Six Apart exiles its troublesome child to Russia

Since acquiring LiveJournal in 2005, Six Apart has gotten little but grief from the blogging site. Now, at last, it's gotten some cash. The San Francisco-based blog-software company has sold LiveJournal to Sup, a Russian media concern. Ostensibly, the purchase of LiveJournal two years ago was meant to improve Six Apart's Web technology and accelerate its entry into ad-supported blog publishing. Instead?

LiveJournal's boisterous users taxed Six Apart's already stretched management. Fan-fiction writers, whose output was often not for the squeamish, made the site a home. So-called "griefers," apparently dissatisfied with a tightening of site policies, published executives' Social Security numbers. Founder Brad Fitzpatrick noisily quit the company to join Google. Users mocked an ill-conceived advertising campaign by sending then-CEO Barak Berkowitz 527 virtual "gifts" of Diet Pepsi Max icons, defacing his profile.

Berkowitz stepped down in September, replaced by Chris Alden, an executive who ran the company's money- and sense-making business, the paid blogging products TypePad and Movable Type. With the sale of LiveJournal, Alden's reign looks likely to be far less entertaining than Berkowitz's. That's a good thing for Six Apart, if not for gossips.

As for LiveJournal, Sup has made grand promises about respecting the community and appointing an editorial advisory board. Sup already operates the Russian-language version of the site, and is run by Andrew Paulson, an American entrepreneur. But let's be real: This is a company operating in Vladimir Putin's Russia, where the media increasingly is falling under state control, either explicitly or tacitly. One does not need to be a conspiracy theorist to find this prospect discomfiting.

Whatever happens to LiveJournal and its users won't be Six Apart's problem. Ben and Mena Trott, Six Apart's founders, are far too polite to say this about their LiveJournal adventure. But they should: "Goodbye, and good riddance."