Insomnia (insomnia) wrote in lj_biz,

How are other journal services doing?!

I wanted to provide everyone an idea of what the two leading online journal sites, Diaryland and Blogger, are up to currently... perhaps by knowing what we are up against, you will all realize what we must do in order to be on an equal level with these sites.

Just heard that Diaryland is adding a new section they are adding to user's journals... essentially a userinfo page. See an example of this here.

As they say on their site "This is only phase one too, cause once a lot of people have filled it out we're going to set it up so you can add more info, and it'll link you easily to people with the same musical, etc, tastes as you."

Sounds familiar?!

Looks like Diaryland is going to try to make money by putting banner ads up all over their site, although not on the actual journal pages. Still, their journal pages hardly show any real amount of entries on a user at one time, so they're still pretty annoying. Nevertheless, they are at 120,000 users, targeting essentially the same user base as us. In a few months, they may develop a community to rival ours. Sure, it won't be quite as good as LiveJournal, but Windows 3.1 wasn't as good as MacOS and VHS wasn't as good as Beta... in short, people might choose Diaryland instead of LJ because more people know about them and more of their friends use it.

As for Blogger, they are working community-building features too... there's some kind of Pyra application that is in development, allowing people to do online project management. Sounds pretty advanced, actually. There's also Blogger Pro in development, which appears to be highly anticipated by Blogger users. It is also an application that can be seriously targeted towards businesses, since it could run on their servers. Lots of Blogger users will be willing to pay a lot of money for Blogger Pro, because they've already made a large investment of time in Blogger, and because no one has given them a valid alternative to using Blogger. That should be our job.

A lot of people have heard about Blogger's layoffs, but I think that the layoffs might have opened the door for Blogger to sell out bigtime. The site is now run soley by Evan Williams, who seems to be the one person from Blogger with the strongest drive to commercialize the site. I don't like what I have heard about his plans, and I'm not the only one...

Jack, one of the 5 people let go at Blogger, seemed pretty concerned about Blogger's future. He recently said the following in a post on his website that Evan basically laid off all the staff, including the co-founder of Blogger, and then persuaded them all to work for free until he could close a merger deal, allowing him to pay them. After about a month of not getting paid, and after a promising merger deal fell through, the former employees decided to leave. The sad thing about all this is that Blogger users are glamorizing the facts of the matter, thinking that Evan's motivations were somehow benevolent and not about getting rich. As Jack said about Blogger, "I never felt like an employee of Pyra up until a few months ago, when ev made it clear that he would keep on going, trying to negotiate deals for the company, even if everyone else on the team left or was let go."

The real problem is that Blogger didn't have a working business model or a product to sell. They were still a few months away from shipping a real product and they thought that venture capital money would always be there for them... Their management was wrong, and their inability to come to grip with reality cost all of their employees dearly.

Evan Williams put it this way: "I just had to drastically scale down the plan for immediate world domination." On Pyra's website, he puts it as wanting to "turn Blogger into a successful business. Not a hobby. Not a volunteer-run organization."

This indicates to me that his main goal is making lots of money. I'm not saying that he doesn't have the right to do this, but I doubt that his goals are entirely in the best interest of his users. It's not a good thing when only one person's goals and interests are really considered when you are building a community. He seems to frown on the idea of a volunteer-run community, which I think is arrogant and shortsighted.

It seems to me that his real goal is to find another company to buy Blogger out. The question is whether it would be a company that the Blogger users would have any respect for. One of the former Blogger employees said "I kept thinking the business side of things would come together on its own. Tripod, Geocities, Freeservers, and/or Xoom would have contacted us, and allowed us to integrate with their free hosting systems, or even a popular paid provider like Verio or Interland." These were probably the kinds of companies that Blogger would have liked to partner with, and most likely the kind of companies who turned them down, largely because of their own financial problems. That leaves bigger entities--the MSNs, AOLs, and Yahoos of the world--to buy Blogger out. We will have to see whether any of them take the bait or not. Either way, I suspect that Evan Williams from Blogger will be spending more time than Brad can spend, doing the programming necessary to make Blogger profitable and sellable. Odds are good that he will have an actual product and succeed in this task within the next few months.

In short, we have what I would consider a very narrow window of time...the next 3-5 months or so, to play catch-up. At the end of that time, Diaryland will have its community features and Blogger will start releasing software that has serious commercial applications. If we take advantage of the next few months and get the funds, the features, and the new users we need, we will be in a much better position to offer ourselves up as a serious alternative to these services. Otherwise, we could become the Betamax of online journaling... better, but ultimately not worth having for most people.

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