About a year ago, Xanga Inc, shut down “Xanga 1.0” and launched “Xanga 2.0” on a “WordPress” platform, which was billed as a bold new upgrade to its aging predecessor. The new version has a pay-wall so users have to pay $48 a year for the privilege of blogging.
The initial launch of “2.0” was anything but smooth with many people not even aware Xanga 1.0 was shutting down- due to Xanga not sending a global email or creating a global splash page informing users of what was being planned. My two initial reviews on this transition can be seen here: (1) Preliminary Review, 2) Review). The prevailing hope of all those optimistic about Xanga’s “upgrade” back then was that things would improve over time and they would soon have their own comfortable and familiar Xanga back.
Well, a year has come and gone and unfortunately the poor quality of the site has barely improved, if at all. Users who have paid $48 to blog have had to deal with a system that operates far below the replaced Classic Xanga and even free WordPress. In addition, users also can’t communicate to any other blogging networks outside the Xangaverse environment and now see their subscriptions times nearing expiration, forcing them to pay up once more to continue operating in this deeply subpar environment.
The “Xanga 2.0 is Now a Reality” banner is turning out to be more of a “Mission Accomplished” moment instead.
To bring everyone up to speed or refresh one’s memory to how we got to this point, the timeline of events is as follows:
May 30, 2013 – The Xanga Team posts a message on their blog announcing that they are contemplating either shutting down Xanga in July, or porting it over to a more modern WordPress platform “if” users would be willing to contribute a total of $60K before the July deadline.
This created a big stir from all those who got the message. The problem is the message was just posted on their blog, so users who don’t visit the front page to look for a small section that had Xanga Team updates never got the word, which included Xangans in “Hong Kong” who don’t have a Xanga Team update section. This meant the vast majority of folks had no idea Xango 1.0’s days were numbered.
The pressure of just having a six week deadline for the community to raise the funds felt more like a gun to everyone’s head to either pay up or have their online blogs wiped out. Folks wondered why there was this sudden move to urgency rather than getting an earlier message from Xanga to allow more time to respond.
Their fundraiser message included the following:
“Through July 15th: We will contact our registered members to let them know about the fundraiser, and also allow any and all users to download their blogs and media files for free.”
This NEVER happened. I don’t know of any user who received any email notice of Xanga’s impending shutdown or fundraising efforts. You have to ask yourself why wouldn’t they notify everyone? It could have been done with just a simple startup splash page when the user logged on. You would think that they would want to reach as many current and former users as possible for their pledge drive. This was just the beginning of many questionable moves by “Team Xanga”.
After this bombshell of an announcement, and the pledge drive/deadline being only six weeks long, “Team Xanga” went into a media blackout with no new updates for over two weeks, leaving that to a volunteer not employed by Xanga, EdLives. This is followed shortly by a newly created hashtag, #wearexanga to promote the pledge drive.
Why would a firm in crisis seeking pledges from their community under a tight deadline not assign some PR type of person to communicate other than a non company volunteer? Answer: they clearly either do not understand how to run a business or they don’t care enough about the community to address their concerns in a timely manner.
Can you imagine if this were attempted in professional circles? Picture this: “CNBC reports that Xcorp has no one available to answer questions about their announced crisis, but someone not employed with the company is willing to try and field questions or pass them onto Xcorp staff”. Can you imagine how much negative backlash that would generate?
During this time non Xanga employee Edlives promotes the pledge drive on a daily basis and extolls the virtues of what “Xanga 2.0” would have over the current free blogging sites as told to him by “Team Xanga”. He also arrives at the conclusion and begins “preaching” that ad-revenue based websites are not viable for long term survival, trying to justify Xanga’s switch to a pay-only website.
I can tell you without any doubt or reservation that his conclusion is just WRONG. He used failed websites and the poor ad revenue state of “Xanga 1.0” to support his case, but glossed over successful ad-based revenue websites like Google, YouTube, WordPress, and Facebook to name a few. He even stated that Facebook was on the decline phase of its corporate life cycle. At the time he wrote that, Facebook stock was in the low $20’s. Now a year later Facebook’s stock value is in the mid $70’s and etching out all time highs. Assuming he is also reflecting on opinions given to him from “Team Xanga”, it suggests they are unwilling or unable to address the true problems of their business weakness and in turn, just assign the fault to an outside force rather than their own actions. This is a key reason many businesses fail – refusing to accept blame and take action to improve.
Xanga was given a gift in having a “volunteer” being such a cheerleader for their new product as it gives them legal protection since he’s not employed with the company if all his glowing expectations of the new Xanga fail to pan out.
