Six Apart has officially launched Vox after keeping it in preview testing for a couple months. Even though Vox is the closest thing Six Apart has to the likes of Yahoo! 360 and MySpace, it is not intended to compete head to head. More experienced bloggers will notice that there is no option to write a post in html. In fact there is no option to edit the html structure of a Vox blog at all. This might strike some bloggers as odd and perhaps even a limitation of the service unless you go back to the idea behind Vox, namely to provide a blogging platform for people like your parents and friends who are not experienced bloggers, may never have heard of a blog before, and who would like to let their friends and family know what is going on in their lives without needing to worry about the nuts and bolts of a blog. Mena Trott, one of the founders of Six Apart discussed the intention behind Vox in this TED presentation a little while ago.
One of the features of Vox that appeals to me the most are its conduits to services such as YouTube, Flickr and Photobucket (to enable you to easily import your own videos or photos which you already have on those sites) on one hand and Amazon and iStockphoto (Six Apart has an arrangement with iStockphoto in terms of which users can use content from iStockphoto on their blogs for free although this content bears a watermark identifying it as being from iStockphoto) on the other hand. These conduits are accessible through intuitive menu options and users can insert a variety of content following pretty straightforward steps.
The menu bar above sets out all your options that are available when posting to the site. All media that is inserted into a blog post or which is uploaded separately is housed in the user’s Vox library. This includes content which is imported through the various conduits available. This will result in a degree of duplication as you’ll have the same content on, say, Flickr as you may have on Vox. Given that Vox is a free service, you need not worry too much about this as they cover the cost of the bandwidth. One of the primary ways this is achieved is through relative unobtrusive advertising located at various points on the site.
One of the things that people rave about when they talk about MySpace is that MySpace users can customise their MySpace pages with different templates and media options. Vox users also have the ability to customise the appearance of their blogs using a variety of themes and sidebar options. There are currently roughly 150 designs which can be activated with two clicks (literally – one to select the theme and one to confirm the choice) and sidebars can be reformatted with as much effort. Neither requires any technical skill on the part of the user aside from the ability to click a mouse.
Sidebars can be customised as well and users can select which content is visible on them. This ties in with another powerful feature, namely privacy. I previously ran my personal blog on a popular blog platform on one of my hosting services. I didn’t take any special steps to hide the blog from public view aside from not using Technorati tags (as I usually do) or submitting my blog to the various search engines. I found that I still had the odd visitor to my blog and while some of my content was fit for public consumption, I would have preferred to keep some content strictly private. I found myself faced with the choice of accepting that strangers would view some of my private stuff or taking the blog down altogether. While there are probably a number of options available to restrict access to content on these popular blogging platforms, I think it is fair to say that the average person probably wouldn’t run their blog very differently to the way I ran my blog.
When I moved on to Vox I discovered the solution to my problem. Vox enables users to determine who can access what on their blog. Content can be limited to friends, family, friends and family or left visible to anyone. Similarly, comments can be restricted using various criterion. Going further, a Vox user can use different privacy levels for each aspect of a post. For example, the main post may be visible to everyone but photos inserted into the post may only be visible to friends and a video may be visible only to family members. This really gives Vox users a tremendous amount of flexibility and privacy. Privacy defaults can be changed so that all posts are automatically made visible only to family or left open to the public with an option to change the privacy options on a post by post, content by content basis.
When it comes to determining who are friends and who are family, Vox uses the metaphor of a neighbourhood. Users can add other Vox bloggers to their neighbourhood in a form of blogroll. When adding Vox users to the neighbourhood, you have the option of designating the person concerned a friend and/or family member. This is the one drawback of Vox (to the extent it is a drawback) in that a visitor has to be a registered Vox user to be classified as a friend and/or family member.
TechCrunch has a great post titled "Vox Lifts Off and Youll Love It" and I couldn’t agree more. I have thoroughly enjoyed using Vox and my only real complaint is that I can’t use all the functionality when I compose a post if I am using Safari. It turns out that this is not an issue with Vox itself but rather an issue with Safari itself which will probably be remedied when Safari 3.0 launches with OS X 10.5 Leopard early next year. In short, Vox is the perfect personal blogging platform and is the best personal blogging platform I have come across in my short time.
For more information take a look at the following sites: