THE GOOD OF XANGA
I really like the software behind Xanga. It's a slick tool, and easier to use than either Blogger or Typepad. Xanga's pages are loaded dynamically from the database, which means that changes to your blog happen instantaneously. There isn't a long publishing delay like you would experience with other blogging tools.
Xanaga gives you a limited ability to customer your blog's layout with an easy to use web page. You can change colors and fonts, set a background image (a feature I wish people didn't take advantage of) and also set a url to load music onto your web page (another feature I wish peopld didn't take advantage of). If you upgrade to the premium version, then you can have complete control over your blog's template using custom layouts and "skins." I doubt that many Xangans know enough HTML to do that themselves, so they are using skins that other people created.
The goal of perhaps a majority of Xanga users seem to be to make their blog as annoying and hard to read as possible. There's a background image such that you can barely read the text, the "skin" totally screws around with the default positioning of the common blog elements, and there's horrible music blasting.
Xanga has recently added photo features. You can upload photos, create albums, and each user also has a "photo blog," which just means that users can look at the photos and leave comments on them. The "photo blog" is less featured than Flickr, a site I'd recommend over Xanga if you just want to post photos that others can comment on, and your're not interested in writing any non-photo posts.
Xanga lets you automatically add a photo to your regular non-photo blog post, and this is a pretty useful feature, although it downsizes each photo so that it's longest dimension is 400 pixels. If you want a bigger photo on your blog post, you can grab the HTML of a larger version of the photo (much like Flickr), and paste it into your post. But I suspect that most Xanga users don't have the HTML sophistication required to do that.
Xanga has also recently added a new footprints feature. Footprints function like a Sitemeter, giving you a breakdown of every single hit to your blog pages. The footprints also display the Xanga user ID of each visitor. This lets you know exactly who's reading your blog.
THE BAD OF XANGA
Xanga allows you to subscribe to other Xanga blogs, and the subscription process is pretty painless. You just click a subscribe link on the other person's blog, and that's it. Your subscriptions automatically appear on the left sidebar of your blog, and you also have a page where you can read all of the subscriptions (generally a better way to read posts than visiting the blog because you don't have to deal with blog author's horrible layout).
What Xanga does not allow you to do is link to non-Xanga blogs. (Well, if you upgraded to the premium version, you have a custom module where you can add links using HTML tags, but hardly anyone is going to go to the trouble.) Xanga also does not allow comment except from other registered Xanga users. The good thing, at least, is that there are no spam comments, but the bad part is that Xanga is a closed system. Although non-member websurfers are around to read your blog, because they can't leave comments, and because you can't exchange links with non-Xanga bloggers, Xanga essentially limits your audience to other Xanga bloggers.
Who are the other Xanga bloggers? Traditionally teenage girls made up the biggest share of Xanga users, but the the demographic seems to have changed in the past two years. MySpace has pulled away a lot of the teenage users. Because Xanga and Myspace are both closed systems, teenagers want to be where their friends are, and for most teenagers that now means MySpace. The popularity of MySpace is due to the fact that it offers comments, photos and profiles, much like Xanga, but it removes the annoying necessity for people to write blog posts.
One strange oddity of Xanga is that most of the users are now Asian. Xanga doesn't seem to market to Asians, and there are no indications anywhere that this is an Asian blogging tool, but nevertheless if you go through any of the blogrings, most of the blogs you find have Asian authors (usually female).
I think this is a case of white flight. When the young white users realized that Xanga was becoming an Asian hangout, they fled to LiveJournal, a blogging tool similar in scope to Xanga but which mostly has white users. And of course they fled to MySpace, the social networking tool where you don't have to write blog posts.
I suspect a higher percentage of Asians blog compared to other races. My guess is that only people with above average IQs are interested in blogging (because people with below average IQs don't enjoy reading or writing), and because Asians, on average, have higher IQs than other races, a higher percentage of Asians would be interested in maintaining a blog.
Unfortunately, young Asian girls have adopted the anti-intellectual writing style of their non-Asian peers. Here is a sample blog post from Xanga:
1ST DAii OF SKEWL WAS MAD FUN YOOO!! ii GOT 2 C EVERY1 && ii HAD VERii NiiCE TEACHERS!! BUT U KNO BEiiN AN 8TH GRADER THEY TOLD US SOO MANY iiNFO THAT WE WERE SOPOSE 2 DO OR SHiiT'S LiiKE DAT!! BUT U KNO JUST DA NORMAL STUFF!!AHHHHH EVEY1 WAS LOOKiiN MAD CUTEEE!! OFCOURSE ii WAS WEARIN MY SHORT SKiiRT, NEW KiiCKS, && MY SWEATER DAT LOOK GREAT!! LOL PPL WERE SAYiiN ii LOOK MAD HOTTT!! BUT PPL ALWAYS SAY LiiKE ALWAYS!! LMAOO MY WORSE ENEMY iiS iiN MY CLASS WERE KiiNDA TALKiiN BUT ii DONT WANNA TALK 2 HER ii WiiSH SHE WOULD JUST DiiE!! BUT U KNO WE SAY Hiii BYE!! W.E JUST DONT WANNA TALK 2 DA HOE!! 2ND DAY OF SKEWL WAS AiiGHT BUT iiT WAS MAD HOTTT!! FREAKiiN GiiRL iiN MY CLASS R MAD RACiiS YOOO!! ii FREAKiiN HATE DAT SHiiTT!! BUT W.E US ASiiAN WOULD B RiiCH THEY WOULD B WORKiiN 4 US!! MUAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAH!!
EVERY1 GOT HW ALREDY!! BUT MiiNE iiSNT DAT BAD ii GUES!! JUST DOiiN ESSAY 4 MS.BRUNO!! BUT iiTS REALLii EASY! ii WENT 2 EAT PiiZZA WiiT MY BESTFRiiENDS HAiiVY DA FREAKO, JESSiiCA DA HOE!! LMAOOOO ii LUV THEM BOTH 2 DEATH!! ANYWZY ii GUESS DATS iiT 3 DA DAii YOO!!
If you can put in the effort to actually read the above post, it contains some interesting sociological insights. The author of the post, an Asian girl in the 8th grade, complains that the blacks in her school don't like Asians, but consoles herself with the knowledge that Asians are more successful in life than blacks, and when they are all adults the blacks will be working for the Asians.
It's these kinds of raw sociological observations of American youth that make it worthwhile to visit teen sites.