Blogging Explained (Part 1)
Over the past 10 years, blogging has evolved from crude and blunt internet ramblings, technical or inspired dialogues to a diverse and creative web phenomenon capable of calling the world’s media to scrutiny, and no longer the province of late-night diarists but increasingly a platform and media release opportunity for industry and commerce.
One of the first blogs – weblogs – was produced by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, who, in ’92, released a technical statement ‘What’s New in 92‘ outlining the take-up of his W3 browser within CERN (the European high energy physics complex) and other scientific establishments along with a snapshot of online browsing growth. It lacked the characteristics of contemporary blogs – reader participation, update frequency, editorial commentary – but it offered information and links to other websites.
Hot on the heals came Netscape, the then dominant browser company, who produced a monthly ‘What’s New’ blog in 1993 summarising daily events with links and commentary for a period of three years.
Early individual blogs such as Justin’s Links offered personal perspectives on life or, as is the case with Drudge Report, political commentary and came into being in the mid-’90s, along with the proliferation of web browsers and websites.
Then, in 1999, a small 3-man team setup Blogger, a free blogging service – now owned by Google, the ubiquitous search engine. It established the principle of free weblogging, available to anybody with an internet connection, and sparked the explosion of blogging and the rise of the blogging support industry.
Word of the Year
By 2004 blogging had become mainstream web activity – to the point that the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary afforded ‘Blog’ Word of the year. A number of companies provided blogging platforms either on their own servers of hosted remotely. Such software as Movable Type, Textpattern, WordPress, LiveJournal, Xanga is some of the bigger names currently offering free blogging as well as premium paid upgrades for those who required more sophisticated features. Today there are millions of weblogs updated daily on the Web by individuals, groups and international businesses all contributing to the Blogosphere, the collective of all weblogs.
Website or Weblog?
A weblog is a website and a part of the Web but it’s structure, how it is presented to visitors, and development is markedly different. A typical or traditional website may have many sections spawned from a top-level menu system whose pages may, in turn, contain further sub-menus leading to articles, reviews, product details, services or some other form of content. Developing, maintaining and updating site content frequently requires a webmaster (or a team of multimedia specialists for the larger corporate websites) and may incur costs in the tens of thousands of pounds for a medium size business.
From a presentational perspective a weblog is far simpler, usually comprising a single ‘home’ page whose entries are presented in reverse chronological order. It may contain summarised text and links to archived content and a list of other blogging sites. Creating and updating a blog is a simple exercise requiring minimal technical expertise – and the majority of online blogs cost the owner nothing other than time and energy to manage. There are none of the costs or technical know-how associated with purchasing a unique domain name and finding a hosting company on which to mount a site as these are borne by the service provider. Unless a custom blog solution has been specified generally a commercial business blog that would include some of the elements of a standard website build.
Characteristics of a Blog
Contemporary weblogs illustrate a number of characteristics: They are expected to be visible to the Web at large; they comprise frequently updated commentary, articles or dialogue as a dated chronology, most recent first; they have some form of archiving feature, usually accessible through an onscreen calendar; are increasingly open to commentary from visitors (creating a ‘threaded’ dialogue); and are usually free to create and update. Most blogs are visible only on the Web although some exist as commentary on local business Intranets (a version of the Internet restricted to privileged users such as company employees).
Further, a dedicated blogging environment will be based upon a content management system (CMS) – a simple interface through which content can be updated – be configurable through use of a programmatic interface permitting layout and look-and-feel adjustment, have an option to accept visitor feedback commentary, and offer the ability to include images and XML feeds (a method of viewing content indirectly).
An increasing number of blogs now incorporate syndication features such as RSS feeds. Typically, these permit remote access of blogs by feed aggregators, programs which monitor hundreds or thousands of blogs for updates, informing the user of fresh or edited content. Such a simple yet powerful alert flagging system helps bloggers keep in touch with their favourite blogs.
Article: Blogging Explained written by Sonet Digital. Published November 2005.