The internet, back in its beginning, was not exactly universally accessible to all. THere was an intellectual barrier to getting online and interacting on Usenet or IRC or Bulletain Boards. Internet Connections were also not exactly commonplace either, and more then likely to expensive for the common person to own.
As a result, the general quality of discussion on the Internet was quite good. People followed ettiquete and normal standards, were well educated, and knew how to get things done on the internet.
Afterawhile, Internet Access became redily available to college students. THis began a cyclical period for the growth of the internet. Evrey summer, new users would log on. Nearly all of them had fairly little knowledge on how the internet worked. These "newbies" would slowly learn the reins from the longstadeing members of the internet community. Over time, those that had no place on the internet would give up, leaving those that truly belonged on board. The Quality of discussion was still quite good, if not looking at the "training period" over the summer, and in some respects probably improved, with the insurgence of new blood.
But something new arrived to the internet in the years coming up to 1997. The World Wide Web. WWW allowed creation of sites with pictures and text and in many respects was much, much easier to navigate then the rest of the Internet world of FTP, Gopher, IRC, and Usenet. The learning curve neccasary to use the internet was thusly incredibly decreased. Any moron can click a mouse button and surf the web.
WWW had huge marketing potential. Evreybody could understand it, and it's creation corresponded to a time when internet connections were just becoming common place in a person's house. ISPs started to form. And with that, came AOL.
AOL's effect on the early internet can not be understated. In 1997, AOL added WWW support to it's software and started a heavy marketing campaign. Hundreads of thousands joined. THe traditional backwaters of the Internet outside of the WWW were inundated with newbies of a level of ignorance never before seen. Even worse, they outnumbered the veterans. It was clear that the cyclical nature of internet growth was gone forever. Replaced was an exponetial growth rate that would always be composed of people that really shouldn't be on the internet on the first place, and would never learn.
The veterans called it The Endless Summer of '97. And it's still going on today without end. People readily get on the internet and hardly ever try to learn the reins. They use internetspeak in nearly evreything they do and degrade the quality of internet discussion. The internet has never been the same since that year.
Livejournal is now poised on a similar event.
Taking the trouble to get an Invite Code assured that atleast one person would be there for the "newbie" to help out. THis really kept the integrity and quality of LJ in check. Sure, we have the journals that are composed entirely in lowercase, and the political "activists" that post nothing but haiku, but on the whole, atleast half of the blogs here are of good caliber.
THe reason why is because of community. Livejournal users talk to eachother, and, design their journal with the view in mind of attracting new friends and meeting new people. Livejournal users take the time to educate themselves. This is a huge factor in the quality of this site.
With invite codes being taken away now, there is no longer any way of keeping the newbie base in check. Rest assured the quality of the site will degrade, no matter what actions against trolling and such are taken, because these actions do not replicate the environment of the invite codes.
I want to be able to hit the random button on the search funtion and read a good journal. I want to be able to friend surf and meet intelligent people. I want to look at the "latest updated journals" and not see idot hackers flooding their journals with random characters and useless garbage.
The potential of that happening is even grater now then back in the days without invite codes, because the internet commubnity as a whole has grown even larger and even more idiotic. The levels of email spam should be an indicator to that.
I suggest that a system be implemented. Perhaps a buddy system, or something of that nature, to help train the new users of Livejournal. Without somekind of didactic framework, I'm afraid the LJ user admin can't really do anything to stop the decline of this community. It's already happened before, on the internet.
Please. Let's prevent the Endles Winter of '03.