What Are Blogs and Where Did They Come From?
“When people talk, listen completely.” --Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
If there is a single truth about blogging, it’s that bloggers have differing opinions on just about everything—including the question of what blog are (and aren't) and how they came to be. Briefly described, “blog” is an abbreviated form of the term “weblog,” which was coined in the late 1990s to describe personal web sites that were updated regularly, with individual “posts”—date-stamped journal entries—usually presented in reverse chronological order, the most up-to-date writing first.
Blogs are an engaging alternative to static web sites because they offer something new to read, usually every day and sometimes several times each day.
Whether serving as a site for news and opinion, or as a personal diary, most blogs share several characteristics. These include a conversational tone, frequent posts, and links to other sites, especially other blogs.
Bloggers are uniquely audience and author at once. Those who write blogs daily also read them with gusto, which is how conversation among bloggers takes shape. Bloggers refer to one another in their writing, linking to posts on the same or similar topics, which results in a rich dialogue among people with shared interests.
A stepchild of the dot-com boom (and bust), blogs were few and far between throughout the 1990s—primarily, they were the hand-cobbled creations of IT professionals and technology enthusiasts. For example, at the beginning of 1999, there were an estimated two to three dozen weblogs in existence. In 2001, when Evan Williams brought his small software company Blogger (www.blogger.com) to market offering “pushbutton publishing for the people,” blogging became as easy as filling in an online form: typing into the Blogger window and clicking the “Publish” button.
Other, similar software tools also splashed into the market then, giving would-be authors more options, creativity, and opportunity to join the growing “blogosphere”— the loose-knit but increasingly recognizable global network of blogs and related projects.
By the end of 2004, there were nearly four million blogs online, according to Technorati (www.technorati.com), an organization that tracks the growth of the blogging world. As of March 2005, the number of blogs had climbed to 7.8 million, with more than 900 million links between and among blogs, and between 30,000 to 40,000 new blogs created each day.
During the week of May 16, 2005, Technorati tracked its ten millionth blog.
If you’re looking for a phenomenon, you’ve found one in blogging.
Today, blogs are an interesting cross between “journal” and “journalism,” and they cover as many topics as there are passions and opinions on the planet—from quilting to marketing, from engineering to politics. Political blogs, in particular, gained national attention during the 2004 U.S. presidential election, with several bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds (http://instapundit.com) and Andrew Sullivan (http://andrewsullivan.com) rising to national prominence as conservative pundits.
For better or worse, blogs had entered the mainstream. And businesses were fast on their trail.