Nearly everyone has some contact with blogs nowadays, they read them, they write them, they have favourite blogs. As a result, there are official news blogs, political blogs, work-related blogs, blogs about hobbies, food, fashion, health, there are gossipy blogs – really, there’s pretty much a blog on any subject you care to name.
But how did it all start, what’s the background to the huge popularity of online journals? 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the first blog being published, so it seems a good time for Fingertips to look into the origins of the phenomenon of blogging.
On 22 January 1994, a nineteen year old Swarthmore College student, Justin Hall, published his first web page online. It was called “Justin’s Notes from the Underground” (he soon changed the name to “Justin’s Links from the Underground” – possibly to remove himself from the obvious connection to Dostoyevsky). On his “personal homepage”, Justin gave technical information about how he’d built his web site, and he shared his knowledge and experience of online gaming. Over time, however, the content evolved and became a much more personal, internet-based diary, posted online for all to see. It also developed a large following – up to 25,000 people a day would read Justin’s online diary, which ran for 11 years, until 2005.
It was not until December 1997 that Jorn Barger, another early blogger (he started his “Robot Wisdom” site in February 1995), used the term “Weblog” to describe “logging the web”. From then on, personal homepages became were given the new name of “Weblogs”.
A programmer, Peter Merholz, first shortened the word “Weblog” in April 1999, when he humorously broke it down into “we blog” and included it as part of his own blog. And so the word “blog” was born!
But another notable blogging event occurred in 1999: Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan co-founded a company called Pyra Labs. It was intended to make project management software and in August 1999, they launched their first product, Pyra – part of which would become Blogger, one of the first web services for creating and managing personal blogs. Blogger was key to the rapid rise in blogging’s popularity – and it was bought by Google in February 2003.
Actually, 1999 seems to have been a busy year in the world of blogging! On 10 September, another pioneer of the medium, Brad L Graham, first used the term “blogosphere” in his blog The BradLands. But he wasn’t a fan of the newly coined “blog” and used the word disparagingly, saying “Goodbye, cyberspace. Hello blogiverse! Blogosphere? Blogmos?”. The new word (and its Greek roots) were overlooked for a few years, until 2002 when William Quick used it again on his blog, Daily Pundit – and claimed it as his own creation. Later in 2002, Graham and Quick had a discussion (via blog comments!) as to the provenance of the word. They ended up agreeing that “blogosphere” was attributable to Brad L Graham, but that it was William Quick who’d made the word popular and introduced it into common usage – a job he did so well that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004!
Interestingly, as part of their discussions, Brad L Graham admitted he actually preferred the word “blogmos”! (He died eight years later, in 2010, at the age of 41 – but has long been recognised as a true pioneer of social media.)
Through the early 2000s, the number of blogs rose quite dramatically; Technorati’s 2004 State of the Blogosphere report said it was tracking over 4 million blogs and that the number continued to rise incredibly fast, with the size of the blogosphere doubling every few months. Indeed, by October 2005, Technorati was tracking 19.6 million blogs – and still the number continued to increase; Technorati reported tracking its 50 millionth blog on 31 July 2006!
And still the popularity of the blog continues, with more being created all the time. It’s amazing to think that all of this began when one 19-year old student published his personal webpage online for all to see!
Over the past 20 years, blogging has become an important part of news and social media – what direction will it take next we wonder?
If you have any thoughts on blogging’s amazing popularity, or if there are any subjects you’d like to see covered in the Fingertips blog, do leave a comment to let us know – we’d very much like to hear from you.