Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Why the Decline of Livejournal Was Such a Loss

Why the Decline of Livejournal Was Such a Loss

A quick history of Livejournal for those who were not part of the community. is a blogging platform which used to be the hub for just about everything from 2000 through to about 2009, expecially fandom.

  • 1999 Livejournal was created by Brad Fitzpatrick
  • 2000 Livejournal starts to grow and users have to have an invite code to start an account. Fandom takes to Livejournal in a big way, as do other bloggers. This is the golden age of Livejournal.
  • 2005 Brad sells Livejournal to Six Apart all is well for a while. 
  • 2006 There is some controversy and counts are suspended and deleted without warning (I won't go into the details). Fandom starts to bail.
  • 2007 Six Apart sell Livejournal to SUP Services, a Russian company, but the servers remain in the US. Fandom starts looking elsewhere. The rise of Tumblr and several incidents cause fandom on LJ to decline in a big way.
  • 2017 Livejournal is transfered to Russia completely and has a new ToS that says all accounts have to obey Russian law - for fandom LJ is effectively dead.

The thing about Livejournal that makes it so different from all the other social media flying around today is that it was so flexible and it was built for communication. No matter how you look at Twitter and Tumblr, they are not built for happy community, they are geared towards shouting into the void and controversy. And Facebook has algorythmns that show you only what they want you to see.

Livejournal always showed you your timeline in chronicological order and did not deem to tell you what you were allowed to see and what you were not. If you were friends with a thousand people/commuities it showed you every post from those thousand in date and time order so you could read them all. You could make your own custom groups so if you didn't have time that day you could read your own chosen subset of posts. It was all the users choice.

Livejournal was concieved with the idea of community - literally. It has personal accounts and community accounts, with different functionality to allow communities to be overseen by groups of people.

Personal accounts have levels of security:

  • private - posters eyes only
  • public - everyone can see
  • friends only - only those people you have friended can see the post
  • friends group - users can create custom groups of friends and then allow only them to see a post (awesome for organising get togethers, or secret gift projects for other friends).
Communities can be open to everyone or on moderated membership or completely closed so you can only join if you are invited. This meant groups could set up safe spaces to talk. Sometimes it was as trivial as risky fanfiction, sometimes support or survivor groups.

Posts exist as an entitiy with comments on the post - no need to reshare something just to comment on it. There is also a memory option to save a post so you can go back to it and re-read later.

Comments have streams so converstaions are easy to follow. Many users and communities made use of this for comment fic or long meta discussions. Comments even had titles for a very long time - when SUP removed them it caused a riot (another reason fandom left).

Posts can have parts hidden away that can only be seen when clicked upon and there can be more than one of these in a post. You can have an itro paragraph, then something behind a cut, then another paragraph and then another cut.

It was considered impolite to have an image larger than about 300px across above a cut on LJ in the early days, because it cluttered the timeline and caused slow loading when most of us did not have broadband. Anything not safe for work was usually placed under a cut so people could click or not as suitable to their environment. When posting fiction there was an almost standard form of header that everyone used so that the fic could be posted under a cut and other users could see what it was about at a glance when scrolling through their timeline.

Users can get at the html of a post and turn off all the automatic formatting to make posts look exactly as they want. This might not seem useful to many modern users who prefer the simple point and click, but to me it's perfect. I can point and click when I want to, but I can also take a post from here and pop it straight into LJ wholesale.

Livejournal let you know when someone commented (y'know like FB and Twitter are supposed to, but sometimes don't bother) and you could put watches on comms or particulars posts.

Livejournal was all about communication and community. (We had our fandom wars and our moments, but the communication was still there).

I had forgotten how much it meant to me until I was sorting through my fanfiction directory this weekend. I always put my LJ headers in my fanfic files and I was looking at some of the author's notes. So many of the fics are dedicated to people or have little notes to friends or were written in fic exchanges or prompt grabs for other users. I see their names and they bring back such fond memories.

Most of the time we didn't even know each other's real names, but we were friends. We organised virtual birthday parties on communities we had set up for that specific purpose (those custom friends groups came in really handy to organise those). We had huge fic exchanges where tens of writers (in some cases hundreds) came together and wrote fic for other people, all handled by the moderators who matched up writers to prompts (I've run several in my time and I miss them).

The biggest is undoubtedly Yuletide which is for rare fandoms and is still running, but the fic posting is now based on AO3.

A lot of us fandom peeps were hoping Imzy would become the new Livejournal, but they just didn't make it. Dreamwidth is out there, which is a Livejournal clone specifically for fandom, but it has never enticed all the people over. The move of LJ to Russia finally caused even more of a migration, but I think the LJ model is missing the ease of posting the pretty that Tumblr and Facebook have.

Tumblr is showing all the signs of discontent that LJ did when it was sold and TPTB decided they knew what was best for fandom. What would be really awesome is if Dreamwidth had an upgrade to make pictures and vids as easy as places like Tumblr. It's already much easier than it was, but nowhere near as easy as point, upload and click.

The decline of Livejournal has been a great loss. It did not evolve to counter the threat of something like Tumblr, which is all about the visual, and allowing the Russians control with their homophobic laws and draconian media laws killed it for fandom and freedom of speech bloggers alike.

I miss being able to talk to my friends in more than 140 characters. I miss the long indepth discussions about fanfic and meta where everyone's comments are there to go back and read in chains that make them easily understood. I miss the community.

If you would like to see what I am talking about I am here on LJ: beren_writes and here on Dreamwidth beren_writes. I suggest you pick a year like 2006 to see what I mean - if you click the view subjects button for a month you can see all the titles of my posts.

Were you on Livejournal? Do you miss it?


  1. I was on LJ - I was not as prolific as you, but it was a great place to share stories and discuss ideas. Some of the in-depth comments and discussion were great. Nothing has quite matched up for the community side, you're right.

    1. Blogging platforms like blogger are the closest, but they still don't have the community feeling of LJ I don't think.

  2. I'm literally only familiar with Livejournal through George RR Martin's blog. I wonder if he'll finally change it now that it's taken over by the Ruskies. I doubt it, he's not known for being open to change. He still writes on a computer and with software from the 1980s.

    1. I was only ever part of fandom, I followed mostly fandom blogs and friends :) I didn't even know GRRM was on there until recently!

  3. I miss the community there. Nothing else has felt quite like it since Strikeout.

    1. I know what you mean. It was just such a wonderful place and then it wasn't *sigh*

  4. I still have an LJ account (john_holton), but haven't posted to it in a while. I see you're posting your tweets to it; how are you doing that?

    1. Under settings there is a tab called Extensions - you can link in your other accounts there and then choose publish my tweets to my journal and vice versa if you want to.


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