A blog (an abridgment of the term web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art ( artlog), photographs ( photoblog), sketchblog, videos ( vlog), music ( MP3 blog), audio (podcasting) are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging which consists of blogs with very short posts. As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs.
Before blogging became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet, commercial online services such as GEnie, BiX and the early CompuServe, e-mail lists and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). In the 1990s, Internet forum software, such as WebEx, created running conversations with "threads". Threads are topical connections between messages on a metaphorical "corkboard". Some have likened blogging to the Mass-Observation project of the mid-20th century.
Usenet was the primary serial medium included in the original definition of the World Wide Web. It featured the Moderated Newsgroup which allowed all posting in a newsgroup to be under the control of an individual or small group. Most such newsgroups were simply moderated discussion forums, however, in 1983-84, one exception, named mod.ber, was created, named after and managed by an individual: Brian E. Redman. Regularly, Redman and a few associates posted summaries of interesting postings and threads taking place elsewhere on the net. With its serial journal publishing style, presence on the pre-HTTP web and strong similarity to the common blog form which features links to interesting and cool places on the net chosen by the blogger, mod.ber had many of the characteristics commonly associated with the term "blog". It ceased operation after approximately 8 months. Brad Templeton calls the newsgroup rec.humor.funny (which he founded) the world's oldest still existing blog.
The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. A few called themselves " escribitionists". The Open Pages webring included members of the online-journal community. Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers, as is Jerry Pournelle. Dave Winer's Scripting News is also credited with being one of the oldest and longest running weblogs . Another early blog was Wearable Wireless Webcam, an online shared diary of a person's personal life combining text, video, and pictures transmitted live from a wearable computer and EyeTap device to a web site in 1994. This practice of semi-automated blogging with live video together with text was referred to as sousveillance, and such journals were also used as evidence in legal matters.
Other forms of journals kept online also existed. A notable example was game programmer John Carmack's widely read journal, published via the finger protocol. Some of the very earliest bloggers, like Steve Gibson of sCary's Quakeholio (now Shacknews) and Stephen Heaslip of Blue's News (still running since 1995 with online archives back to July 1996), evolved from the Quake scene and Carmack's .plan updates. Steve Gibson was hired to blog full-time by Ritual Entertainment on February 8, 1997 , possibly making him the first hired blogger.
Websites, including both corporate sites and personal homepages, had and still often have "What's New" or "News" sections, often on the index page and sorted by date. One example of a news based "weblog" is the Drudge Report founded by the self-styled maverick reporter Matt Drudge, though apparently Drudge dislikes this classification. Another is the Institute for Public Accuracy which began posting news releases featuring several news-pegged one-paragraph quotes several times a week beginning in 1998. One noteworthy early precursor to a blog was the tongue-in-cheek personal website that was frequently updated by Usenet legend Kibo.
Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging". Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run using blog software, such as WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger or LiveJournal, or on regular web hosting services.
The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May of 1999. This was quickly adopted as both a noun and verb ("to blog," meaning "to edit one's weblog or to post to one's weblog").
After a slow start, blogging rapidly gained in popularity. Blog usage spread during 1999 and the years following, being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted blog tools:
- Open Diary launched in October 1998, soon growing to thousands of online diaries. Open Diary innovated the reader comment, becoming the first blog community where readers could add comments to other writers' blog entries.
- Brad Fitzpatrick, a well known blogger started LiveJournal in March 1999.
- Andrew Smales created Pitas.com in July 1999 as an easier alternative to maintaining a "news page" on a website, followed by Diaryland in September 1999, focusing more on a personal diary community.
- Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan ( Pyra Labs) launched blogger.com in August 1999 (purchased by Google in February 2003)
Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier — specifically permalinks, blogrolls and TrackBacks. This, together with weblog search engines enabled bloggers to track the threads that connected them to others with similar interests.
Several broadly popular American blogs emerged in 2001: Andrew Sullivan's AndrewSullivan.com, Ron Gunzburger's Politics1.com, Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit, Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs, and Jerome Armstrong's MyDD — all blogging primarily on politics (two earlier popular American political blogs were Bob Somerby's Daily Howler launched in 1998 and Mickey Kaus' Kausfiles launched in 1999).
By 2001, blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals began to appear, primarily focusing on technique. The importance of the blogging community (and its relationship to larger society) increased rapidly. Established schools of journalism began researching blogging and noting the differences between journalism and blogging.
Also in 2002, many blogs focused on comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Senator Lott, at a party honoring U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, praised Senator Thurmond by suggesting that the United States would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president. Lott's critics saw these comments as a tacit approval of racial segregation, a policy advocated by Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. This view was reinforced by documents and recorded interviews dug up by bloggers. (See Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.) Though Lott's comments were made at a public event attended by the media, no major media organizations reported on his controversial comments until after blogs broke the story. Blogging helped to create a political crisis that forced Lott to step down as majority leader.
