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“The Linux of social media” – How LiveJournal pioneered, then lost, blogging (arstechnica.com)
195 points by Tomte 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments



I will unabashedly say that the "Livejournal era" was my favorite era of the internet to date.

You can still blog in 2019, obviously, on LJ or elsewhere. But your friends aren't going to read it. That's why LJ worked: it was both a blogging platform and an aggregated feed of your LJ friends' blog posts, and you all had a more or less equal ability to comment and respond to each other. Crucially, LJ had enough marketshare to make it feasible that you might have a reasonable number of friends that used it too -- but it wasn't designed to make it trivial for your coworkers or neighbors to find you on there.

LJ felt like a quiet corner of the internet, shared by myself and a few dozen friends.

Broadly speaking that's obviously kind of what Facebook and other social networks do as well. But they do it an extremely noisy, public, and algorithmically-distorted way that... well, to put it diplomatically, winds up being something quite different. Those platforms have their uses, but if you attempt to use them as a relatively noise-free blogging platform you are really attempting to ice-skate uphill.

Of today's social platforms, Twitter probably comes the closest to providing some of what was cool about LJ.


LJ also had a culture of longer, more introspective posts. Facebook encourages the light, picture-plus-a-quick comment post because they're easy to make. LJ was much more comfortable for deeper engagement.


Yeah! I don't know where to do something like that today!

(Where it would actually be read, and a sufficient number of my friends might do similar things)


Likewise. My wife loved posts like that (both to post, and to read), and we havne't found a similar space either.


It's still the way LJ works, if you only look at the Russian corner of the internet. Although it's slowly dying there as well, there's still a critical mass of users keeping it afloat, and the workflow is still as you've described.


I think that's exactly why LJ was replaced by the latter titans of social media. When they say "we never had the clear mental model of what the site was", I hear "we never had a clear plan for how to turn our users into a commodity"

What made the early web the early web was all the surplus value left on the table. A modern LiveJournal would never make the mistake of just building a platform that's useful, with no regard to whether it's sticky, high-engagement, or compatible with microtargeted content marketing. It was better, yes, but less economically efficient.

Weep for all those eyeballs, all that content, just sitting there with no clear mental model of how to use them to provide great brand experiences.


LJ had a much more pleasant culture in terms of interacting with strangers. I'd call that an artifact of the number of weirdos, along with the pre-Eternal September Internet world in general. The text orientation also helped. There were also a lot of highly knowledgeable people: professors and the like.


Eternal September started in 1993, according to wikipedia. It was definitely in common usage by 1995. LiveJournal started in 1999.

I get what you were trying to say, but you used the wrong signpost. The web remained a relatively civil place until the mid-00s; there were trolls and astroturfers, but they were mostly contained. The real culture shift happened with social networks and mobile, in the late ‘00s, when even people who couldn’t operate a desktop started to be online 24/7.


Do you have a better term for that late '00s phenom? Because that really was an Eternal September shift, although not in September, and not in '93.


I think most people would just use “the advent of social media” or simply “before/after social media”. It might be cliché, but looking at the dates, that’s when things changed. FB started getting traction outside schools in 2005, Twitter appeared in mid-2006, the iPhone landed in 2007, and by the end of the decade the participants and tone of online conversations had changed irreparably.

(And it’s 2019 already? Damn, I feel so old...)


    LJ had a much more pleasant culture in terms of interacting with strangers.
I agree, and even when strangers were nasty there were less of them. It was manageable. I mean, sure, sometimes there were trolls or whatever. But it wasn't like social media today where there can be absolute deluges of bad-faith interaction.


"it was both a blogging platform and an aggregated feed of your LJ friends' blog posts, and you all had a more or less equal ability to comment and respond to each other. Crucially, LJ had enough marketshare to make it feasible that you might have a reasonable number of friends that used it too -- but it wasn't designed to make it trivial for your coworkers or neighbors to find you on there."

Probably not today, but at one point Tumblr also provided a similar user experience.


That was my impression as well but I could never get anything going on Tumblr.

It seemed essentially worthless to bother posting any original content there because it just got swallowed up in an absolute ocean of reblogs which, of course, was pretty much the entire point of that place.

I'm sure part of this was due to having a smaller circle of friends on Tumblr than I had on LJ, but it was difficult for me to see how anybody could have any sort of "community" experience on Tumblr. It seems some did though!


> But your friends aren't going to read it.

Even back in the day my friends weren't reading my LJ. I wound up discovering the only people reading mine were a few internet friends, ex-girl friends, and a professor I was working for (which taught me the lesson of never writing something on the internet that I didn't want out as public information).


