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Blog Software Play Six Apart To Buy LiveJournal

Six Apart, provider of software and a hosted service for blogging, said it will acquire Danga Interactive, operator of open source blogging tool company LiveJournal for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock.

Six Apart said it would continue to invest in the LiveJournal software, which will remain separate from Six Apart's Movable Type and TypePad products, with dedicated engineering and support teams for each product.

"These are separate products with separate markets and separate purposes," said Six Apart CEO Barak Berkowitz. "LiveJournal fills a gap we had in our product line, a straightforward methodology for individual communications." For example, LiveJournal enables different views for different types of users, and the ability to set levels of access to blogs.

The acquisition moves San Francisco-based Six Apart from a tiny upstart with just one million users to a company with 6.5 million users. In addition to an active user base -- over 860,000 users update their LiveJournal blogs each week -- the acquisition broaden's Six Apart's demographic, since LiveJournal users are predominately in their teens and twenties, while Six Apart users tend to be in their late twenties to mid-thirties.

Six Apart users also skew richer than LiveJournalers. Movable Type, its licensed blogging software, costs $69.95 for up to five authors or $99.95 for unlimited authors (in addition to a free but unsupported version of Movable Type).

TypePad, a hosted personal weblogging service, starts at $4.95 per month, with $8.95 and $14.95 per month versions adding progressively more features.

Founded in 1999, Danga operates LiveJournal, an online community organized around personal blogs. It offers free tools and hosting, or a paid version with more features; subscription fees range from $5.00 for two months to $25.00 for 12 months. Its simple blogging tools are built on open source software.

Six Apart promised few changes to LiveJournal. It will continue to operate as a separate division, retaining staff willing to move from the company's Portland, Ore., headquarters to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Danga's founder, Brad Fitzpatrick, will join Six Apart as the company's chief architect, working on all of Six Apart's products. LiveJournal will continue to distribute a large portion of its software under various open source licenses.

While the combined companies will have only around 6.5 million users, among some in the blogging world, it's considered huge. One blogger compared the acquisition (which did not reveal a pricetag) to Cingular's $41 billion purchase of AT&T Wireless.

According to a survey released this week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, over 8 million U.S adults now have weblogs, and blog readership jumped by 58 percent in 2004.

But it's unclear how much room for growth remains for independent companies like Six Apart. In December 2004, MSN launched Spaces, its own suite of tools for creating blogs that includes the ability to set access levels. Search leader Google also offers free blog hosting and tools, thanks to its acquisition of Blogger.

Many LiveJournal users agonized online about their community being sold. But a post on LiveJournal.com's main page discussing the deal sought to address those concerns:

"LiveJournal won't become paid-user-only or anything crazy like that. We're not going to raise prices. We're not going to cancel permanent accounts, etc, etc. And we're not going to spam or sell your information. You own your journals, not us. Really you shouldn't see any negative changes," the post said. "The most immediate changes will be that we'll start to get prettier... more styles, themes, etc. Six Apart is really good at that and we're not."

Six Apart co-founder and president Mena Trott said she hoped that the official announcement that LiveJournal will be maintained as a separate line of business will quell the fears. "They're right to worry," Trott said. "We're a new company acquiring their company. Once the information gets out, this will die down."

There may be a cultural divide, as well. Danah Boyd, a Ph.D. student at U.C. Berkeley who studies social networks, wrote in her blog, zephoria ipseity, " People who use LJ talk about their LJs, not their blogs. They mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart's tools."