Grandad of social networking goes to Russia

4 Dec 2007

LiveJournal, which began in March 1999 as simple way for American Brad Fitzpatrick to keep in touch with his high-school buddies, could be said to be the original online weblog and social networking community and the first collective blogging service to have a ‘buddy’ list.

LiveJournal is one of the world’s most popular online communities, with a monthly audience of over 18 million unique visitors hailing from almost every country in the world.

After being purchased in 2005 by Six Apart, a US company that provides professional blogging services Typepad and Moveable Type, the site has been acquired yesterday by global media company SUP, which is based in Moscow.

While under the control of Six Apart LiveJournal developed many features like friends lists and privacy controls which have now come to define social networking.

Although there are over three million LiveJournal users from the US alone, the second biggest demographic of half a million comes from Russia – enough to make the word LiveJournal synonymous with blogging.

Previous to this LiveJournal had already licensed its Russian community to SUP since October of last year.

Chris Alden, CEO and Chairman of Six Apart, said of the acquisition: “We have been impressed by the expertise and enthusiasm that SUP has brought to LiveJournal in Russia.

“It has introduced new features, nearly doubled the number of users, invested in key product enhancements, and has done justice to one of the most innovative online social networks in the world.

“Judging both by SUP’s track record and its eagerness to create a new user advisory board to oversee the community’s interests, this is clearly a good fit.”

There are some media commentators who believe that the Russian acquisition of LiveJournal may be a bad move for both native and non-native users as Russia is not known for its democratic approach to media freedom.

Blogging has long been seen as the last bastion of expression for those unable to use the mainstream media to do and with LiveJournal’s new Russian ownership some fear this expression may soon be censored.

Since SUP has been overseeing the Russian section of LiveJournal since last October users have seen the introduction of an “abuse team” that monitors for inappropriate content. This monitoring was originally carried out from the US but will now be controlled from within Russia.

However, US entrepreneur Andrew Paulson who founded SUP said: “LiveJournal is a very important Russian social and cultural phenomenon; our first duty is to ‘do no harm’. LiveJournal is the ‘blogosphere’ in Russia, and being the caretaker of this service is a great privilege and a huge responsibility.”

By Marie Boran