No, you can’t have a lunch

The recent abolition of free accounts with no ads on LiveJournal provoked some interesting comments on LJ itself, and on the wider question of how social networking sites can make any money.

In a nice turn of phrase, antennapedia speculates that LJ may have “begun the descent through the levels of credible ownership” (which is presumably antennapedia‘s reason for producing a migration tool to assist in moving your journal to another server which uses LJ code). chipotle has some interesting numbers (although some are probably faulty) and some speculation on where the Russian overlords are heading.

There are the expected “let’s all go somewhere else” projects which will set up a page on Sourceforge/Google Code, argue about what to implement and then die (elsejournal, for example). synecdochic knows a thing or two, having worked for LJ in the past, and may have a credible proposal, although I’m curious about some of the technicalities.

After each fresh stupidity from LJ, a bunch of people bugger off to existing LJ clones which are running the Open Source parts of LJ’s code. GreatestJournal staggered under the weight. InsaneJournal is holding up, except when their hosting provider accidentally turns them off. synecdochic rightly worries about InsaneJournal in the long term, because scaling up your website when it gets popular is a hard problem, requiring equipment and people who don’t come cheap. synecdochic also has some insights into how that worked for LJ itself, if you’re interested.

Wired has a brief piece pointing out that nobody’s quite worked out how you make money of social sites yet. Perhaps you don’t: unoriginal1729 reckons search engines will always have the edge, because they can serve appropriate ads at the point where you’re actually looking to buy something rather than speculatively advertising based inferring things from your interests. Maybe the thing which precipitates a working verison of the geeks’ dream of Usenet-plus-crypto-magic will be all the centralised sites running out of money.

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