By John Evans
LiveJournal is an online journal site with a number of extra features,
providing opportunities for social interaction and grassroots creativity.
At heart, LiveJournal is an online journal site, like a "blog"
(short for "weblog"). Once you register for an account you
can, whenever the mood strikes you, make an entry in the journal about
whatever you want. Journal owners can mix and match colors and layouts
to customize the look and feel of their journal. Each journal entry
can have a "mood" associated with it, and you can choose
a character to express your mood pictorially, such as a fox, smiley
face, alien or starfish. Journal entries can be text automatically
formatted to look like HTML, or it can include certain HTML codes.
Thus, for example, a journal entry could include italics, a picture,
or a link to another site. You can upload a picture to represent yourself,
and it appears on your journal. Journal entries can be public or private,
so that you can allow anyone on the web to read your journal, or use
it as a private diary.
If this was all you could do, LiveJournal would be a "blog"
site like any other. However, there are several other features that
make LiveJournal unique. First, each user can define a "friends
list". A friends list defines a "friends page", which
looks like a journal made up of all the recent entries of anyone on
the friends list. Thus, if there are five people whose journals you
want to keep up to date on, you can put them all on your friends list
and read all their entries without having to surf to each journal
individually. Another feature, perhaps the simplest and most widely-used,
is the comment feature. At the bottom of every journal entry is a
link to a form which allows a comment to be added. This link also
shows how many comments have been added to that particular entry.
Comments can themselves be commented, and so each journal entry can
become a mini-message board as people leave messages and start discussions.
Of course, there are options to control journal comments; At the most
open level, anyone can comment on any journal entry, without entering
a name. Journals can also be set to only allow other LiveJournal users
to comment, or only users on the journal's friends list. And of course,
commenting can be completely disabled. The last big part of LiveJournal
is the community. Any user can start a community, and allow others
to join as they see fit. A community has a journal of its own, and
anyone who is a member may post an entry. Thus a community is like
a shared journal. Finally, every journal or community has a "profile"
page that has space for biographical information, and also "interests".
These interests function as keywords that can be searched, and therefore
it's easy to search for journal owners who are interested in "punk
rock" or "cats" or "web design" or whatever.
The same feature is available for communities. (The most popular interest
keyword is "music", listed in over 20,000 users' biographies.
The next most popular is "movies", with only about 12,000.)
Users have taken this basic structure and features in many directions.
The most common is social interaction. It's easy to search for people
who are interested in the same things you are. It's also interesting
to look at friends lists, and follow the links from one to another
until you find someone interesting. ("The friend of the friend
of the friend of my friend...") The journals themselves are sometimes
used as diaries, sometimes as editorial pages, sometimes as meeting
places and sometimes as creative outlets. There are several collaborative
writing projects being written through communities, and of course
every journal entry can itself spawn a message-board like discussion.
A few final points about the site; First, LiveJournal is free, but
paid accounts are available as well. These accounts, at $25 a year,
provide additional features like email forwarding (email@example.com)
and a subdomain for your journal (yourname.livejournal.com). In addition,
the server and clients are all open source software, so the code is
available for other developers to download and work with.
LiveJournal offers a simple and easy to use collection of features
that elegantly provide many avenues for social and creative interaction.