Yeah it definitely depended on your friends circle.

The vast majority of the people I knew didn't actually use LJ. But, I was a member of a few online communities, and I had plenty of friends (and friends-of-friends) from those places that were also on LJ.

I'm glad most of my IRL (I find myself nostalgic for this outdated term) friends weren't on LJ. I'd have felt much less inclined to be honest and open -- it would have wound up being like FB today, which has a certain practical value (it's a point of contact, a convenient way to plan events, etc) but really doesn't lend itself to introspection or anything.


Although this article brings up Dreamwidth it doesn't actually describe the full relationship behind DW and LJ. When LJ banned adult fandom fanfic, the group moved to DW and also a separate fanfiction site ArchiveOfOurOwn(AO3). AO3 in particular is part of an organization that pushes real legal change for the freedom of derivative works. LJ did not have this explicit in its creation and so fanfic writers universally went elsewhere regardless of their adult or non-adult production.

(This also became the moving of many scifi/fantasy writers in general, as the community is surprisingly small and word travels fast.)


When did LJ banned adult fandom fanfic? I remember seeing that type of content recently on LJ, but the Community/group has just moved to Dreamwidth last year.


Adult fan fiction, though.

It’s... It’s just...

Honestly, it makes a lot of sense to eschew the genre, no matter your stance on legality, free speech or whatever.


I'm not interested in adult fiction or fan fiction, but I'd still be interested in hearing what you think that.


> Adult fan fiction, though.

The actual adult-fanfiction website or just fan fiction with adult situations?


LJ gave us OpenID, Memcached, MogileFS and Gearman. I was a fan of all of them. Such amazing technologies. OpenID specifically was (to me) such a BIG idea that I was convinced it would take over authentication systems everywhere. On the practical side I was a huge Memcached fan and used Gearman quite a bit too. It really expanded for me what was possible with PHP. Super nostalgic for that time. It felt like a new frontier.

Standards for blogging API's also blew my mind. Metaweblog and Blogger API was pretty awesome.


I still think OpenID is better than OAuth. OpenID was federated, and you could easily set it up on your own server. And OAuth has become just 'Sign in with Facebook' and 'Sign in with Google'.


You might be interested in https://indieauth.net/

We support indieauth in vouch https://github.com/vouch/vouch-proxy and have a few people that do use that auth flow.


I think you may have misspelled @bradfitz. :)


It seems that blogging for the sake of blogging has been mostly lost, to be honest. I miss the time when blogs were more than self promotion and content marketing.


Feels like the idea of doing a hobby for the sake of it seems to have been lost in general. Everything's always got to be about 'making it your main job' or 'turning it into a million dollar business' or what not.

And yeah, I miss that too. Especially given how much more entertaining it often is to read a post by an interested expert than by someone trying to make a quick buck.


I think the invention of "like" and "thumbs up" has ruined the internet. Instead of doing things for fun it's too easy to get sucked into chasing approval.


It's because the view of the internet has changed. The internet has slowly changed from a global forum to a giant marketplace, which has the purpose of serving ads and selling products.

Back in the day, making money of your blog wasn't an option. Now, it is, which is why most people are doing it for money.

Unfortunately, we'll probably never get the old internet back. Eternal september has happened.

But you have to see the flipside too: There's never been more content. You can still get great things out of the internet, you just have to curate it (more) now.


Part of the problem is that our discoverability mechanisms on the internet now massively favor monetized content. I for one would happily use an 'indie' search engine that favors lightly monetized/non-monetized content.


Would you pay for that search engine?


Yeah, probably not much, but approximate to the ARPU for google, which I think is around $25 per year. Also, if anyone is interested in working on something like this, shoot me an email at the address in my profile.


I think you vastly underestimate your value as an ad target for Google. They likely make much more on you per year, just selling targeted ads.

It's an uncomfortable thought, I know.


The most uncomfortable thought is that I end up paying for this in the goods I buy, even if the advertising was not useful to me. The irony is that I don't think I've ever bought something that I saw in an ad on the internet. I have frequently seen ads for things after I bought them though (in the case of internet purchases). It's downright impressive how well the various parties share information, but as far as effective advertising... it is not, as far as I'm concerned. On the other hand, I don't buy things off the "shopping channel" on TV either and that's still pretty big business...

Another sad thought: the amount of money my employer spends in ads directed at me because I've repeatedly hit a certain part of our website while fixing bugs... I really should fix bugs in privacy mode :-)


How would this work? Who/what decides who gets into the index?


Web of trust is the generalized solution to this problem. See the eigentrust paper for example.


Sturgeon's Law applies as much as it always has, but the personal blogs that existed before "content marketing" became a thing are mostly still around. Just ignore tech-of-the-moment.google.com/blog.


With some exceptions many people just aren’t aware of them because it’s the blogs run as businesses, or by people who are otherwise at least Internet famous, who command outsize attention. It also increasingly makes sense to plug into publications, etc. with promotion engines for many types of content. I personally publish fewer things in my own blog than I used to.


Any recommendations on how to discover them, since search engines don't work (SEO)? Is there a search engine which does web of trust analysis on indie blogrolls/webrings?


When you stumble upon a good article, subscribe to its RSS feed if it has one, and unsubscribe if it gets boring. Eventually you'll end up with an interesting collection of blogs. I wish I could help more, but most of the blogs I follow are probably uninteresting to you.


Yes, I've taken a similar approach with RSS and a subset of social media. If only there was an algorithm which would take a web of links and show a web of related links :)


Most "blogging" type activities have moved to different platforms - Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, group chats, etc.


I find a lot of that has moved to Medium these days... though there is plenty of self-promotion and marketing, there's also a great deal of good content.


Medium feels like it's dying to me. I used to end up there many times a week. Now I find myself there a couple times a month.


In Russia the popularity of livejournal has also dropped with the advent of Facebook, and there it has nothing to do with obscene fan fiction. Facebook has just found a more addictive model with a lower entry barrier. On the bright side we now have Telegram, which allows for a similar communication style, just without comments (which is IMO a good thing as well).


Strongly disagree. The reason people moved from livejournal is simply company policies, they messed with peoples freedoms. People got used to be able to say whatever they want and rely on ratings by popularity, but LJ excluded some political bloggers from public ratings and limited their abilities to grow. The audience didn't like it and started to look around for alternatives. In addition at that time LJ was already heavily outdated in terms of design and usability.

Summing up it's not because facebook was better, it's because livejournal got worse, and secondarily forgot to become better technically.


Yes, there were some reasons for dissent, but still most people chose to migrate to Facebook, and not to Dreamwidth or Blogspot, which were closer alternatives to LJ.


If i remember correctly nobody advertised those platforms at that time in Russia, so most people had a simple choice, you leave LJ because it sucks and you choose most popular alternative with sane audience, for most ex LJ users it was Facebook imho


In my own case, I moved from LJ to Facebook not because of any change in LJ policies but because I found myself naturally gravitating to Facebook. More of my friends were on Facebook, the UI was better for social stuff, and I found that I was more interested in writing shorter status updates than I was in the longer blogs that were popular on LJ.

Over time, I posted on Facebook more and more and LJ less and less. It got to the point where I'd go months and eventually years without touching LJ.

I think the last time I posted anything was in 2009. The last time I touched it at all was in 2011 or so when I had a phone interview with someone, and the interviewer said he saw my LJ and he made jokes about it. So after the call, I found a script to mark every post on my entire LiveJournal as friends-only, ran it, and threw a line in my bio saying that everything in there is years out of date, and that was that.


Telegram, which allows for a similar communication style, just without comments

Without comments means it cannot be similar. LJ allows horizontal communication, Telegram channel is essentially a radio in text. No interaction except for polls initiated by channel owner.


In what way is Telegram similar to Facebook or LiveJournal?


In how people use it (isn't it the most important thing about a social network?). In Telegram channels one can find really interesting blogs about pretty much everything from evolutionary biology to book reviews or music theory. It is very similar to how people used to use LiveJournal and quite unlike how people use Facebook (mostly posting photos or tiny pieces of text about themselves).


How do you discover such content? I use Telegram just for chatting and never saw such 'blogs'


There is also a channel search feature in telegram web something. IIRC.

E: like this https://tlgrm.eu/channels


People advertise them in other channels and on other social media (VK, FB). Hugely popular channels get mentioned or even cited (cf. news channel Mash) by online news outlets.


I think Telegram is very unfortunate platform for blogging. Discovery is mostly nonexistent, and access from the web to it is impossible, you need a separate client to consume it. Then again, people manage to blog on Twitter, so Telegram certainly would be an upgrade. But I wish real blogging platforms - like yes, Dreamwidth - would get more love and popularity.


Thanks for that answer.

I myself don't like to use Telegram like that, I prefer to separate my IM from my blogs. But your answer caused me to rethink Telegram, because now that I think about it I do know people who participate in that part of Telegram.


