All About Blogs

Information about weblogs to help you understand what weblogs are and how they works. Ideas about websites.

During the 2004 presidential election, a word that was new to many Americans began to circulate. People were talking about political issues in a new format, the weblog, and bloggers were communicating their theories and speculation amongst themselves for all the country to read right on the Internet. Suddenly, this new means of communication seemed to be taking the country by storm, and many people were asking the question, "What in the world is a weblog?"

A weblog, also known as a blog, is a web application in which entries are made by date in reverse order. These blogs can be widely accessible, similar to a message board, or a controlled entity accessible only by those with rights to it. Weblogs are always associated with a web page, and the subject matter can be as serious as a political campaign or as frivolous as a fan page for a particular performer. What they have in common is that they are updated in "real" time and are published unedited and uncensored.

One of the most interesting aspects of many weblogs is that the authors can include links within their blogs directing the reader toward more information about the subject at hand. For example, a weblog that is about music might have links to other sites concerning a particular artist, or a place to buy the music. The information on the Internet is so vast that potentially, one weblog could link to another and another, in a seemingly endless string of information.

The first weblog was created by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the Internet. In 1980, Berners-Lee was working in Geneva, Switzerland for CERN as a software engineer. He developed a program that would organize information in a way that emulated the human brain. He called this program Enquire. He figured out how to create links between files in his own computer and wrote code that would identify these individual files.

Not content with just being able to access information on his own computer, Berners-Lee devised a way to interconnect the information on the computers of his colleagues as well. The first weblog was actually Berners-Lee's own site (and the first website), and was used to update his co-workers as new sites were added to the CERN database. Berners-Lee went on to develop language that would allow computers all over the world to access shared data, which led to today's Internet.

In 1993, Netscape kicked off "What's New," and that was the primary blog on the Internet. By 1997, the world was coming online, and weblogs expanded rapidly along with the Web. Jorn Barger actually named the weblog in December 1997. The verb, blog, came into use in 1999, and was used to describe posting or editing a weblog. The first weblog hosting services were introduced in 1999, making it much easier for people to post and edit on the Internet. Blogger was created by Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan, and ultimately purchased by Google.



Weblogs began to take on a political tone in 2002. Some bloggers began promoting the U.S. attack on Iraq, and information was spread rapidly through this format. Because a weblog is unedited and facts are unchecked, the potential for misinformation certainly exists. On the other hand, bloggers are able to publish information that they uncover about politicians and circulate this news without fear of repercussion. A good example of this is the intense scrutiny of Trent Lott, which ultimately led to his demise.

Weblogs increased in popularity, and by 2003, they were being used by both amateurs and professional news writers. Because of the immediacy of the medium, breaking news can be published as it happens, updating the public instantly. Presidential candidates Howard Dean and Wesley Clark both used weblogs to keep their supporters up-to-date on campaign events and news stories. During the war in Iraq, Internet users in the United States were able to read blogs by writers in Baghdad, updating readers on daily campaigns and the reactions of the citizens to the events. This phenomenon put U.S. readers right into the thick of the war without having to leave home.

By 2004, weblogs were routinely being used to monitor the pulse of Americans. Bloggers began appearing on news shows, and printed copies of political blogs were published as books. Blogging was everywhere. In fact, blogging became so much a part of the political landscape that the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary's word of the year for 2004 was "Blog."

One case in particular where blogs played a critical role in the outcome of an event was the case of CBS and the memos that were used on 60 Minutes 2 questioning the President's military service. Dan Rather cited these memos as fact, but bloggers quickly gathered information that was enough to make the authenticity of these memos questionable. The bloggers would not let go of the story until finally CBS had no choice but to investigate. The result, of course, was that the network ultimately apologized and a number of employees were fired.

Many people are now using weblogs as a sort of online journal. This format is especially popular with teenagers, but many websites feature a weblog section where the principals of the site post daily thoughts or other information. Many performers have weblog journals on their websites and update fans as to their upcoming tours, CDs or what they have been doing. Weblogs really do bring people together electronically.

Online editions of local newspapers are using the weblog format to update their sites with breaking news each day. A link to the blog story on the home page will direct readers to the most current breaking news. No long do newspapers have to go to press with a special edition for a big story. Even in the middle of the night, a blogger with access to the site's weblog can write a news story that is published in real time and can be updated as events unfold. Modern technology continues to evolve, and certainly new developments will continue to occur with weblogs and bloggers. The potential is vast and this technology is still in its infancy. Weblogs are here to stay and will remain a vibrant force on the Internet for many years.

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