The impact of this story gave greater credibility to blogs as a medium of news dissemination. Though often seen as partisan gossips, bloggers sometimes lead the way in bringing key information to public light, with mainstream media having to follow their lead. More often, however, news blogs tend to react to material already published by the mainstream media.
Since 2002, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, and spinning news stories. The Iraq war saw bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that go beyond the traditional left-right divide of the political spectrum.
Blogging was established by politicians and political candidates to express opinions on war and other issues and cemented blogs' role as a news source. (See Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.) Meanwhile, an increasing number of experts blogged, making blogs a source of in-depth analysis. (See Daniel Drezner and J. Bradford DeLong.)
The second Iraq war was the first "blog war" in another way: Iraqi bloggers gained wide readership, and one, Salam Pax, published a book of his blog. Blogs were also created by soldiers serving in the Iraq war. Such " warblogs" gave readers new perspectives on the realities of war, as well as often offering different viewpoints from those of official news sources.
Blogging was used to draw attention to obscure news sources. For example, bloggers posted links to traffic cameras in Madrid as a huge anti-terrorism demonstration filled the streets in the wake of the March 11 attacks.
Bloggers began to provide nearly-instant commentary on televised events, creating a secondary meaning of the word "blogging": to simultaneously transcribe and editorialize speeches and events shown on television. (For example, "I am blogging Rice's testimony" means "I am posting my reactions to Condoleezza Rice's testimony into my blog as I watch her on television.") Real-time commentary is sometimes referred to as "liveblogging."
In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK's Labour Party's MP Tom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents.
Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called "The blogging of the President," which covered a transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging. Anthologies of blog pieces reached print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of 2004, both United States Democratic and Republican Parties' conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal. Mainstream television programs, such as Chris Matthews' Hardball, formed their own blogs. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary declared "blog" as the word of the year in 2004.
In 2004, Global Voices Online, a site which "aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore" surfaced, bringing to light bloggers from around the world. Today, the site has a relationship with Reuters and is responsible for breaking many global news stories.
Blogs were among the driving forces behind the " Rathergate" scandal, to wit: (television journalist) Dan Rather presented documents (on the CBS show 60 Minutes) that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush's military service record. Bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented evidence and arguments in support of that view, and CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques (see Little Green Footballs). Many bloggers view this scandal as the advent of blogs' acceptance by the mass media, both as a news source and opinion and as means of applying political pressure.
Some bloggers have moved over to other media. The following bloggers (and others) have appeared on radio and television: Duncan Black (known widely by his pseudonym, Atrios), Glenn Reynolds ( Instapundit), Markos Moulitsas Zúniga ( Daily Kos), Alex Steffen ( Worldchanging) and Ana Marie Cox ( Wonkette). In counter-point, Hugh Hewitt exemplifies a mass media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in "old media" by being an influential blogger.
Some blogs were an important news source during the December 2004 Tsunami such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, which used SMS text messaging to report from affected areas in Sri Lanka and Southern India. Similarly, during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the aftermath a few blogs which were located in New Orleans, including the Interdictor and Gulfsails were able to maintain power and an Internet connection and disseminate information that was not covered by the Main Stream Media.
In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper launched a redesign in September 2005, which included a daily digest of blogs on page 2. Also in June 2006, BBC News launched a weblog for its editors, following other news companies.
In January 2005, Fortune magazine listed eight bloggers that business people "could not ignore": Peter Rojas, Xeni Jardin, Ben Trott, Mena Trott, Jonathan Schwartz, Jason Goldman, Robert Scoble, and Jason Calacanis.
In 2007, Tim O'Reilly proposed a Blogger's Code of Conduct.
There are various types of blogs, and each differs in the way content is delivered or written.
- By media type
- A blog comprising videos is called a vlog, one comprising links is called a linklog, a site containing a portfolio of sketches is called a sketchblog or one comprising photos is called a photoblog. Blogs with shorter posts and mixed media types are called tumblelogs.
- An Artlog is a form of art sharing and publishing in the format of a blog, but differentiated by the predominant use of and focus on Art work rather than text.
- A rare type of blog hosted on the Gopher Protocol is known as a Phlog
- By device
- Blogs can also be defined by which type of device is used to compose it. A blog written by a mobile device like a mobile phone or PDA is called a moblog.
- Some blogs focus on a particular subject, such as political blogs, travel blogs, fashion blogs, project blogs, education blogs, niche blogs, classical music blogs, legal blogs (often referred to as a blawgs) or dreamlogs. While not a legitimate type of blog, one used for the sole purpose of spamming is known as a Splog.
- Legal status of publishers
- A blog can be private, as in most cases, or it can be for business purposes. Blogs, either used internally to enhance the communication and culture in a corporation or externally for marketing, branding or PR purposes are called corporate blogs.
