I couldn’t see the market for a group of people just wanting to express themselves online.
Livejournal became popular (well, in my eyes) in early 2001; I created my account then and laughed about paid accounts. Who would pay $25 a month to change layouts when you could buy webspace and install Greymatter on it yourself? I never understood the attaction of such an account until the community aspect of the site became more clear to me. People pay because LJ is their life in web form; it’s a community in itself consisting of friendslocked entries, communites, self-expressive icons, and much more that cannot be expressed in any form by any individual weblogging software.
I’ve struggled with the LJ/weblog dynamic for a few years now, because I like both communities and I have yet to find a way to merge the two. I don’t like crossposting to both LJ and my website; too many people read both and I dislike people having to read the same entry at both places. I currently have a syndicated account on Livejournal for the weblog, which has proven useful. Still, I have a hard time writing in two different places, for two different audiences; by nature, I like to keep things simple, and I wish there were a way for me to condense the two mediums to make things less complicated for everyone involved.
I’m astonished at how many people know now what a blog is, as I never, ever thought they’d be part of mainstream society and culture. I’ve read countless articles on blogging; how to start a weblog of one’s own, how to write effectively, even debates on the quality of content in a weblog as opposed to the content in an actual journalistic publication. I find it hilarious that the rest of the world has woken up to this phenomenon just recently when people like myself have been keeping them for years, and the seriousness of the articles amazes me even further. I suppose just the fact that Six Apart is a company with desires to make money off of their previously free and homegrown CMS further emphasizes the seriousness of weblogs to the rest of the world, and it’s still odd to get used to this fact. Weblogs seem to be a legitimate part of the internet world nowadays and not the counterculture they seemed to be back when I first began writing online.
I’m not sure what I’ll do now, in the aftermath of the merger. I’ll wait and see what happens once the new Terms of Service is released, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m optimistic that nothing substantial will change in the Livejournal structure, but I’m wary and unsure. I think everyone is; everyone who’s read the news and is concerned with the acquisition. I’m interested to see what this means for Livejournal and its future; right now, I can only hope for the best.