What is this blogging thing? Even today, after many years of highly publicized blogging in the mainstream media, I hear this question at parties and in casual conversations. I am not entirely sure how to answer this question as I do not entirely understand the phenomenon myself. I hear myself saying things like, it's a new way for the average person to publish themselves on the Internet. To which the response is, "you mean, like having your own web page?" Well, sort of.
When the Internet first happened in the late 1990's, there was quite a buzz about having your own web site. Putting up your own site was possible, but it required some technical skills. By 1997, many of the dial-up accounts came with a small portion of server space for graphics and FTP access. So if you learned some basic HTML, you could post pictures from your honeymoon or your safari trip to Africa. But most didn't. The dial-up connections were slow. The HTML intimidated many. The support tools to help you publish required an installation on your desktop and were generally not free.
So, ten years later we have the come a long way. Blogging is an odd term, and not one that anyone in 1997 could have predicted. What does it really mean? I think it means that the Internet technology is really ready for the average home user to do some really neat things and express themselves any way they feel is appropriate. That's not concise, but I think it hits it.
We have the bandwidth now, and the software has evolved to the point where you don't need to know HTML to post your thoughts onto the web, and we have this cool name. Probably the most important change I see over the last 3 years is that it's become cool to blog. Where as those in 1997 who set up web sites were "webmasters," those who do virtually the same thing today are "bloggers." Maybe it's because webmasters had to actually understand HTML that they got lumped in with coders. Whatever it is, a blogger has a completely different image from a webmaster. Face it, webmasters were nerds. Bloggers are hip.
If you watch the popular media, you understand that the bloggers are "in the know." They seem to get the news first and broadcast it to the world with no filter. They are grassroots. They circumvent the system. They are non-corporate. I'm sure that each of the previous statements could lead to a healthy debate, but those are the current images of a blogger. And thus, the term has stuck. What's more, it's attracting people to publish on the Internet by the thousands. I'm not sure what the future of blogging holds, but I think it's very exciting to see where the first 10 years of the Internet took us in this regard. While there are many issue to work out in the blogosphere, I believe that anything that helps people create, express, share and connect is essentially healthy and good.