It also has to do with LJ being taken over people who don't understand the users, don't care about the users (beyond a couple of high-value ad-churning ones) and didn't value the communities existing there while they existed, seeing LJ solely as a traffic monetization platform. So people moved on. And of course the move to Russia - with all content being now rules by Russian law, with its internationally famous regard to human rights and freedom of speech - hasn't helped much for international users either. But I think the main decline started when the platform moved from people for whom it was a beloved child to people to whom it was just a milking cow for producing ad dollars. All we see now is just the final stages of that decline.


yes, I was peripherally involved with that world, and fundamentally there was a disinterest in the users prior to the Russian takeover - and with the Russian takeover, it was clear that things weren't okay anymore.


Isn't vk more popular than Facebook in Russia ?


Oh yes, VK as well. The same model as Facebook. Somehow people whom I used to read on LJ would tend to migrate to Facebook rather than VK, but that can be just my bias. In general VK is more popular, true.


VK.com is facebook of Russia


Rather frustratingly, LiveJournal managed to leak my real password and email address at some point. The password was only used on that domain (which is how I knew they leaked it), but I’m still getting bitcoin scam attempts and so far 100% have been on the email address attached to that leaked password: https://kitsunesoftware.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/anatomy-of-...

If I’d known it was leakable, I would’ve used a one-account email address as well as a one-account password. The scams themselves are getting quite disturbing.


As for the headline, I don't know what Linux lost. Loss implies that you had it at some point, but Linux never really had the desktop, (sadly), so it could not have lost it.

It still dominates in the server, supercomputer & embedded markets.


Here is the qoute from the article:

> “We were the Linux of social media,” as Hassan puts it. “We never had the clear mental model of what the site was, but we had the features. We had the knobs and tuneables and features. Every feature that Facebook has rolled out since I left LJ, we had it first: post by photo, post by SMS, we had those a million years ago. You could call a phone number and record a message, and the audio would get posted to your journal. We had custom friend groups so you could manage where you wanted to post. We had basically all the major features you see today, like a friends page. But we didn’t quite figure out how to tell the story or keep people interested. We had every option, but nobody could get it to work. We had the robust privacy options that nobody understands how to use on Facebook. It was a less-public age of the Internet, and one that I sometimes wish we could go back to.”

It isn't a mind blowing comparison, but it isn't bad either. I can only speak for myself, but I run more and more Linux instances everyday, but less and less of Linux itself. Which isn't necessarily an easy distinction to make, but I think you get the point.


I'd love to peek at the alternate universe wherein Apple doesn't migrate to the FreeBSD-based OSX.

In the late 90s I got so worn out with stability issues inherent to Win98 on laptops that I switched to the Mac, largely because a co-worker was using one and I could SEE how much it didn't crash, and how sleep actually WORKED, and how good the hardware was, etc. Since my job at the time was primarily project management, and I lived in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, I had no compatibility issues, and my work life got better.

Then the dot-com crash happened and I found myself coding again as a freelancer on web projects, all of which were LAMP-stack efforts. My Mac had shipped with OS 9, but by then I'd upgraded to OS X -- which could run the same frameworks we were using on the server. My dev environment was my actual laptop, which was GREAT.

I feel like that was the moment that the Mac pulled in a lot of very technical and very influential people, with good reason. If OS X hadn't happened, I suspect desktop Linux would be further along because lots of people like me would've been kinda forced into it ca. 2001-2002 instead of having the Apple option.


At some point in the 2000s, it may have been an OSCON, I observed the incredibly high proportion of MacBooks being used by attendees. It was effectively a *nix laptop that worked.

It’s at least plausible to think that absent OS X, a lot of developers would have made do with then still very rough around the edges (desktop) Linux and, given that level of interest, it would have improved at a greater rate.


Funny I'm old enough to remember when Mac stood for "Most Applications Crash" and the even older Macintosh: "Most Applications Crash, if not the operating system hangs". Of course it was competing against my DOS environment that didn't have a mouse, which was clearly the root cause of all the issues.


> I'd love to peek at the alternate universe wherein Apple doesn't migrate to the FreeBSD-based OSX. (…) > I feel like that was the moment that the Mac pulled in a lot of very technical and very influential people, with good reason

You can look right now at what's happening to these very technical people. The ones I know are giving up on Apple and moving to Microsoft instead: because the WSL subsystem works, and the keyboard has most of the keys they want.

We are living in interesting times!


Well, some folks are. I find Windows abhorrent at every level; there's just something missing about the way it's put together, and its evolution has been slapdash in the extreme. Apple avoided this fate by effectively starting over with OS X, but Win 10 is still beholden to design choices made decades ago, and it shows.

The technical Mac folks I know aren't switching. They're just yelling a lot, and if they're on pre-butterfly keyboard Macs, they're putting off upgrades.

Of course, the VERY nerdy/technical folks can and do sometimes switch to full time Linux, but if you're used to the level of out-of-the-box just-works functionality you get out of OS X that's a hard sell.


WSL certainly helps as the same or very similar toolchain works everywhere, but what does the keyboard have to do with anything?

Any keyboard issues w/ Apple are hardware reliability concerns, but that's really a separate issue, I think.


> what does the keyboard have to do with anything?

https://www.reddit.com/r/ProgrammerHumor/comments/59pipx/app...


Has anyone ever tried to measure share among the various text editors on the Mac? The vi/emacs crowd makes a bunch of noise because it messes with their workflows, but the rest of us just soldier on with BBEdit/VSCode/Sublime/etc.


Funny thing is, with proper use of touch typing you wouldn't need the top row: Esc is either Ctrl-[, or some map it to Caps Lock. And hardcore Vim users are definitely supposed to be deep in touch typing. So this ‘noise’ is actually just people making fun of Vim's idiosyncrasies in light of the touch bar thing.

Emacs, afaik, doesn't need the top row at all.


Touch typing would be OK, if Apple's keyboards (going back into the 90's) didn't suck, because flat keys are terrible. Almost all keyboards have gone this way save for the mechanical nerds, so I might take another look at that soon. Emacs is powerful, but Stallman's love of Ctrl prefixed commands and hatred for mice make it a challenge and Vi's key combinations are obtuse as hell (compounded by Apple's hardware).

I'm more than happy with a real Mac application like BBEdit, but it's interesting to see how the other half lives.


Escape key


It's not hard to imagine Apple would have died in very short order.

If this happened, and Jobs was still there, I suspect some number of those people who eventually switched might have given NeXTSTEP serious consideration, as all the underpinnings of a good UNIX system were in place.


Linux also dominates mobile, which in turn dominates desktop.


Linux kernel has a good presence on the mobile through Android but the Linux ecosystem aka GNU/Linux does not.

And it seems that Google has plans to swap Linux with Fuschia in the long term.


Linux is the kernel. The rest of it is... not Linux. It's almost like RMS had a point with the rant that he gets mocked for.


Most of what actually runs in userland on a desktop and even server isn't GNU. Sure, you got the glibc, bash and coreutils and a bunch of other shell tools. A lot of it is just a matter of preference and/or tradition; there is nothing making a lot of these tools unique and you could supplant a lot with alternatives e.g. from the BSDs.

But your modern desktop is probably Gnome or KDE or similar or something like i3 or similar. And tons of users run a shell other than bash. So why not KDE/Linux?

Your servers probably run stuff like containers, or node servers or php ones or java ones, or some database software and the like. How much of that is developed under the umbrella of GNU?

Your browsers most likely aren't GNU, your music players probably are not either, your videos get decoded and encoded by ffmpeg. Few probably edit their documents in GNU software, and even when it comes to text, GNU editors are far from dominant.

Few systems probably have their usage dominated by GNU (not merely GPL licensed) software, even if you count time spent in glibc.

So, to still insist that it's "GNU/Linux" sounds... a bit silly and narcissistic to me, given all the non GNU stuff that runs on a typical system and doesn't get - let alone requests - special mention.


It seems reasonable to use the term "GNU/Linux" to refer to a system based on Linux and the GNU C library and utilities. You could also just call it "Linux", but with the term "GNU/Linux" you distinguish it from Android and BusyBox-based systems (with some other, smaller C library, such as musl), which are also "Linux".

Certainly, you'd expect most of the CPU time to be spent in application software, but we're talking about how to name the platform, aren't we?


The platform nowadays is heavily dependent on systemd and either GTK+ or Qt, none of which are GNU.


GTK+ is a GNU project.


It started out as one, but it hasn't been run by GNU in years and years, probably well over a decade now. It's currently operated by the GNOME Foundation.


gtk.org, the active and current homepage of GTK+, says right there on the homepage:

> GTK+ is free software and part of the GNU Project.

GTK+ development does take place on gitlab.gnome.org, but it is still part of GNU (unlike the rest of GNOME, which did start out as part of GNU, but hasn't been run by GNU for years and years).


Android doesn't feel like Linux because Android throws out everything Unix-y about it, not because it isn't GNU.

