What makes a sponsored community different than a regular community?
Basically, nothing. :)
They're different in that sponsored communities are highlighted both on the main LJ homepage and in interest searches, to both Basic and Plus users. (We'll talk about Basic users seeing them and how we're going to fix that problem in a later post.) The sponsor might also want to run regular ads on the site, through the existing ad rotation, so they'll have that option available to them. They do get access to paid account features; after all, they are paying us to advertise on LJ. And the obvious: they're run by representatives from that company, with a bit of help from some of the LJ staff.
Besides that, they're just like regular communities. In many ways, we're actually going to be a lot more aggressive about holding them to a certain standard. We're writing up a list of "behavior guidelines" that we're going to ask all our sponsors to agree to. It's still making its rounds around the office to make sure we've addressed the biggest issues that have come up, and we'll post it here once we finalize it.
In particular, some of the concerns we're going to clarify:
- Spam and community invites
- Visibility in interest searches
- Concerns about access to user data
- Fears of censorship (see also: fandom)
- Getting usernames
- Fake accounts
So ... can't they create the community for free, like normal?
We've always allowed people to engage in a little bit of "commercial activity" in their journals -- if someone knits sweaters for gerbils and wants to sell those, we let them sell those in their own journal. We don't want to prohibit you from doing that; that would anger a lot more people. However, we do prohibit larger companies from doing this -- companies that obviously turn a profit of at least a million dollars a year (we're not going to be auditing you :P) aren't permitted to just set up a community and profit from creating a community here. By requiring that they go through us, we'll be able to hold them to higher standards, so you know what to expect.
The distinction between the regular community icon and the sponsored community icon isn't clear enough
Thanks for the feedback -- and special thank you to those of you who offered up alternative icons! It seems changing the color isn't distinctive enough (and I'm inclined to agree with you guys), so we're going to come up with a different icon entirely. We'll let you know when that's ready.
More later, probably tomorrow, etc etc. Keep an eye out. :)