Xanga (pronounced zaynga) was a social blogging platform that reached its peak in 2006 with 27 million users.
The premise was simple: users signed up, created blogs, and used some of its integrated discovery features to find similar blogs. If you liked a blog you could subscribe to it which was basically like following. Blog posts could be commented on, or liked - although in Xanga terminology it was called eProps.
Their discovery network consisted of lists called blogrings. Blogrings could be named anything, and users could choose to join a blogring, which would make the blogring title appear on the sidebar of a blog as My Blogrings. Clicking on a blogring would show a list of users that also subscribed to the blogring. It served as a good way for users to find other blogs that they related to.
Like Myspace, Xanga allowed users to use CSS to customize the styles of their blog. This meant that largely, every blog had its own experience.
I discovered Xanga and began using it in 2004. I used it mainly as personal diary, and shared it mostly with my online and real life friends. My friends who used Xanga would usually link to their blog in their AOL Instant Messenger profile.
Even though I didn't actively seek out new blogs to follow (at first), I enjoyed browsing blogrings to peek at what other likeminded people were writing about. Being able to discover new blogs like this was like peering through a window into someone else's life.
Xanga was known for having a large community of people who ascribed to the emo and scene subcultures. I also experienced a couple other lively communities such as the roleplay and poetry communities.
Roleplay is when users would create an account for a specific character (from a fandom or original creation) and then write blog posts and respond to comments as that character.
Online roleplay was nothing new, but Xanga served as a nice platform to connect with other roleplayers. Being able to customize one's blog allowed users to develop a specific visual aesthetic for their characters. Blogrings assisted with finding others who were interested in participating.
Writing and Poetry
At one point, Xanga had a lively and bustling writing community. Instead of using their blog as a place to journal, users would post their short stories and poems. Users could comment or send eProps to others with feedback about their writing.
Some of my favorite memories on Xanga were within the writing community. It had proven itself to be a good platform that allowed writers' work to reach a larger audience.
What made Xanga unique?
Xanga seemed to have a more relaxed and less structured social experience than alternatives like Livejournal and Blogspot. Speaking from my own past perceptions, Livejournal seemed awesome but intimidatingly complex. I noticed that I saw more regular people blogging about their daily lives on Xanga, whereas LJ seemed more fandom-centric.
Xanga shared its prime years with Myspace, but the two worked to complement rather than eclipse one another. Myspace's blogging feature was clunky and simple, but Xanga provided the heart & soul of mid-and-long-form blogging.
Xanga did not have rules regarding minimum age of use for the website, which meant that anyone was free to join and create their own blog. This turned out to be a massive mistake.
In 2006, Xanga had to pay $1 million dollars in fines for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by "collecting, using and disclosing personal information from children under the age of 13 without first notifying parents and obtaining their consent."
The penalty was the largest ever assessed by the FTC for a COPPA violation until 2018.
The Downfall of Xanga
Starting in 2007, the userbase of Xanga began to decline as users moved to other platforms such as Facebook.
In 2013, the platform announced Xanga 2.0 and disabled new sign-ups. They allowed users to download 'archives' of their old blogs, but only if they had signed in to their account within the last 5 years and had more than two subscribers. The available archives were in XML format, which meant they were not directly readable, so the developers instructed users to upload these archives to Wordpress in order to read them.
Unfortunately, not much more has come of Xanga since then. The latest update or explanation about the lack of progress on their new platform was in 2020, when an alleged liaison posted a blog entry about traumatic events that had happened to the founder and CEO John Hiller.
My Xanga Memories
Putting a "playlist" on my blog, a dropdown menu with song titles that played an mp3 when you clicked on it. Making my own an anime-themed layout site. Meeting the artists of so many beautiful poems that made me feel inspired in a way that I had never been before. When I discovered the code that would replace the text eProps with something way more goth-sounding. Always looking for the latest code that would cover the ads that showed on my blog. Checking my friend's blogs to see what was going on in their lives, and letting that open dialogues between us.