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Well, what do you know? Blogging is proving to be like any other business. Consolidation is bringing us down to three major providers of blog tools and a number of smaller, niche providers. The proof of this was announced last night after 48 hours of rumours.

The rumours were true. Om Malik got his exclusive. Six Apart is buying Livejournal. Livejournal founder Brad Fitzpatrick posted this. I think this is good news. I’ve been dealing with Six Apart for 18 months as a user of both Movable Type for my blog and Typepad for a password protected church site. In that time, they’ve grown from a group of three or four people to a small company, without losing their friendliness, enthusiasm and accessibility. Moreover, I think that the two sets of offerings are quite compatible. As Brad puts it:

We have experience with making “inward-facing” community sites, whereas their sites/products tend to be “outward-facing”. They want some of that inward-facing action.

The reason I have both an LJ and a blog is just that: my blog is outward-facing, talking to anyone who comes along, while my LJ is inward-facing, talking to my circle of friends, in both senses of the word. Indeed, the LJ friends mechanism is what makes it so unique, I think. Six Apart co-founder Mena Trott has written a long post on the subject here. She highlights the friends aspect as something that makes LJ unique:

We started Six Apart because of Movable Type and Movable Type started because I wanted a blogging tool that would make it easy for me to have a creative outlet to publish to the world. But, it turns out, I didn’t want to publish to the world — I wanted to publish to the people who I had been reading for years and respected, who, in turn became my friends in the offline world. I made friends through my weblog and realized that I was more comfortable writing to this subset. That isn’t to say I didn’t still like writing to the world at large. Mena’s Corner is meant to reach as many people as possible. And, I’m comfortable with that. What I’m not comfortable with is posting pictures of my best friend’s baby on my public weblog.

So, now Six Apart has a whole range of product: Livejournal for small, focused publishing to a targeted group, Typepad for personal blogging and Movable Type for more corporate and large-scale blogging. What’s more, this is good for both companies in the long term. The two other major blogging players right now are Microsoft with MSN Spaces and Google with Blogger. MSN Spaces has, in particular, friends-like features based around your MSN Messenger contacts list. The big boys are in the field and looking to pick a fight. The small guys (financially speaking) need to band together to survive. At the moment, the precious few paid users of Livejournal are subsidising the mass of the free users, and SIx Apart doesn’t look set to change that. What they will do, if they have any sense, is give more and more compelling reasons for the free users to switch, without undermining the existing free service. And just to put a few of the most commonly-expressed worries to rest, read this quote from the Six Apart FAQ on the acquisition.

Q. What is going to happen to LiveJournal and its current users? A. We acquired LiveJournal because we like LiveJournal just the way it is — it’s an awesome product. We will invest in the further development of LiveJournal and help it expand its reach around the globe but our plans do not include removing the free level, plastering the sites with ads, owning user content, etc…

Based on my recent Livejournal post, with added context.

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