Six Apart Blog


Our co-founder and President Mena Trott has been sharing her stories on her personal blog Dollarshort since 2001.

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Six Apart Merges With Facebook

Yep, Six Apart merges with Facebook. The truth is, we merge in improvements to our source code from lots of companies and contributors that make fixes and patches to our open source platforms, not just the Facebook team. Oh yeah: We meant that we merge code.

Okay, the headline’s a little sensationalist, but we figured it was okay to draw some attention to something that’s pretty special and unique. In honor of our presence at O’Reilly’s Open Source Conference (OSCON) this week, we wanted to highlight the amazingly productive and generous communities that contribute to a lot of the open source technologies we base our work on.

Take, for example, memcached. Memcached is a clever memory caching system invented by our LiveJournal team that makes it easier to scale up dynamic web pages using inexpensive database servers. In just a few years, memcached has been adopted by almost every major social media or Web 2.0 site, a pattern that’s only accelerated since LiveJournal became part of Six Apart. (You can find all our open source projects at

The list of memcached users is astounding: In addition to our own LiveJournal, Vox and TypePad (and support for memached is coming in Movable Type 4.0), sites that use the system include Digg, Twitter, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Bloglines and Slashdot. Both David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, and Adrian Holovaty, the creator of Django, recommend using memcached to scale their platforms. Maybe it’s because, like those frameworks, memcached was created in the context of solving the problems in creating real, working web applications.


But perhaps the most impressive example of the power of memcached’s open source community is the work that Facebook has done, providing extensive improvements and fixes to the system while also supporting the community with events like the recent memcached hackathon. The truth is, a lot of companies or sites were happy to just use the system and contribute by participating on the mailing list or reporting bugs that they’d found, and that’s the nature of contributions in most open source communities. Memcached’s GPL2 license didn’t require Facebook to share their contributions back with the community, but to their credit, Facebook became partners and peers to the existing LiveJournal/Six Apart team that had done the core development on memcached. As they outlined on their blog last year, the team at Facebook did the right thing for the community and shared their work for others (including us!) to benefit from.

And that gets to the core of why we at Six Apart support open platforms, open APIs, and open formats so extensively: We’re a company that makes communications tools. We think that it’s only appropriate that the tools should be as open as the conversations they enable. We don’t just want to grow our own company, we want to grow the entire community of people using the web to connect and communicate.

We’ll be sharing more about the open source technologies that Six Apart teams have created, but here’s some quick starting points if you want to brush up:

  • LiveJournal: It’s not only the original open source blogging community, it’s also the most popular open source blogging platform by far, inspiring a number of clone sites as well.
  • memcached: The memory caching system that powers the dynamic sites of Web 2.0
  • Djabberd: A high-performance Jabber (XMPP) server for integrating IM with your applications
  • MogileFS: A reliable, distributed scalable filesystem
  • Perlbal: A reverse-proxy load balancer and web server that lets you distribute load over a number of servers
  • OpenID: It’s a protocol, not just code, but it’s a completely decentralized authentication system that’s all about openness. Today, there are over 100 million OpenID identities created, less than two years since the initiative began.
  • Movable Type: And oh yeah, our flagship professional publishing platform will be available in a completely open source edition pretty soon as well.

They’re all open, they’re all free, and they all work like crazy. And those are just some of the projects that we work on. If you’re at OSCON this week, be sure to check out the presentations by a bunch of folks from our team at Six Apart, where almost all of these technologies will be discussed.

The presentations start tomorrow with a Keynote by our own Brad Fitzpatrick, who is Chief Architect at Six Apart and the chief architect of a lot of the technologies mentioned here. There will also be a session on how we used these tools to help TypePad scale while improving our processes at the same time, and a presentation that marks the debut of TheSchwartz, an amusingly-named but exceptional new piece of open source infrastructure that lets you easily distribute tasks to a scalable job processing system.

(Thanks to Mary for the image.)

Hashim said:
July 23, 2007 10:33 PM

"LiveJournal: It’s not only the original open source blogging community, it’s also the most popular open source blogging platform by far, inspiring a number of clone sites as well."

Zing! Take that, Wordpress!

gazotem said:
July 24, 2007 8:26 AM

What at stupid title for this article...

You didnt merge... oh wait code merging?

Lets bump up the company through the success of another...


Plinko said:
July 24, 2007 9:12 AM

I'm frightened. Someone hold me.

July 24, 2007 9:26 AM

we can only expect great things to happen from this collaboration! :P

Bill said:
July 24, 2007 10:17 AM

Ugh, cheap trick.

July 24, 2007 3:56 PM

We think this is great news, keep up the good work!

Chris Dawes said:
July 24, 2007 5:29 PM

Coldfusion and most cfml engines have done what memcached does for years... since the mid 90's? Maybe like myspace and many others you should move to cfml?

Anil said:
July 26, 2007 11:44 AM

Chris, that may well be true about Cold Fusion (I don't know CF well enough to judge), but the reality is, very few large-scale social media sites use a CF back-end. It's worth noting that MySpace no longer does, either. I can't honestly recall *any* major site having moved to that architecture recently, though it's certainly as technically capable as almost any other platform.

More to the point, a huge benefit of memcached is that it works with the LAMP stack that most of these types of applications have already chosen as their platform.

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