- Blog search engines
- Several blog search engines are used to search blog contents (also known as the blogosphere), such as Bloglines, BlogScope, and Technorati. Technorati, which is among the most popular blog search engines, provides current information on both popular searches and tags used to categorize blog postings. Research community is working on going beyond simple keyword search, by inventing news ways to navigate through huge amounts of information present in the blogosphere, as demonstrated by projects like BlogScope.
- Blogging Communities and Directories
- Several online communities exist that connect people to blogs and bloggers to other bloggers, including BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog. A collection of local blogs is sometimes referred to as a Bloghood.
Recently, researchers have analyzed the dynamics of how blogs become popular. There are essentially two measures of this: popularity through citations, as well as popularity through affiliation (i.e. blogroll). The basic conclusion from studies of the structure of blogs is that while it takes time for a blog to become popular through blogrolls, permalinks can boost popularity more quickly, and are perhaps more indicative of popularity and authority than blogrolls, since they denote that people are actually reading the blog's content and deem it valuable or noteworthy in specific cases.
The blogdex project was launched by researchers in the MIT Media Lab to crawl the Web and gather data from thousands of blogs in order to investigate their social properties. It gathered this information for over 4 years, and autonomously tracked the most contagious information spreading in the blog community, ranking it by recency and popularity. It can thus be considered the first instantiation of a memetracker. The project is no longer active, but a similar function is now served by tailrank.com.
Blogs are also given rankings by Technorati based on the number of incoming links and Alexa Internet based on the web hits of Alexa Toolbar users. In August 2006, Technorati listed the most linked-to blog as that of Chinese actress Xu Jinglei and the most-read blog as group-written Boing Boing.
Gartner forecasts that blogging will peak in 2007, leveling off when the number of writers who maintain a personal website reaches 100 million. Gartner analysts expect that the novelty value of the medium will wear off as most people who are interested in the phenomenon have checked it out, and new bloggers will offset the number of writers who abandon their creation out of boredom. The firm estimates that there are more than 200 million former bloggers who have ceased posting to their online diaries, creating an exponential rise in the amount of "dotsam" and "netsam" — that is to say, unwanted objects on the Web.
It was reported by Chinese media Xinhua that the blog of Xu Jinglei received more than 50 million page views, claiming to be the most popular blog in the world. In mid-2006, it also had the most incoming links of any blogs on the Internet.
The emergence of blogging has brought a range of legal liabilities and other often unforeseen consequences. One area of concern is the issue of bloggers releasing proprietary or confidential information. Another area of concern is blogging and defamation. A third area of concern is employees who write about aspects of their place of employment or their personal lives, and then face loss of employment or other adverse consequences. A number of examples of blogging and its sometimes negative or unforeseen consequences are cited here.
Defamation or liability
Several cases have been brought before the national courts against bloggers concerning issues of defamation or liability. The courts have returned with mixed verdicts. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), in general, are immune from liability for information that originates with Third Parties (U.S. Communications Decency Act and the EU Directive 2000/31/EC).
In John Doe v. Patrick Cahill, the Delaware Supreme Court held that stringent standards had to be met to unmask anonymous bloggers, and also took the unusual step of dismissing the libel case itself (as unfounded under American libel law) rather than referring it back to the trial court for reconsideration. In a bizarre twist, the Cahills were able to obtain the identity of John Doe, who turned out to be the person they suspected: the town's mayor, Councilman Cahill's political rival. The Cahills amended their original complaint, and the mayor settled the case rather than going to trial.
In Malaysia, eight Royal Dutch Shell Group companies collectively obtained in June 2004 an Interim Injunction and Restraining Order against a Shell whistleblower, a Malaysian geologist and former Shell employee, Dr John Huong. The proceedings are in respect of alleged defamatory postings attributed to Dr Huong on a weblog hosted in North America but owned and operated by an 89 year old British national, Alfred Donovan, a long term critic of Shell. The Shell action is directed solely against Dr Huong. Further proceedings against Dr Huong were issued by the same plaintiff companies in 2006 in respect of publications on Donovan weblog sites in 2005 and 2006. The further proceedings include a "Notice to Show Cause" relating to a " contempt of court" action potentially punishable by imprisonment. The contempt hearing and a related application by the eight Royal Dutch Shell plaintiff companies for Dr Huong to produce Alfred Donovan for cross-examination in connection with an affidavit Donovan provided, was scheduled to be heard in the High Court of Malay in Kuala Lumpur on 17 August 2006. Donovan's principle weblog is royaldutchshellplc.com. In January 2007, two prominent political bloggers, Jeff Ooi and Ahiruddin Attan were sued by pro-government newspaper, The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad, Kalimullah bin Masheerul Hassan, Hishamuddin bin Aun and Brenden John a/l John Pereira over an alleged defamation. The plaintiff was supported by the Malaysian government . Following the suit, the Malaysian government proposed to "register" all bloggers in Malaysia in order to better control parties against their interest. . This is the first such legal case against bloggers in the country.
