Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Competitors / Bokhyllan.com

LibraryThing has a handful of competitors. I’m not too worried about them. LibraryThing wins on features, as many blog comparisons have shown (eg., the Powells blog). And LibraryThing certainly wins on size and traffic. The most frequent comparandum started the same week as LibraryThing but has 4% of the books. Another has 20% as many, but it’s been going for more than four years; it hasn’t broken the web’s top 100,000 sites in six months.

I’ve written to most of LibraryThing’s competitors, seeking a deal that would combine our sites, giving all their users lifetime accounts and bringing the developers on board as partners. So far, no dice. I guess it’s more fun to do your own thing.

A few days ago I came across a new site, Bokhyllan.com, a sort of Swedish LibraryThing. Between guessing-in-context (“LOGGA IN”), bad German and a second-degree connection with someone who knows Swedish, I managed to get the jist of it.

What a perfect situation! They’re just starting, and the site doesn’t have all the features it needs. LibraryThing has those features—even integration with the Swedish library system! But I have no desire to develop a Swedish LibraryThing, and no ability even if it did. It seems silly to do all this development multiple times. Why not combine forces and write the code once? Take the code, keep the domain, charge for it or make it free—I don’t care. But share your improvements and we all win.

I wrote. No answer so far. Maybe this plug will get their attention.

If anyone knows of any other non-English LibraryThings, let me know. If you want to start one, let me know. More generally, if you want to help LibraryThing grow, let me know.

There’s a more general conversation here about open-sourcing LibraryThing. I guess I’m a sceptic that it could work. At a minimum, a whole separate site would need to be set up, with fake data. Security would also be a big issue. If it didn’t work, it would be a big waste of energy. If it caught on, I feel like my job would become cat-herding programmers. In the worst case, LibraryThing would end up fragmented into a half-dozen forks.

Maybe we could discuss open sourcing on the LibraryThing Google Groups group. The group is growing in greatness—must keep using words starting with g. If possible, I’d like to keep blog comments on the blog.

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