Blogging And Blogs
As the 20th century drew to a close, a new form of personal self-expression began to appear on the Web. Called “Web logs” but soon universally shortened to blogs, this new type of online journal caught on rapidly, being adopted not only by Web-savvy designers and writers, but by millions of ordinary users wanting to express opinions on the news of the day, critique music or restaurants, analyze technological developments, or just keep relatives informed about family doings. (By 2006 the Pew Internet and American Life project was reporting that about 16 percent of the American population—around half of all Internet users—was writing or at least reading blogs.) Additionally, today’s blogs can have institutional as well as personal roles. They have created a new form of journalism that challenges the mainstream media, have kept researchers in touch with new developments, and have provided a new way for corporations to communicate with customers or prospective investors.
Formats and Software
The “classic” blog resembles a diary or journal. The writer simply adds a new entry either on a regular basis such as daily or weekly, or when there is something new to be said or responded to. Indeed, what makes blogs different from traditional journals is two things: linkage and interactivity.
When a “blogger” writes about something such as a news story, he or she almost always includes a Web link that can take the reader directly to the source in question. The inter activity comes in readers having the opportunity to click a
button and write their own response—either to the original journal entry or to someone’s earlier response.
In order for blogging to become ubiquitous, there needed to be software that anyone could use without knowing anything about Web design or HTmL coding. most commonly, the software is hosted on a Web site, and users only need a Web browser to create and manage their blogs. One of the first popular blogging applications was developed in the late 1990s by David Winer of Userland Software. google’s Blogger.com is another popular choice. many blogging applications are free and open source, such as Drupal, mephisto, and WordPress (which can be used stand-alone or as a hosted service). Today anyone can start and maintain a blog with just a few clicks.
As blogs proliferated, the value of a search engine devoted specifically to finding blogs and blog entries became evident. While a general search engine can find blog entries that match keywords, the results generally do not show the context or the necessary links to follow the threads of discussion. In addition to such services as Bloglines, general search engines such as google include options for searching the burgeoning “blogosphere.”
As with many other Web developments, what began as primarily a textual medium soon embraced multimedia. The availability of inexpensive cameras makes it easy for bloggers to engage in “video blogging.” Anyone who wants to see these videos regularly can “subscribe” and have them downloaded automatically to their PC or portable player (see podcasting).
Blogging can also be seen as part of a larger trend toward Web users taking an active role in expressing and sharing opinion and resources (see useR-cReated content, file-shaRing and p2p netWoRks, and youtube).
SociaL and Economic Impact
Blogs first emerged in popular consciousness as a new way in which people caught in the midst of a tragedy such as the September 11, 2001, attacks could reassure friends about their safety while describing often harrowing accounts. The Iraq war that began in 2003 was the first war to be blogged on a large scale. Like their journalistic counterparts, bloggers, whether American or Iraqi, were “embedded” in the often-violent heart of the protracted conflict, but they were also effectively beyond the control of government or military authorities. (See also political activism and the inteRnet.)
Blogs are also being used widely in business. Within a company, a blog can highlight ongoing activities and relevant resources that might otherwise be overlooked in a large corporate network. Software developers can also report on the
progress of bug fixes or enhancements and solicit comments from end users. There has been some concern, however, that corporate blogs are not sufficiently supervised to prevent the dissemination of sensitive information or the posting of
libelous or inflammatory material. (For the collaborative creation of large bodies of structured knowledge, see Wikis and Wikipedia.)
Blogs have provided an outlet where other means of expression are unavailable because of war (as in Iraq), disaster (Hurricane Katrina), or government censorship
although China in particular has hired hundreds of censors to remove offending postings as well as requiring blog providers such as mSN to police their content (see censoRship and the inteRnet).