Since the early 2000s, LiveJournal has emerged as the most prevalent blogging platform in Russia. Although it has at times been the subject of controversy, the continued popularity of the site makes it the best platform for understanding the blogging community in Russia and how it works. Here we take a look at the history of the company, its rise in popularity and why it remains the number one blogging site in Russia despite some highly publicized problems.
The Rise of LiveJournal
LiveJournal was originally established in 1999 by an American programmer and quickly became popular outside of the US. Russian company SUP Media bought LiveJournal from the Americans in 2007 due to the popularity of the site in Russia, and in 2009 moved its product development and design functions from the US to Russia.
Blogging, and LiveJournal in particular, first appealed to Russians for a number of reasons. Eugene Gorny, former editor of two major online Russian magazines, believed the popularity of LiveJournal was based upon a combination of economic, technical, social and cultural elements. Free access and multilingual interfaces meant that Russians could take advantage of the service regardless of their economic standing. Furthermore, the fact that the site was American was perceived as the assurance of more communicative freedom, while the social dimension of the platform resonated with Russian collectivist behavior.
As the number one blogging community in Russia, LiveJournal’s user base is continually expanding. In 2013, it was believed to have 5.7 million user accounts and in recent years it is thought to have been read by 30 million people per month. Although the number of active users is estimated in the millions, the site has become more focused on mass media and therefore, the number of readers is a more accurate source for analyzing the popularity of the site.
The continued success of the platform is largely based on its ease of use and its community feel. LiveJournal lets users update friends and family all at once and allows them to connect through friends of friends in a similar way to social networking sites. Users also have the option to make blogs viewable to these friend groups or to the general public.
Despite its popularity, LiveJournal has also been the subject of controversy and has a perceived history of total disregard for its users’ wants and needs. Changes such as removing the .ru landing page, and the redesign of the website that actually made it look more dated, have left users feeling disappointed and frustrated. LiveJournal’s image has been slightly tarnished due to these high profile changes; however, its popularity remains as Russia currently lacks an alternative.
Future of Blogging
Blogging in Russia owes much of its popularity to the freedom of speech associated with the blogging community. This, however, could be set to change as new laws have been proposed to reduce the number of unidentified blogs. If these laws are introduced, bloggers will no longer be able to remain anonymous and content will be monitored.
Despite the ups and downs experienced by the blogging community in Russia, users still enjoy the ability to share thoughts and stories with family and friends, as well as the general public. The sense of unity for bloggers makes the community unique in Russia, as there is a strong social connection felt between bloggers and readers. Whether the laws change or not, blogging is likely to remain an important part of the Russian online community.