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According to 2010 statistics, the number of active blogs has reached 126 million. This figure has certainly increased since the time the calculation was made. Blogging is one of the most popular online activities today. How did it all start? What is the history of blogging and how has the publication of an online journal become so influential in 17 years?
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The Contribution of Justin Hall
The year was 1994. A student called Justin Hall began writing an online journal. Today, Hall is a freelance reporter and his diary – Justin’s Links from the Underground is probably among the earliest blog forms.
New York Times magazine calls Hall “the founding father of personal blogging."
Some researchers claim that famous programming expert Dave Winer is the author of the first blog – Scripting News. Most, however, have reached an agreement, saying that Hall is the author of the first blog while Winer is the first blogger to gain wide popularity and recognition for his online journal.
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The Term “Blog" Gets Born
Until December 17 1997, the writing of an online journal lacked a specific web niche of its own. It was just a form of sharing personal information. Nobody believed that this revelation of thoughts and ideas online could actually develop in a separate discipline.
John Barger is the person who coined the term “weblog," which was later changed to blog for short.
Barger is creator of Robot Wisdom – an online journal that was initially published in February 1995. In his weblog, Barger wrote about artificial intelligence, internet developments and technological trends.
The term weblog is a contraction from “logging the web." The verb was turned into a noun and was later on shortened to define blogging, an entirely new and unprecedented niche in the online realm.
The person responsible for shortening the term weblog is Peter Merholz, author of Peterme journal. Merholz turned the word weblog into the combination of words “we blog." The word blog was then turned into the verb “to blog" – meaning to write an online journal and to share information with the web community.
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Blogging Goes International
The term blogging was born. Still, this activity was just getting started, being available to a small group of people able to create their personal journals. The next important step in the history of blogging was just around the corner.
The situation started changing in August 1999, when a company named Pyra Labs revolutionized blogging and took away its exclusivity. The company based in San Francisco created a portal named Blogger.
Blogger was the first free of charge service that facilitated the creation and maintenance of a personal journal. The creation of Blogger is seen as the first step towards the appearance of the blogosphere.
Blogosphere is a general term, bringing together all blogs. The appearance of a blogosphere gave birth to a new community, the group of people writing online and interacting with each other.
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Bloggers Gain Popularity
Until the appearance of blogs and Web 2.0, the majority of websites remained unidirectional. A group of people published information while readers where there to receive it. Blogging gave common people the chance to shape the manner in which information was presented online.
The community of bloggers began gaining power and becoming more influential as more and more people started writing. Blogs were no longer personal journals, some of them turned into highly specialized information sources.
Blogs became political in 2000. Reporter Josh Marshall started a blog named Talking Points Memo, which discussed the Florida election recount. His postings were to quickly gain popularity among readers and according to some, Talking Points Memo even caused political scandals and controversies.
September 11 2001 came. New York bloggers provided eyewitness accounts of the huge tragedy that occurred in the city. They published pictures and reports as soon as the World Trade Center collapsed. For the first time, the concept of blogging entered the academic world and was discussed by journalism students.
After the US military presence in Iraq, many US soldiers started their blogs to write about experiences and difficulties experienced there. Iraqi people were also there, presenting their side of the story in their blogs. The blog of Salam Paks is probably the most popular one, giving people detailed information about military operations and their impact.
Blogs entered the world of politics to stay there when US presidential candidate Howard Dean started writing Dean Call to Action, which was later renamed to Blog to America. Following his example, many politicians and officials started maintaining blogs and popularizing their campaigns through the participation in the online community.
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Media Vs. Blogs
Traditional media have always maintained their reputation but blogs were there to change the landscape. Blogs had one main advantage – they were written by eyewitnesses and people having deep knowledge in specialized issues. In fact, blogs began influencing the manner in which news were written and presented.
The first battle between traditional media and blogs occurred when CBS aired a report about George Bush, who, according to the evidence presented, managed to escape military service in Vietnam due to the patronage of famous individuals. Bloggers supporting Bush were able to prove that the documents CBS used were falsified.
According to Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, about four percent of all American internet users turn to blogs to receive information, neglecting traditional media.
Today, the blogosphere is a large community, bringing together people from across the globe. They share specific interests and write on a multitude of topics, ranging from advanced sciences to arts.
The history of blogging is still to be written. This niche has proven to have huge potential and is to evolve with the advance of technologies and the manner in which new opportunities are provided to common individuals. Whether blogs will replace newspapers is yet to be seen. One thing is certain – blogs are here to stay and to continue shaping trends.
Thompson, Clive. A Timeline of the History of Blogging. New York Magazine, http://nymag.com/news/media/15971/
Baker, Stephen. A Brief History of Blogs. BusinessWeek, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_30/b4140074545626.htm
Blogging Timeline. http://www.enterpriseblogs.info/history