Despite the more realistic and negative warnings about Xanga’s pay-wall business plan by myself and others like former Xanga bloggers Cagey and CoolMonkey, he always had a positive counter to them. Unfortunately, enough people were convinced to support the plan rather than try to get “Team Xanga” to change course at a time when potential pledge payers had the most leverage.
June 17th, 2013 – “Team Xanga” CEO John Hiler finally reappears for an official update. The excuse for the delay in updating was “personal issues”, which brings up the question- aren’t there other employees who could have provided updates? After all, Xanga isn’t a one person operation, but from the lack of response you might think it was a “no man” operation.
It includes a Q&A segment – here’s an example:
How are you going to reach other members?
It’s going to be tough to reach a lot of our members from earlier years, since in most cases we don’t have their latest email address. So in addition to press outreach, we’re also working on a marketing campaign that will help us virally send out the word on what’s going on! More on that soon.
Does anyone know what that “viral” marketing campaign was? I for one didn’t see it nor did anyone else I’ve spoken with.
June 30th, 2013– Xanga CEO John appears on Blogtalkradio. During the radio show he mentions that all current and former premium user’s blogs would be transferred over and was researching to see if all “TRUE” user blogs could be transferred over as well.
Portion of transcript of conversation:
Alex: Clarify which accounts are automatically transferred.
John: Focusing on bringing over all Premium members. Also going to [bring] over all accounts that have been Premium at one time. It will be a lot of work to transfer accounts over. All user accounts will be transferred even if blog doesn’t transfer. Users can still log in, read their subs and comment.
Alex: What about the True members?
John: We can look into whether we can support that. It’s a question of numbers; how many we can transfer over. We want to move over as many as possible.
Alex: There may be people who decide they want to continue on xanga after July 15. Will they have lost all their entries or will their old blog still be somewhere?
John: Have they ever been a Premium member? First we’re going to move over the current Premium members. Then we’ll move over those who have been Premium in the past. Then we’ll get as many transferred as possible.Others can download their archives in the XML format and transfer them.
This turned out to be FALSE – with the only blogs transferred being current premium members and folks paying the $48
ransom fee. There was never an explanation or apology for the change of plans.
July 8, 2013 – With just one week left before the pledge drive deadline, “Team Xanga” finally issues another update to answer some of the questions all the community members have. The update mentions the importance of the “Xanga community”:
“Whenever anyone asks me what Xanga is all about, I always answer: “blog community.” To me, that’s what makes the site fun: you can blog, and there’s a community of people generally excited to read your posts (and vice versa).
I know a lot of people who have tried other blogging platforms, and they’ll often say that they feel they’re publishing into a vacuum… and that nobody is reading their blogs. We’re working to keep that warm community feeling on Xanga…”
You will see the utter IRONY of that statement as we continue…
The July 15th deadline is extended to the end of the month.
July 9th – July 30th – Another data blackout with “Team Xanga” keeping users in the dark about its fate as the deadline clock winds down. Not one update during this time and the pledge drive amount received at that time is far from the $60K goal. Things look pretty grim. Most Xanga users move on to other sites.
July 31, 2013 – On the last day of the pledge drive, a new update is finally posted from “Team Xanga”. John the Xanga CEO announces he is making a contribution of $10K, effectively lowering the pledge goal to $50K. The pledge drive deadline is also extended, again, to end of August.
With about $48K in pledges at the time, it’s pretty much a done deal that reaching $50K by Aug 31 won’t be a problem- ensuring “Xanga 2.0” will launch.
Question: Would a company that really cared about their community/customers let them twist in the wind and worry about their future right until the deadline date when they had to know earlier about extending the deadline as well as reducing the pledge amount needed?
Aug 1, 2013 – $50k goal reached.
Aug 29, 2013 – Xanga makes a surprise announcement that this will be the last day of “Xanga 1.0” and will be shutting down around midnight EST for the transition to “Xanga 2.0”.
Sept 3rd, 2013 – Xanga 2.0 is launched
So here we are a year later – so let’s see what the current state is since my unofficial update last November:
1) Still no front “Community Page” that old Xanga 1.0 had.
2) No easy way to find current users or new blogs.
These two problems alone have effectively DESTROYED the Xanga community as we knew it.
What was that they were saying about the “Xanga community” being so important again? What a joke that turned out to be.
3) “Team Xanga” continues to ignore the community.
Xanga’s splash page has not been “Xanga Team” updated since Sept 2013- a YEAR ago. It still states they are “starting Xanga 2.0” at midnight.
Ditto for Xanga’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
No updates closing in on a year and counting? Is this the action of a company that truly cares about the community they asked to donate money?
Is this their version of “warm community feeling?” It’s like they collected their money and then gave those who donated half a peace sign. The level of community disregard and disrespect is absolutely amazing.
