The Start Up Story Of Live Journal And Brad Fitzpatrick
When social media websites became popular, some rose to prominence and remained at the top of the search results. Others plowed steadily down the middle of the road, remaining in the peripheral vision of interested online parties. And still, others fizzled out quickly due to keeping their focus too limited. In the case of LiveJournal, a social media outlet designed specifically for blogging, it has remained important depending on the geographical location.
Founded in 1999 by Brad Fitzpatrick, a programmer that was born in Iowa and raised in Oregon, the site grew in popularity over the next few years. It wasn’t until the company operating LiveJournal for Fitzpatrick, Danga Interactive, was sold that real controversy and major demographic changes began.
Originally pieced together by Fitzpatrick as a way to keep in touch with friends from high school, the site began signing up a steady stream of users. Communities within the site arose and LiveJournal became an attractive alternative to current blogging websites. It’s simple design, ease of use, and embedding capability made it a regular staple of more serious bloggers that appreciated its abilities.
In 2005, Danga Interactive was sold to Six Apart (also known as 6A). Kirkpatrick joined 6A as their chief architect as part of the deal. Kirkpatrick had entertained many different offers from companies to purchase the site, which he considered personal and a pet project of his, but refused to sell until maintenance and other obligations got the better of him. After supposedly confirming the site ideals would remain in place with 6A, Kirkpatrick agreed to sell.
When the announcement of the sale made the rounds online, LiveJournal users began backing up their blogs which slowed the site down tremendously. They raised objections that the site fundamentals would change for the worse, that free members would be formed to purchase memberships, and that the open source coding would evaporate. Kirkpatrick discounted these worries and sold the company anyway, assuring users that things would remain the same.
The site became so popular in Russia that the Russian name for the site, ZheZhe, became synonymous with blogging in general. 6A licensed the LiveJournal branding to a Russian company named SUP Media in 2006, a year before Kirkpatrick opted to leave his own site for good.
In 2007, LiveJournal was fully sold to SUP Media. Its popularity was expounded upon by the fact that it had become a breaking point for the largely independent Russian blogging community. When backlash and concern from the users over the sale and operations of LiveJournal circulated online, the new site owners responded negatively. Accusations were made by the management that the users were actively trying to disparage growth.
The growing concern that an American site sold to a Russian company, where it was distinctly more popular, would lead to the alienation of American users. Possibly in response to this, SUP Media announced that the site would now be run by a new company, LiveJournal, Inc based out of San Francisco. This office continues to run the site by governing US laws.
Because LiveJournal was designed by Kirkpatrick to largely be open source software, meaning free for just about anyone to utilize, other sites have copied the engine used to run the site. The typical difference is the terms of service that allow importation of LiveJournal blogs.
While the brokerage of the company was usually the debated point in the real world, in cyberspace another controversy had begun. In mid-2007, after the sale to SUP Media, nearing five hundred blogs were shut down by the site. These sites were reportedly featuring content that went against the site’s standards and policies. Many of the banned blogs featured fan fiction listed in certain searchable categories. Others limited to the discussion of taboo topics were also blogs.
Eventually, many of these blogs were more thoroughly researched by LiveJournal and unbanned, but the damage had been done. Users declined service and the numbers dwindled.
Political parties and activists in Russia, however, continued to take advantage of LiveJournal’s abilities. Operations in Russia bolstered the site even though the user numbers were dwindling in the United States. Chief administration and maintenance of the site are still run from the LiveJournal, Inc. headquarters in San Francisco even though the site is undoubtedly more Russian than American.