Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

The next big challenge for LiveJournal

I just posted this on lj_biz. If it wasn't obvious before, it became very obvious to me today that online journaling and weblogs are a very big thing, getting some very serious consideration from the media. There is one company that is in the lead... and we're not it.

I love LiveJournal and I would be comforting somehow to think that we could just freeze this moment in time, such as it is, but I'm pretty sure that we can't. For the sake of LiveJournal and for the sake of the Internet, we must press on into uncharted waters. We may never find our way back, but perhaps things are better on the other side... There's only one way to find out.

Brad said that this post made him both pumped up and afraid... Me too.


So, how are all of you doing out there? Rested and relaxed after the holidays? Ready to get down to business?

I'd like to say we could relax for a bit, but we can't afford to. Sure, we have the fast servers and a fast network connection, but I checked out some sites and read some articles today that really concerned me.

It started when I went to the Blogger website. Blogger is a commercially funded pre-IPO dotcom. They are getting all sorts of press from major media sources lately... why? Well, they solicited about $11,000 from their users for new servers... Big fat hairy deal. We have half as many users as Blogger, and we've received nearly $20,000 in donations since we first requested help. Does that mean that LiveJournal users care four times more about our site than Blogger users care about theirs? I hope so...

Somehow, this was supposed to be a sign of success for them, because a lot of big names reported on it.

In the last few months, they have gotten press from:
-The New York Times
-U.S. News & World Report
-Access Magazine
-O'Reilly Network

All this media has really increased their site's growth rate... some are calling Blogger "The next Napster". Regardless, the powers-that-be view Blogger as the biggest and best web logger out there. Well, they may be the biggest, but they certainly aren't the best. They will probably become the pre-eminent name in weblogging however, unless things change quick.

This should concern you. Why? Well, if they keep getting all the attention, they will be the website that everyone thinks of when it comes to online journaling. They will get all the support, all the attention, and all of the money. They might very well be purchased by a big dotcom for millions of dollars, at which point, we're in serious trouble. Sure, we can exist as we do right now with slow growth and no real recognition, but if we do that, we will be outdone by a bunch of dotcom professionals who will use their growth and their money to expand, develop, and make us either irrelevant or obsolete... they may even try to sue us out of business. (It wouldn't be hard...) Being the biggest doesn't make you the best, but that's a moot point if you're the last man standing.

When I first volunteered for this job, I had one real goal... to make this place successful, which I defined as self-sufficient and able to support Brad so he could dedicate all his time and energy for LiveJournal. He offered to pay me a salary. I turned him down. While I don't think any of us are in this for the money, we have an obligation to LiveJournal users to be the best journal site we can be... that means being around for the long haul. How would any of you feel if Brad told you one day that we had to shut down the site because we were being sued for some kind of intellectual patent violation lawsuit... or, even worse, if the site just kind of rotted on the vine due to being obsolete? Brad would be crushed, I'm sure, and I would feel like I failed all of you and failed to protect what we have here.

I'm telling you now that this could happen someday. I need your help to make sure that it never does. We must not just survive... we must thrive.

We also have an obligation to society. We've created a site that is now volunteer run and member supported. That's pretty unique for the Internet. We are the alternative to all those dotcoms out there. Theoretically, we should be more stable than them because you are what supports us, not a bunch of fickle investors. We can be a model to other web sites... an example that the web can be human and doesn't have to be turned into one big advertisement. But in order to be an example to others, we must succeed.

I don't mind competing against Blogger on an even basis. I look forward to LiveJournal being the Linux to their Windows... the non-commercial alternative. Unlike Windows, however, I'm unwilling to let Blogger get over 90% of the marketplace. Still, they have money stashed away to pay salaried employees for quite awhile, and they have a budget to afford professional marketing expertise. Even if they fail as a business, they would probably be bought out by a bigger company with money to burn. How are we going to compete against that?

We'll do it with your help. You and the rest of LiveJournal.

It's all about LiveJournal, ultimately. We're a part of it, but it is bigger than the sum of its parts. We are the ones who support LiveJournal, so it is entirely appropriate that we offer our time and energy to make LiveJournal succeed... not merely as a financial institution, but ultimately as a rock-solid, stable web site that isn't going anywhere and that makes all of our lives better.

How are we going to achieve these goals? Right now, we need to concentrate on two essential priorities:
1> Finding new volunteers.
2> Finding new users.

Notice that money really doesn't have anything to do about this. We are over the hump, and the donations we get should take care of our expenses for the time being. Our new goals are all about spreading the word. I need all of you to become LiveJournal evangelists... to recruit people you know to help out lj_biz, to let people know about LiveJournal, to get the word out to the media and Internet magazines, to let other web sites and relevant forums across the web know about our communities, to get your friends to join LiveJournal, to come up with ideas that will increase the number of users, to start distributing the LiveJournal client software through sites like and Tucows, to get us listed on every major search engine worldwide, to make it easier for new users to use the site... and above all, to take the initiative and step up to do what must be done if we are to grow this website.

I have discussed the matter with Brad; he is 100% behind it and is feverishly creating with these goals in mind. (Like the new LiveJournal look, btw? It was one of the priorities, since it makes it easier for new users to use the web site. ) Ordinarily, as many of you know, I like to delegate... in this case, however, I'm going to be personally involved in managing a team to achieve these goals.

Here is the big goal. I want a total of 85,000 users by the end of March, effectively doubling our size.This will still leave us behind Blogger, but it is a start and is what we will need to do in order to stay competitive and provide a real alternative to future journalers.

This is a tall order, but it is possible. It means a lot of work, however. I need volunteers who can help me with any of the ideas mentioned above, and who have ideas of their own on how to attract more people to the LiveJournal website. I am especially interested in finding new volunteers to help out with this project. There are tons of openings available for people of all skill levels... I am even willing to help out new people with their future careers. Would you like a letter of recommendation sent to you on LiveJournal letterhead for interning with us? You've got it... want to put LiveJournal on your resume and use me as a personal reference? Sure... but you have to help out! Click here right now to show your interest in volunteering. I will do whatever it takes to earn your loyalty and your dedication. Also, take the time to visit the Talent Pool and add your skills to the list.

As for all of you experienced LJ volunteers, what I need from you more than anything is your evangelism. I know you are probably busy, but take the time to find me more volunteers, just like I found several of you. I want to see 20 replies to this post from new volunteers, and a slew of ideas on how we are going to grow this site... I can't do it by myself. I need your help. If you don't see those replies under this post, take a look at the priorities again and think about what you can do to make sure we get those volunteers. No matter what you do with LiveJournal, that should be your first priority, period. If you have any spare time for LJ after we have our volunteers, by all means, drop me a line...

Once again, my thanks, especially to those of you who give so much of their time and energy. I ask a lot of you... more than I have any right to ask, and I'm very proud of you and glad to call you my friends. You are the guardians of this site. You nourish it, protect it, and keep it healthy. A rose, always in bloom, and always a thing of beauty.

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