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LiveJournal, often abbreviated as LJ, is a social networking site that allows users to maintain personal blogs with threaded comment features where users could interact with each other. In addition to the personal blog, LiveJournal also has a Community feature where users can join a group journal focused on a specific topic, connecting with people who share the same interests.
Brad Fitzpatrick founded the site in 1999 to keep his friends updated about his life, operating on a free and open source platform that Fitzpatrick designed himself the previous year. LiveJournal is seen as being one of the pioneers of social networking, and paved the way for later sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and Tumblr. LiveJournal also was the first site the online usage of the word “friend,” taken to mean someone you interact with, and not necessarily someone have a personal connection with.
Use of LiveJournal in North America and Europe has been steadily declining since 2005, as it has been largely supplanted by other social networking sites, such as Facebook, and more recently, Tumblr. In 2007, LiveJournal was sold to Russian media company SUP Media, and has since been gaining a large userbase in that country. According to Alexa, approximately 50% of the site’s traffic comes from Russia. In Russian, site is known as Живой Журнал (Zhuvoy Zhurnal), and is often abbreviated ЖЖ (Zhe Zhe).
Frank the Goat
Frank the Goat is LiveJournal’s mascot, and is treated as an active member of the community. Numerous fanfics and comics have been written about him, and his “story” is often featured in site news posts.
LJDrama was started in 2000 to document the day-to-day interactions of LiveJournal users, with special attention given to flamewars and other drama – a hub for gossip with in the LiveJournal community. Its original intent was to help people better understand the complex online interactions of the users. However, an explicit account of how two users started an intimate relationship, followed by their breakup, caused the group to be banned from LiveJournal. The founder of the group then created Encyclopedia Dramatica to continue documenting these interactions.
Nonuglies and Rating Communities
Nonuglies was the first example of a “Rating Community” on the internet, where users post an image of themselves, and other users respond by rating their attractiveness. Nonuglies was suspended from LiveJournal after its original creator reposted rejected images, but it was followed by many other Rating Communities. Notable among them were Nonuglygeeks, Atraktiv, and The_Exalted, the latter of which was shut down in a scandal involving child pornography. In general, Rating Communities have a reputation for being filled with very haughty users who were not welcoming to outsiders. With the decline of LiveJournal, many of these groups have fallen into disuse; they have also been supplanted by numerous sub-Reddits.
LiveJournal’s personal blog format easily allows for users to create roleplaying blogs. Soon after the first such blogs became popular, communities were formed for large-scale roleplaying games. In general, original characters were not allowed to participate in these games. One such example is Landel’s Damned:
Players wake up to find themselves in a mental asylum, and are told that they are not really the comic book/anime/video game characters that they think they are, but that they’re just very ill people suffering from delusions. The staff of the asylum are all too willing to help cure them by day – or horrifically torture them by night.
These games were often very well-organized and had strict application processes, so that the situations could be controlled, or at least directed, by those running the games. Often times, the games involved lots of drama between users. With the decline of LiveJournal, some of the more popular games have been transferred to sites such as InsaneJournal and Dreamwidth.
In 2008, a series of roleplay blogs were set up for Doctor Who characters, beginning with Captain Jack Harkness. These blogs developed into an “ask” format, and formed the precedent for the currently popular ask blogs on Tumblr.
LiveJournal’s format also allows for webcomics to be easily posted and updated. Numerous well-known webcomics got their start on LiveJournal, such as hiimdaisy, Kate Beaton’s series Hark! a Vagrant, and John Campbell’s Pictures for Sad Children. The webcomic community on LiveJournal is now all but dead; most have moved on to their own domain names, or to Tumblr.
Role in the 2011 Russian Protests
Due to LiveJournal’s prevalence in Russia, it was instrumental in organizing the anti-Putin protests held in that country during late 2011. LiveJournal was the target of a cyberattack, along with Russia’s independent election monitor Golos; presumably, those responsible for the attacks wished to suppress news of election irregularities. However, the site was brought back online quickly, and news about the election that was not being reported in the Russian media was spread across the internet. While Facebook and Twitter took a more important role in organizing the protest events themselves, LiveJournal remained the main method to spread news and developments about the elections.
On June 7th, the Russian government proposed Bill 89417-6, which would create an internet blacklist of websites containing alleged child pornography, drug related material, extremist materials and other content deemed illegal in Russia. To protest this bill, the Russian Wikipedia went offline the day of the second reading in the Russian State Duma on July 10th, 2012. Despite this effort, the bill was passed and the first action was taken on July 18th, blocking access to the entirety of LiveJournal from the city of Yaroslavl and parts of Moscow. The blackout occurred after police were notified of the Neo-Nazi blog pat-index full of extremist views that violated the bill.
A court order was filed to block the IP 188.8.131.52, which also is the IP for every blog hosted on LiveJournal. The company said they are going to investigate the blog in question and will suspend the blog if it breaks their hate speech policy.
Since LiveJournal was a pioneer of social networking and online interaction, it has also been studied in academic circles as early as 2002. In 2005, Lynn Cherney published an article on the use of memes on the site. The first LiveJournal Inc. funded article, titled “LiveJournal Users: Passionate, Prolific, and Private,” was published in 2008. Researcher danah boyd has collected several LiveJournal related articles on her social networking site bibliography and Alice Marwick, author of the first LiveJournal Inc. research paper, hosts an extensive LiveJournal specific research bibliography on her site.
Traffic and Search Interest
As of May 2012, Alexa ranks LiveJournal at #109 globally, and at #10 in Russia, showing the site’s prevalence in that country. Search interest in “LiveJournal” been steadily declining since its apex in 2005, while interest in “ЖЖ” has been steadily increasing since mid-2006, and peaked around January 2012.
LiveJournal Inc. – LiveJournal Users: Passionate, Prolific, and Private
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