When I decide to join LiveJournal by signing up for a password, the issues that concern me are ease of use and the password-protected privileges I acquire -- namely, maintaining a journal, commenting under a recognized name, joining communities, and reading protected entries. These tend to be "back-end" issues, for the simple reason that front-end software could be written by anyone.
The ultimate goals of LiveJournal's plans should be to expand and publicize the privileges I just listed, while improving ease of use. To achieve those goals, LJ should:
- improve server performance whenever possible.
- make it easy to create and update a journal. (Let's call this done.)
- make it easier to move a journal from another site to LJ.
- expand LiveJournal's content, with an eye to attracting journals of quality and strong appeal.
- support discussion of (i.e., commenting on) other sites' content.
- promote LiveJournal's communities.
- encourage and assist the development of client software, including non-proprietary clients for distributed weblogging.
- encourage users and developers to promote LiveJournal.
I don't suppose LiveJournal can expect much co-operation from direct competitors like Blogger. Nevertheless, many websites (as well as Blogger's users, while commenting isn't supported there) would enjoy being able to add discussion boards easily. And the Friends page, which is the heart of the LiveJournal experience, could be adapted to allow the inclusion of friends who post on Blogger and other sites. These projects would be worthy priorities. Everyone who signs up to post on a LiveJournal discussion board, or to create a LiveJournal Friends list, adds strength to our community. Attempts by other sites to restrict access to public content would only make LiveJournal more appealing by comparison.
What about the front-end software? It's important, and useful for marketing purposes, but ultimately, LiveJournal can't retain control of it as it can the back end. In a distributed world, which for weblogging could be upon us by next year, more of the HTML presentation code will be generated by client software proliferating beyond the control of the server. The biggest challenge facing LJ as a result will be to ensure that users aren't forced, or even tempted, to use a competitor's proprietary client. So, it's important to foster development of an open client for distributed weblogging. As I understand it, we're already at a point where any other weblogging service could incorporate LiveJournals into its own output, so the need to reciprocate is real and immediate.
LiveJournal's true identity, however, is tied not to client software which anyone can write, but to the password-protected services it provides, and to the people who sign up for them. Friends lists, discussion boards, and communities are central to this identity, and that's where in-house development and marketing efforts should be focused.