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Blogging company Six Apart to focus on social networks

Look for more community tools on TypePad and Vox.

Six Apart announced last night that it has sold off its free blogging service LiveJournal to Russian Internet company Vox, the blog publishing platform TypePad, and the professional-level blog software product Movable Type. LiveJournal was brought into Six Apart through an acquisition in 2005.

LiveJournal will be run by a new company, LiveJournal Inc., out of San Francisco, but owned by SUP. LiveJournal's seven employees (transfers from Six Apart) are currently working in the Movable Type offices.

What can we expect from the remaining three products at Six Apart? Alden wants his company to focus on building "community and content management systems," not just publishing platforms. This transition is already evident in Movable Type, which has a new (and expensive) add-on called Movable Type Community Services (see story: Six Apart is fixing forums). Among other features, the product lets end users mark other people as friends and track what they're doing. Just like a social network.

The free blogging tool Vox also offers interesting community features, like the capability to define who's in your blog "neighborhood," to make keeping track of your Vox friends easier. It also has a good system for restricting who can see your personal posts.

That leaves TypePad, the paid blogging service that, while capable, isn't currently a shining star of ad-hoc community, the way a contemporary general-purpose social site like Ning is. Alden confirmed to me that in 2008 TypePad will get Movable Type Community Service features like user recommendations on items, voting, and group membership. Vox will get these tools as well. Alden also said that the Six Apart's goal is not just to give bloggers tools to manage communities that spring up around their sites, but to link these communities together.

Moving into community management is a good direction for Six Apart. Communities--not individual bloggers--are the power brokers on today's Web. It's readers, en masse, who move markets. Six Apart's goal to empower bloggers with tools that turn readers into active community participants could leverage this power shift.

I'd like to see Six Apart partner with Ning to extend this vision. I don't think this will happen, though. It looks more like Six Apart is trying to clean up its business to make the company an easier acquisition target.

Disclosure: I worked with Chris Alden at Red Herring, the magazine he co-founded, from 1998 to 2001.