The Nokia N900 wasn't a GNU system at all—the userland was a mix of a non-GNU libc and BusyBox—but it still felt like a Linux distro because the UI used X11 with GTK+ and Qt, it had a terminal with all your familiar *nix command-line utilities (thank you, BusyBox!), and app distribution was done through an apt frontend. A good many apps for the N900 were straight-up ports of existing Linux apps, too... the ecosystem was almost entirely FOSS.

Android goes out of its way to hide the terminal, the GUI is based on nothing from the desktop, and it has its own packaging and package distribution format.


Yes, sounds kind of funny to me. If you're building an embedded system with busybox, it's proper GNU/Linux, because busybox is GNU. But once you replace it with Toybox, it becomes not-quite-Linux.


BusyBox is not a GNU project.

It's GPL, sure, but being released under the GPL doesn't make it GNU.


Sure, you're right. But still working on Raspberry Pi with busybox make the same unixy feel as working on laptop with GNU coreutils (not to say on Raspbian with coreutils). So I don't think it makes much sense to make a distinction here. After all it's possible that some other implementation of coreutils gets adopted by major distros one day, and people would probably care less than they did about the transition from SysVinit to systemd.


Yes, and yes, but I know this, you know this, everyone on HN knows this, everything possible has been said, and reminding us doesn't contribute anything


Blogging has transformed and moved. Twitter is a kind of blogging--only more concise, and consequently, much easier. Facebook, as well as Linkedin, may scratch the same itch as blogging. And, the bonus is that your content is much more visible and accessible.

Even if you post a link to your blog on linkedin, maybe 5-10% of people will click it, from my experience.

This is mostly a response to the comments, saying that blogging for sake of blogging has been lost. I don't think it's been lost; it's moved and transformed into social media.


Twitter is the comments section most media outlets have removed. Media likes it because it's usually all about them, and screencapping it often makes their jobs easier (aka "look at this twitter thread" between X and Y). Otherwise, it's disqus with a different distribution model.

Blogs are doing just fine. LJ simply became a Russian blog platform rather than and English language one. It did have some social media aspects back in the day, but it assumed a couple of standard deviation higher IQ (or at least attention span) in its users, favoring long form posts with lots of imagery. It didn't become a disgusting FB megacorp because it didn't cater to the lowest common denominator, or hire people to make it addictive. FWIIW Brad did fine.

Tools like this should be the goal, not evil garbage like FB.


Media likes it because it's usually all about them, and screencapping it often makes their jobs easier

I hate how true this can be.

"The internet is furious at celebrity"

Article sources the entirety of two mildly annoyed nobodies on twitter.


Twitter is blogging with all the good things about blogging stripped out. This did indeed make it easier, in the sense that just bleating whatever happens to be in your head, or venting insta-reactions to whatever happens to be passing in front of your eyes, are always going to be easier than thinking hard and crafting an argument. The result of all that ease and accessibility is a cesspool that has damaged lives, the culture, and arguably democracy itself.

Seeing Twitter described as an improved, evolved form of blogging is like seeing someone awful peel the skin off the body of your dear friend and wear it as a suit.


    Even if you post a link to your blog on linkedin, maybe 5-10% of people will click it, from my experience.
Well, that's what was cool about LJ. LJ was both a blogging platform and an aggregated feed of your LJ friends' blog posts.

The latter of those two aspects (and the fact that it was aggregated with the former) is what made it unique.


Yeah, when I was in college, I self-hosted a Serendipity blog (and a NewsPro/Coranto blog before that) for a while before moving to LJ, and I moved because of LJ's social aspects. Having that friends list was a huge benefit, as was being able to use <lj user="foobar"> to tag my friends in posts. Plus, I'd have access to communities! Social is important.

And eventually, around the time I graduated college, I stopped using LJ and started using Facebook for everything I used LJ before because the social interface was even better. Actually, I'd been using Facebook for a few years before I stopped using LJ, but in the early days of FB, it wasn't really suitable as a blogging platform.

My timeline was basically

- 2003: I started college, decided to self-host a NewsPro blog on the LAN for my freshman-year roommates (freshman apartments at UTD at the time were four-bedroom units with randomly-assigned roommates... UTD didn't have dorms until after I graduated) and I to share stuff with each other. Halfway through my freshman year, I upgraded the blog to Coranto.

- 2004: Freshman year ended, roommates and I all went our separate ways. I ended up living alone in a one-bedroom. I briefly considered putting the Coranto blog on the public Internet as a solo blog, but I ultimately decided to start fresh and self-host a Serendipity blog for myself (and I chose s9y because I was teaching myself Postgres at the time).

