Is blogging dead? What its history tells about its furutre?

How did blogging start?

Blogging started when the World Wide Web was yet emerging and people in technology field were discovering that simple HTML pages could be used to inform others about new developments in the tech community. Such regularly updated HTML pages also served as virtual diaries of events.

blogging history: blog started with an HTML page
The first-ever blog

The June 1993 page of 'What’s New' website maintained by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (Illinois University) was a simple web page that listed what all was happening in the field of IT at that time, with hyperlinks to sources.

Swarthmore student Justin Hall’s 'Justin’s Links from the Underground', started in 1994, is regarded as the first personal blog.

first personal blog - by Justin Hall
Justin's personal blog

When the web diary became a blog

Individual efforts towards regularly updating information were found useful, but everybody could not adopt it: one needed technical knowledge and a dedicated server to make the HTML page available to others.

In December 1997, Jorn Barger, who had been writing his online diary 'Robot Wisdom' for years, coined ‘weblog’ for ‘logging the Web’. He described his diary as the ‘day-to-day log of his reading and intellectual pursuits’. The word ‘weblog’ was dissected into ‘we blog’ and shortened into ‘blog’ by Peter Merholz in his blog 'Peterme' in April 1999.

Blogging platforms

Blogging took wings only when blogging platforms came into being. They gave people a medium where they could express themselves and interact with others without any knowledge of web technologies.

Bruce and Susan Ableson started 'Open Diary' in 1997 as a blogging platform where one could open an online diary and interact with other community members. 

Brad Fitzpatrick started 'Live Journal' in April 1999, initially as a platform to update colleagues about his activities.

Pyra Lab created the legendary blogging platform, 'Blogger' in 1999, which was bought over by Google in 2003.

Blogging becomes all pervasive, all inclusive

Blogging gained the critical mass to become a force to reckon with when people adopted Live Journal and Blogger in a big way, around 2000, and many new platforms took birth.

Blogs started being taken note of by the marketing world and the mainstream media. In the US, this started early but spread worldwide after BlogAds and AdSense started in 2002 as agencies serving advertisements to publishers on the web. The definition of 'successful blogger' changed from being social influencer to being able to make money from blogging.

Personal blogs, being low-cost properties, also started attracting attention of affiliate marketers. In 2006, Squidoo came up as a platform for content creation that shared affiliate commission with bloggers.

Blogging in languages other than English took time to establish, especially those written in non-Roman scripts.

Blogging in its traditional sense seems to have peaked around 2010-15, depending upon which region one looks at. It is still growing fast in some languages and regions where it picked up late or could not grow earlier because of strife.

But then came social networking, and it became a much bigger online activity than just blogging. However, when all forms of hybrid platforms arose, the line dividing traditional blogging and other forms of social interaction became hazy and has now almost disappeared.

Some of today's biggest websites arose from small blogs and they even now maintain the feel of blog. We have some blogs with big editorial teams while most blogs remain to be personal hobby blogs. The mixing of platforms has expanded the scope of blogging to social sharing and networking, and the regular YouTube contributor and one on Instagram also identify themselves as bloggers.

The dark side of blogging history

If the history of blogging has been so amazing in giving individuals a voice, democratizing the web and becoming a stream for making money, it has not been without bad patches. 

There is a long history of bloggers being persecuted and prosecuted because of their critical articles about religious dogma and governments, libelous content, etc. Employees have lost jobs, political leaders have lost their exalted positions, and journalists have lost lives. Criminals have used social media, including blogging, for nefarious purposes.
A good number of bloggers have invited wrath of others (usually because of ignorance or indiscretion) for stealing others’ content.

The future of blogging... Is blogging dead?

The future of blogging is as promising as it was during the peak days of traditional blogging. It is being taken seriously as a new form of mass media. Mainstream blogs now are richer, more professionally managed. 

A large number of bloggers now earn good income from blogging and associated activities. They make the blog the fulcrum of their online/ social media activities. 

People who do not maintain regular blogs do 'blogging' in myriad forms including podcasting, posting videos, sharing pictures, putting long form content on social networking sites and so on. 

Blogging is sure to keep growing in the years to come; however, what shape it would take is anybody's guess.

The history and other aspects of blogging are discussed in much more details in 'The Manual of Blogging'. The above is an excerpt from The Manual's chapter on blogging history.

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