In Britain, a college lecturer contributed to a blog in which she referred to a politician (who had also expressed his views in the same blog) using various uncomplimentary names, including referring to him as a "Nazi". The politician found out the real name of the lecturer (she wrote under a pseudonym) via the ISP and successfully sued her for £10,000 in damages and £7,200 costs.
In the United States blogger Aaron Wall was sued by Traffic Power for defamation and publication of trade secrets in 2005. According to Wired Magazine, Traffic Power had been "banned from Google for allegedly rigging search engine results." Wall and other "white hat" search engine optimization consultants had exposed Traffic Power in what they claim was an effort to protect the public. The case was watched by many bloggers because it addressed the murky legal question of who's liable for comments posted on blogs.
In general, attempts at hiding the blogger's name and/or the place of employment in anonymity have proved ineffective at protecting the blogger. Employees who blog about elements of their place of employment raise the issue of employee branding, since their activities can begin to affect the brand recognition of their employer.
Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant, was fired by the airline for photos of herself in uniform on an airplane and comments posted on her blog "Queen of the Sky: Diary of a Flight Attendant" which her employer deemed inappropriate. This case highlighted the issue of personal blogging and freedom of expression vs. employer rights and responsibilities, and so it received wide media attention. Simonetti took legal action against the airline for "wrongful termination, defamation of character and lost future wages". The suit is postponed while Delta is in bankruptcy proceedings ( court docket).
In the spring of 2006, Erik Ringmar, a tenured senior lecturer at the London School of Economics was ordered by the convenor of his department to "take down and destroy" his blog in which he discussed the quality of education at the school..
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was recently fined during the 2006 NBA playoffs for criticizing NBA officials on the court and in his blog.
In India, blogger Gaurav Sabnis resigned from IBM after his posts exposing the false claims of a management school, IIPM, led to management of IIPM threatening to burn their IBM laptops as a sign of protest against him.
Jessica Cutler, aka " The Washingtonienne", blogged about her sex life while employed as a congressional assistant. After the blog was discovered and she was fired, she wrote a novel based on her experiences and blog: The Washingtonienne: A Novel. Cutler is presently being sued by one of her former lovers in a case that could establish the extent to which bloggers are obligated to protect the privacy of their real life associates.
Catherine Sanderson, aka Petite Anglaise, lost her job in Paris at a British accountancy firm as a consequence of blogging. Although given in the blog in a fairly anonymous manner, some of the descriptions of the firm and some of its people were less than flattering. Sanderson later won a compensation claim case against the British firm, however.
On the other hand, Penelope Trunk, writing in the Globe in 2006, was one of the first to point out that a large portion of bloggers are professionals, and a well written blog can actually help attract employers.
Blogging can sometimes have unforeseen consequences in politically sensitive areas. Blogs are much harder to control than broadcast or even print media. As a result totalitarian and authoritarian regimes often seek to suppress blogs, or to punish those who maintain them.
In Singapore, two ethnic Chinese were imprisoned under the country’s anti-sedition law for posting anti-Muslim remarks in their weblogs.
Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer was charged with insulting the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and an Islamic institution through his online blog. It is the first time in the history of Egypt that a blogger was prosecuted. After a brief trial session that took place in Alexandria, the blogger was found guilty and sentenced to prison terms of three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting Mubarak.
Egyptian blogger Abdel Monem Mahmoud was arrested in April 2007 for anti-government writings in his blog. Monem is a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
After expressing opinions in his personal weblog about the state of the Sudanese armed forces, Jan Pronk, United Nations Special Representative for the Sudan, was given three days notice to leave Sudan. The Sudanese army had demanded his deportation.
Few personal blogs rise to fame and the mainstream. That does not mean that authors of personal blogs do not take their blogging seriously. Personal bloggers take pride in their blog posts, even if their blog is never read by anyone but them. It is here that blogging becomes more than a way to communicate and becomes a way to reflect on life. Blogging can have a sentimental quality. Bloggers post about their day or their opinions on different matters. Personal blogs may not be important to readers, but for the people who write them, they are works of art, for example:- Search Engine Concepts
One unfortunate consequence of blogging is the possibility of attacks or threats against the blogger, sometimes without apparent reason. Kathy Sierra, author of the innocuous blog Creating Passionate Users, was the target of such vicious threats and misogynistic insults that she canceled her keynote speech at a technology conference in San Diego, fearing for her safety. While a blogger's anonymity is often tenuous, internet trolls who would attack a blogger with threats or insults can be emboldened by anonymity. Sierra and supporters initiated an online discussion aimed at countering abusive online behaviour, and developed a blogger's code of conduct.