4) Functionality remains far below “free” WordPress and other blogging sites
Here are “Team Xanga’s” words:
Here are some of the new features we’d be able to offer out of the box:
Custom themes – you’ll be able to use custom themes we’ll pull from around the web, as well as add/edit CSS.
Plugins – We will provide a library of powerful plugins that you can activate and configure on your site.
* Group blogging – At long last, you’ll be able to allow others to blog on your site… and share moderation rights on your blog.
Threaded comments – We’ll look into threaded comments, which would allow readers to reply to comments in a threaded manner
Better spam controls – Every user would have their own spam queue that they could configure and manage.
Moderation features – You would be able to put keywords, IPs and usernames into moderation on your blog.
I crossed out the features that were not only MIA “out of the box”, but are STILL absent today.
The best way to describe “current” Xanga is like an “alpha” version of WordPress that lacks all the modern features and makes “Xanga 1.0” functionality look like state of the art blogging.
5) Xanga is still “landlocked” with being unable to see or leave messages on other blogs outside of Xanga including “free” WordPress– leaving folks trapped in a fishbowl that has gotten considerably smaller.
Even worse, there are no search options of any kind so good luck finding other users.
6) Net traffic volume is in the basement
Most people blog to have their posts be seen by others on the web – the more the better. Xanga’s “1.0” net traffic wasn’t that great, but in “2.0”, it’s abysmal:
Healthy Net Traffic of “Free” WordPress Over a Year:
Monthly unique user traffic is averaging around 34 million…giving the site a ranking of being in the top “31”.
Here’s the Net Traffic of $48/mo Xanga Over a Year:
Xanga’s monthly unique user traffic dropped from over 200k in “1.0” to under 40K now, giving it a ranking of “50,607”.
You sure wouldn’t blog on Xanga to be “discovered”, although it might be good for a witness protection program.
5) For the “privilege” of working in this ultra degraded environment, “Team Xanga” is still treating this as a working service worth paying for and running the clock on everyone’s subscriptions.
When I requested subscriptions be extended until the site is fully functional, I was politely told to send in $48 and directed to a paypal site for renewal. They feel their current level of service is worth charging $48/yr for.
7) No respect or consideration of any kind for their most loyal customers
Those who remained on Xanga through the years and didn’t jump ship to the newer platforms like Facebook got the shaft as their reward.
Their most loyal and active base of community, the TRUE users, were just cast off like garbage. The real sad part is how many of these users went to great lengths to help raise funds for the pledge drive- some even buying multiple year memberships, only to be forgotten and ignored once the monies were collected.
So much for any significance or appreciation of the badge of loyalty……
Here we see yet another ENORMOUS mistake – getting rid of all their built in
beta alpha testers.
As subscriptions expire, why on earth would anyone be motivated to renew in Xanga’s current abysmal state, and who would be encouraged to join when they can get far better service from free blogging sites? Free WordPress is worlds better than “WordPress powered” $48/yr Xanga. So the active bloggers list on Xanga shrinks even more.
The end result is blogging content on Xanga will decrease further, making it even more boring and unattractive to current and potential users. For being one of the senior blogging companies, Xanga is forgetting the prime reason why free blogging started in the first place. Blogs represent content, which attracts more people. Xanga now thinks that people want to blog on a site that has minimum user blogging content. Yeah, this will be as popular as folks wanting to go to an empty night club.
There seems to be just one person who remains strongly optimistic about Xanga- its number one “volunteer/cheerleader” Edlives. Ed still maintains that the site is just in “transition” and will be eventually improving, even though a YEAR has passed with no significant updates. That’s a heck of a transition timeframe- especially when folks are being charged during this period.
The actual pledge drive site to “Save Xanga” has been taken down, but as we know, nothing on the internet is truly erased- here’s a final archived snaphot: Xanga Crowdhoster
They raked in over $68K to charge folks $48/yr for a site that is far inferior to free blogging sites. Nice.
Something is missing on that final Crowdhoster snapshot – the section for all the “Under $48” donors- but not to worry – there’s an older snapshot that has it. Here’s what it says:
So everyone who contributed $1 and up should have been on a “Thank You” post created by “Team Xanga”. This also NEVER HAPPENED – just another broken promise.
Surprisingly, quite a few folks who have paid $48+ to blog continue to be good natured and patient about the persistent state of non functionality that resembles NOTHING like the beloved Xanga of old, classic “Xanga 1.0”.
But for the majority of paid users as well as former “free” community members, we know a hot mess when we see it. Compared to “Xanga 1.0”, “Xanga 2.0” is the XANGAPOCALYPSE.
This is the standard reaction when someone from “Xanga 1.0” checks out “Xanga 2.0”: