Creating and sharing content is one of the fundamental pillars of existing online. Before Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or even MySpace, there were blogs. From the first blog in 1994 to the rise of vlogging, blogging has come a long way and has changed shape many times. Today’s blogs don’t look anything like they did 20 years ago.
Micro-blogging and social media have transformed the landscape, and when bigger companies and publishers began posting online, the landscape of content on the internet shifted permanently. The history of blogs is the history of the internet, and their evolution provided the framework for the online world as we know it today. Let’s look at the evolution of blogging to learn more about where blogging’s been, how it’s changed, and where it’s headed.
The first blog was created 23 years ago by Justin Hall, who was an undergraduate student at Swarthmore at the time. It was called links.net and was a series of short, personal dispatches and links. Hall is regarded as the first blogger, but it wasn’t long before others began following suit, keeping a record of their thoughts, lives, and interests online. It wasn’t yet called “blogging,” though.
In 1999, Peter Merholz shortened the commonly accepted term “weblog” to “blog.” Companies like Blogger and Livejournal sprung up around the blogging revolution, and shortly thereafter, recording daily thoughts and events online extended to video.
By 2002, blogs were beginning to prove themselves as viable platforms. That year brought the rise of mommy bloggers and the launch of Google Adsense, which allowed bloggers to make money by serving relevant ads alongside their content. In 2003, WordPress and Typepad came on the scene, and The Guardian started live blogging. Then, in 2005, everything changed.
YouTube launched in 2005, as did the Huffington Post. Media companies moved content online, and reported articles, expert and opinion blog posts, and sites that aggregated written content on the web became central to the experience of being online.
Over the next several years, more changes to blogging came with the introduction of microblogging platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. Though they function differently, both allow users to create, find, and share content without maintaining their own web pages. The focus shifted from writing posts to creating videos, sending tweets, and curating feeds.
Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube gave rise to more creators who were creating different types of content in very different ways. There’s a stark difference between 140-character dispatches and lengthy blog posts on a personal site, but social media sites like Twitter filled a need or want for logging and recording daily thoughts, activities and opinions. Blogging didn’t die, but it did move.
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Writing online saw a fundamental shift when opportunities arose for bloggers to move from personal web pages to structured publications and aggregators. Many bloggers found full-time work within media companies online, and blogs with that covered targeted topics with a level of expertise rose to the top of the pile.
Mommy bloggers were among the first successful niche bloggers, and many have continued to cultivate and maintain a large culture and community around parenting content with some growing their audiences further on YouTube and Instagram.
More bloggers followed in their footsteps and found success creating content around topics that are too nuanced for short posts on social media. Product reviews, in-depth comparison guides (e.g. Money Saving Mom’s “Food Subscription Box” comparison) recipe collections, and niche blogs all find dedicated audiences who are looking for content that’s detailed and ongoing. Blogs are an opportunity for creators to build a knowledge base and authority around topics that they’re passionate about, and audiences respond to that dedication and expertise.
The way in which people create and share online continues to change. Blogging isn’t just the practice of creating and posting a written “log” online — it’s the foundation of sharing content on the internet. Blogs are at the root of the way that we share our lives online and the way that we find creators who speak to us. They were the first influencers — the people who curated experiences on the internet and built communities around shared interests.
The personal blogs that live on WordPress, LiveJournal, or Blogger accounts may not be as common in the age of tweets, but the impulse remains, and plenty of creators are still building communities around blog posts. Influencers today share their lives differently, but blogs are still hubs of activity for people looking for something they can’t get from tweets, Instagram posts, and Snaps.