More social networking cuts – this time LiveJournal cuts half its US workforce

Sup, the Russian owners of blogging/social networking site LiveJournal, has slashed just under half of LiveJournal’s US workforce – getting rid of its products managers and engineers, and leaving just operations and finance people. Sounds rather like they don’t intend to do much in the way of maintenance or development now, doesn’t it? Valleywag has the story and describes LJ as being “left on life support”

Note that LJ users – which includes paid customers of the site – didn’t hear this news from LJ, but from the media. Pretty poor, especially for any paid customers of the site who just coughed up $US175 for lifetime, permament accounts as per the company’s offer in December.

The Valleywag story links to the blog of one affected LJ staffer – who is involved with a new open source social networking site called Dreamwidth – which is still in development. Assuming the folk involved in developing Dreamwidth can still put time into it (if they’re now out of work, looking for jobs or starting new jobs they may not be able to) – this could be a good time for them to launch. Especially since other blogging or social networking sites which seem large, active and (at least relatively) ‘safe’ from the current economic climate (such as WordPress or Facebook) just aren’t replacements for LJ.

Most people who haven’t used it extensively don’t “get” LiveJournal, and it kind of stands apart from the way both blogs and social networking sites have developed over the past few years. If you want to know more about the evolution of LiveJournal and just how groundbreaking it was in terms of ahead-of-the-curve features, this is a great read (also good for anyone working on a blogging or social networking site, really): Lessons from the failure of Livejournal: when NOT to listen to your users.

Blogs have changed a lot since LJ’s inception. While they started out as private “journalling” sites often only visited by a few friends of the blogger, generally speaking blogging has now become very much about broadcasting – being public. LJ allows you to broadcast publicly or maintain a private/friends only blog if you prefer – and you can control this on a post by post or whole-of-blog security settings. Also, LJ supports a number of active social communities (yes, including the Harry Potter slashfic community which sadly seems to be all most people know of LiveJournal).

Because LJ has evolved a fairly unique user base, it could be a really good time for Dreamwidth to launch, because I certainly don’t know what I’d suggest to my LJ friends and communities as an alternative to LiveJournal.

It’s going to be an interesting few months ahead. This is not the first time LJ users have faced uncertaintly – as over the course of its life it has gone from being a community site founded by (now-Googler) Brad Fitzpatrick, to a commercial entity owned by Six Apart and now Sup. Many LJers are exploring backup and export options right now – no-one wants to lose years of blog entries, not to mention the contact details of their online friends.

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