Blogs are basically online journals, maintained and updated by any number of individuals or groups. Content in blogs is predominantly text, although bloggers have been known to include other forms of media. Blogs usually have a topic or a subject, such as the ongoing development of a program, but many bloggers prefer to keep their blog flexible by letting the topics develop freely.
The popularity of blogs has skyrocketed in recent years because of the greater availability of internet access and the creation of many free blog hosting services. Recently, blogs have also been seen as potential sources of income (particularly, advertising income) because of the traffic that their content can attract.
Blogs are considered to be one form of social media because readers can participate by leaving comments or feedback about the blog in general or on individual blog entries. It is also a common practice for bloggers to refer to each other in entries or to formally cite affiliated blogs through a blogroll or a listing of other blogs.
Blogs: A History
Blogs were formerly and more formally known as weblogs until 1999 when Peter Merholtz coined the shorter and more popular term. Blogs actually started earlier than most would suspect, with the first bloggers starting out around 1994. Some of these pioneers went on to contribute something to blogging. For instance, Brad Fitzpatrick made his mark through his 1999 creation, LiveJournal. Interest in blogs didn’t peak until the early 2000’s though; many blogging sites had less than a thousand users in the late 1990’s but had tens of millions by 2005.
The Many Faces of the Blog
Blogs have evolved from the basic online diary. The tech blog BoingBoing, for instance, has been developed to make it an ideal means for distributing news and information. Some companies have integrated blogs onto their websites so that users can readily see recent updates and developments. Many have turned their blogs into records of current events, usually accompanied by a critique. Numerous blogs also exist for the sole purpose of proclaiming the writer’s opinions.
Recently, some blogs have surfaced as alternative sources of news to complement the information on broadcast and print media. These are often filled with accounts of people who have intimate knowledge of events from crimes to large-scale social events.
The Freedom of Blogs
The increased use of blogging has led to several court cases in recent years, most of them involving one party defaming or posting negative comments about another. Prominent cases, such as the political John Doe vs. Patrick Cahill case, have not been in short supply. Many people have been taken to court because of derogatory or libelous remarks that they have posted online.
Confidentiality has also been another issue with posting on blogs. Despite their somewhat personal and journal-like nature, blogs and their contents are available to hundreds of millions of users worldwide through the internet. Many corporate employees and everyday individuals have found themselves in court because they confided information in their blog that, for some larger entities, should have been kept to themselves. Trade secrets and inside corporate information posted on blogs have been the cause of many a court case.
Despite their cryptic name and often humble appearance, blogs have become a ubiquitous feature of the online landscape. So far, they have become defining factors in the advent of user-generated content.