Vanilla is a product of Lussumo:Documentation and Support.
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(and are you talking about private hubs (Ning etc) in there too?
Well, Ning can make private hubs. I don't know that LJ can make private communities. And if it does -- well, let's face it, it's LJ, it's pretty crippled and stumpy compared to the functionality of a Ning site.
Ning can facilitate you and your friends building a private messageboard, probably with a private IM backchannel, that you can load up with mp3s and videos and other files -- and if you and your friends are a tight bunch, then that's your home page, and possibly even your desktop.
Aha, though -- the R&D doesn't happen in a centralised place with crosspollination, though, does it? That has to happen through email, and, if you're lucky, trackbacks and call-and-response blogposting. The channel remains a broadcast medium, rather than a conversational medium.
Have any communities you two know of migrated between web substrates and changed substantially?
Aside: it's more useful in a private garden. because on a private garden I have fewer compunctions about posting all my phone numbers, near and future travel arrangements etc. End aside.
Go and eat, damnit.