- early 2005: Facebook came to my college, and I jumped on it in the first week (I was user #462 at UTD, and I know this because before usernames were a thing, you accessed someone's profile by a combination of their college and their number at that college... I was utdallas.facebook.com user 000462).

- late 2005: I got jealous of all my friends using LiveJournal, so I signed up for an account. I basically stopped updating the s9y blog, though I kept it around. I think I intended to keep updating both, but then one of the officers in the campus LUG that I was a part of decided to set up a Planet instance for us, and since I could only add one of my blogs, I just told him to add the LJ one, and I basically forgot about the s9y blog.

- 2007: I graduated college and basically stopped using LJ. It was a combination of things: more of my friends were on FB than LJ, and FB had picked up a significant amount of blogging features by then, including status updates, notes, the ability to share links, and even the ability to put personality quizzes in boxes on your profile (and yes, personality quizzes were a large part of LJ's meme culture... in hindsight, it's kind of embarrassing, but whatever). From that point on, I'd log in to LJ and post once every few months, and then after a while it was a year before I logged in to write something new, and I didn't want to admit it, but I let my LJ die. Also, at that point, I switched my Facebook account from "visible to anyone in my networks" to "visible to friends only". From that point on, I was starting to care more about my social media presence, and I'd only consider going to LJ if I really wanted to make something public (yes, you can make friends-only posts on LJ, but I'd decided that I'd put my friends-only stuff on FB and my public stuff on LJ... and by then I had little I wanted to say to the public).

- Late 2008: After a particularly awful Facebook redesign, I got a Twitter account and deactivated my Facebook account.

- Late 2009: After being on Twitter for almost exactly a year, my phone died, so I "temporarily" came back to FB to gather phone numbers, and I found that Facebook had been redesigned again to be less awful, so I ended up staying on Facebook. Shortly after I decided to stay, I made my tweets private and basically abandoned that Twitter account.

- 2011: Someone I had a phone interview with mentioned that he found my LJ and made a joke about my drinking habits. I logged in one last time to run a script to make my whole LJ friends-only and threw in an "everything here is outdated" line on my LJ bio.

Since then, I've touched Twitter a couple more times with a few different accounts, but I haven't been a heavy Twitter user because the Twitter ecosystem is just so damn toxic (my current account was created for the sole purpose of DMing with a single friend who I met on Reddit and wanted to stay in contact with after I killed my Reddit account; I don't tweet from it, and I don't follow anyone other than my friend). Other than that, everything has been Facebook.


    > FB had picked up a significant amount of blogging features by then, including status updates, notes
It's funny, because the "notes" feature could in theory make for a very decent social blogging platform. But it's really de-emphasized in FB's UI, and if you do bother to make a "note" it doesn't seem to get much visibility in people's feeds... whether that's because FB's algorithm doesn't give notes much weight, or because longer-form "notes" posts simply aren't what people are looking for when they fire up FB.


The comment about "blogging for the sake of blogging" (it would've provided better context if you'd replied to that, btw) made the comment that what we have now is mostly content marketing and self promotion. I don't see how pointing at social media refutes that.


"At the time, Six Apart was a small software company best known for authoring the blogging software TypePad."

Oh my. Is Movable Type really that forgotten by history?


I suspect it's just inaccurate journalism... in the big picture, Movable Type had a much larger impact than TypePad. And Six Apart wasn't exactly a tiny company; at peak it had over 200 employees between offices on three continents. Not huge by today's standards, but not small for a post-dotcom-burst startup.

I worked for Six Apart in NYC a few years after the LJ sale. By that point, Six Apart HQ (in SF) was nearly entirely focused on hosted platforms, and basically left Movable Type to the satellite offices. I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I could certainly imagine some of the former LJ folks interviewed here may have commented about all the resources being moved to TypePad. So perhaps TypePad kept naturally coming up in these convos, and who knows if the article author had any prior familiarity with Six Apart or MT.

MT was such an amazingly powerful static site generator. Honestly I'd still use it today if it wasn't Perl-based and license-encumbered.


If anyone misses this sort of interaction, I suggest looking into the Patchbay client for scuttlebutt (https://www.scuttlebutt.nz). It's easily described as a P2P/decentralized version of LJ.


> LiveJournal exodus seemed to be triggered in part by actions like the mass banning of several figures in the X-rated Harry Potter fanfiction community under pressure from religious groups (ostensibly for writing erotic stories about underage characters).

Well sure, but a large part of the regular userbase (not religious folk) were not comfortable with adults writing pornography about fictional children, and having a LiveJournal became not cool because of that.


>Well sure, but a large part of the regular userbase (not religious folk) were not comfortable with adults writing pornography about fictional children, and having a LiveJournal became not cool because of that.

I seriously doubt that. It might have made it not "safe" for some small circles, but hardly "not cool" to the coolness-seeking people. Teenagers for example and younger people could hardly care about that.

(There's also the fact that you very easily skip all those. I read several LJ blogs religiously (e.g. ClickOpera), but have not chanced on the HP fan-fic ones at all).


It's common to see this sort of attempt at a post-mortem. Why did X fail? Because they did something that personally affected me in some way. Not because of any of the other million things they might have gotten wrong or missed. I see it often on threads that discuss Firefox's drop in market share - it's not because Google spends far more to market it's browser, or that devs short on time test only on Chrome, or Firefox is behind Chrome on security, or any other reason. No, commenters on HN will tell you that Firefox's share dropped because they deprecated the APIs behind niche extensions that a tiny fraction of their users used.


>I seriously doubt that. It might have made it not "safe" for some small circles, but hardly "not cool" to the coolness-seeking people. Teenagers for example and younger people could hardly care about that.

Sites can get a negative reputation for being the place where certain strange and distasteful fanbases gather. In time, outsiders might come to identify the site with these groups inside of it making the place undesirable. Compare Tumblr.


I think Tumblr lost most of its mojo and following in the exactly inverse scenario: when they (recently) said "no more porn". The backslash was big...


Numerically, that's incorrect. Tumblr includes posts-per-day stats on their /about page, and banning adult content was a drop of about 20-25% of posting volume. While that's a big drop for something that was an overnight change, it's still dwarfed by the drop comparing current stats vs heyday stats of years back.

At peak, going by public posts/day stats, Tumblr was about 5x larger than at present. It was more of a slow bleed than a sudden drop-off though.


This is absolutely spot on. Although Tumblr was always slightly off-kilter, it was significantly more mainstream during its hockey-stick growth period of 2010-2012. Many people just used it for posting photos, or used reblogs for visual scrapbooking. Numerous book deals were spawned through successful Tumblr blogs. Tons of large corporations had a social branding presence on Tumblr. And some people just used it as a CMS / free site builder, including (of all people) Mark Zuckerberg's father for his dental office.

Eventually the more mainstream userbase left for other platforms (primarily Instagram and Pinterest) which were better-suited for the specific use-case that these users wanted... especially on mobile, which Tumblr was slow to adapt to.

The remaining userbase was/is a lot more fanbase-focused and niche, and that can certainly be off-putting to more mainstream-leaning users.

This had a profound effect inside the company. Over the course of a few years, it went from a company where almost every employee was an obsessive daily user/poster, to one where many of the more backend-leaning engineers didn't use the product at all.

(Disclosure: I was an early Tumblr employee, but above opinions are my own.)


>Well sure, but a large part of the regular userbase (not religious folk) were not comfortable with adults writing pornography

I never used it but why would a non religious activist do something about it, complain, sign petitions, or even waste a thought about what some character is doing in a fictional world they don't read. Most probably as always there is a vocal minority


In case it's not glaringly obvious, I don't think an adult would care about fictional children.

Livejournal users, did, however, care about other adults who are sexually attracted to children.


>Livejournal users, did, however, care about other adults who are sexually attracted to children.

What makes you say that the people writing the stories had a sexual attraction to children? (and by 'children' I mean as we commonly understand it: real children). I wouldn't say that a vore or zombie fetishist wants to be eaten, eat people or have sex with the dead, nor would I say that a My Little Pony fetishist wants to have sex with horses, and to use a more common example: people into incest pornography (which appears to be extremely popular online, much more so than the rate of incest crimes reported) don't generally want to have sex with their family members and people with rape fantasies generally don't want to rape or be raped.


Yes but most people don't want their journal on an incest or rape forum either.


>Livejournal users, did, however, care about other adults who are sexually attracted to children.

My question was if there was a large of users that cared about the fictional characters or just very few. Or maybe was some social media thing that forced the company to change the terms. I know from recent events that Patreon and Steam were pressured by this groups, I think Patreon updated some terms but Steam did not.


I loved LJ and had a paid account for several years. I quit shortly after they got bought out and started shoving ads in everyone's face.


https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Scree...

The guy just used archive.org and posted a version with broken css as if it was a regular past screenshot of the site.


I don't think many people keep screenshots of their livejournals around.


Pioneered? VirtualKid had blogs for their user base back in 1997. I'm sure others were around even earlier.




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