On 23rd August 1999, Pyra Labs launched its Blogger.com blogging service. The term ‘blog’ had been used earlier as ‘weblog’ by John Barger, and then shortened to ‘blog’ by Peter Merholz – but the guy to whom credit goes for taking blogging mainstream is Pyra Labs founder Evan Williams. Ev, as he is known, has now moved on to founding an equally game-changing service called Twitter.
Blogger.com was the service which truly revolutionized the concept of web publishing and brought power to the people. Before that, you would have to hand code everything using HTML, which put a barrier on who could be elite ones publishing on the Web. Either that, or it was posting articles on mailing lists / Usenet groups. Blogger.com was eventually acquired by Google in February 2003 and has been their property since. Read a short story on Blogger’s here, and a full report with many links to commentary by prominent bloggers (in 2003) on the Google acquisition here.
Even I remember that I started off blogging with Blogger. (WordPress wasn’t that mature or well-known in those days.) There were hardly any templates around, or even hardly any other people making templates around – everyone was pretty much content with the default look. And Blogger used to have a system in those days in which if you published one post, your whole blog would be republished. Basically, all files were updated and published as static HTML files. You could hit the publish button, go away to make a mug of coffee, and still come back to find that spinning GIF spinning furiously. A few years after being acquired by Google, Blogger updated its backend and ‘overall reliability of service’.
Ironically, this ‘reliablity’ update backfired when Google’s servers couldn’t handle the strain – many Blogger users went “Gaaah!” with all the errors it kept throwing. I think it is fair to say that 2006-2007 was the year WordPress matured as a platform and more people migrated from Blogger to WordPress. Look around you, and you will find that starting from The Washington Post to a majority of self-hosted blog to be running WordPress. Along the way came tumble-blogging, mobile blogging, micro-blogging, video blogging, photo blogging, audio blogging (podcasting) and what not.
Blogging brought about a democratization of media on scale never seen before in the history of the Web. By lowering the entry barriers to publishing, you do get a lot of spam blogs, abandoned blogs, p0orLY wrITTeN BlOgs – but you also got an avenue for content which was niche enough not to get attention from mainstream media. It became a rallying point for spreading thoughts and ideas which often lead to making some impact.
It brought about a sea change in marketing too! As humans we usually tend to listen to advice on buying decisions and experience that our friends share with us. Television and radio eroded that to a large extent by making the advertisers’ voice pushed forward louder. Today when you’re going to buy a product, you probably do a search to find out what kind of reviews the product, company, restaurant, service, et al has got from others. We inherently trust a ‘person like us’ sharing his experience a bit more than an advertiser who is being paid to promote the agenda of his client. True, this is still limited to the web-savvy populace – but it’s a change which had made companies sit up and take this social media seriously. Blogging is not going to away any time soon.
So let’s say you still haven’t joined the blogging bandwagon and want to jump on-board now. Getting started is easy – go to Blogger.com or WordPress.com (or maybe even right here at Youthpad.com! ;) ) and sign up for a free account. That’s it! You’ll get a word processor like editor where you can type in content, add links / pictures / videos, etc. Try to write unique content. Nobody is going to come to your blog and read Jaswant Singh was expelled from BJP. People have newspapers, news sites, news channels to tell them that. However, if you have your own take on an incident then feel free to go ahead and write about it.
Above all, write for the love of writing. Don’t even think of making money out of it when you start off. Everything else – ads, sponsored posts – are incidental. Get good content out, and people will come to read it eventually. Remember that there are lots of blogs out there, so if you get a trickle of visitors in the first few months it’s easy to lose motivation. Happens with a lot of people that they start blogging, first six months or say they get hardly any visitors a day – then they give up. Don’t. If you really feel you’ll get demotivated by not enough people reading your content, consider posting stuff on ‘community blogging’ sites like Youthpad.com :D – you’ll always have a stream of visitors who are going to read your content. Few months later, you could have enough confidence to start off on your own.
You need not necessarily have to blog for other, i.e., a public blog. You can set up private blogs which only you or people you invite can read. This can a replacement for diaries – you don’t even need to post daily. Or you could use your blog to publish creative writings – your poems, short stories, drawings, artwork, or even publishing a novel online. Yes, there have been blogs which went to be published as book – they are called ‘blooks‘. Sidin, the current editor at Mint, got his first job after his blogs postings were noticed.
Even if you have a public blog, it’s a nice archive of how you have changed over the years. Ask every blogger who’s reading up articles from their own archives for them past few years and you’ll find everyone finding cringe-worthy stuff and going “Oh dear, I actually wrote this?” ;) But yes, it’s definitely fun. And along the way if some post of yours – a review, a story, a poem, a solution to a problem – helps out someone, somewhere then it does make you feel good.