Back when blogs didn’t exist…or did they?
By Eric Pangburn Web Success Team Contributor
Looking back, it is hard to imagine that there was a time when things such as “blogs”, “blogging” and “bloggers” didn’t exist. Yes, some of us have been around long enough to remember when everyone didn’t have some sort of online presence. Things are a lot different today as blogs are routinely used by everyone in order to achieve web success, implement corporate branding and act as an effective tool in direct response marketing. In fact, direct response websites – of which blogs are only some of the more recognizable incarnations – can be some of the most effective tools to have at your disposal to grow your business online. The online world is a constantly changing environment and you neglect the blogging phenomenon at your own risk.
Communication in the pre-blog age
This is not to say that people didn’t have any means by which to share information, we have indeed advanced dramatically since the “two cups tied to a string” phase, thereby enabling peers to interact with each other before the advent of blogs and blogging. Back then, there were actually numerous thriving digital communities, among which the legendary USENET, GEnie, BiX and CompuServe reigned supreme. In addition, there were also e-mail lists. By the time the 1990s rolled around, certain enterprising individuals and companies banded together to create WebEx, which was the first online service to introduce the concept of “threaded” conversations. Tell that to the Facebook-happy online cowboys of today! This early online communications model – which can be paralleled to posting and replying to messages on a corkboard– served as the blueprint upon which virtually all online communications services that have come along since then have been built on.
While CD’s were busy outselling vinyl, blogs were busy putting outdated and old fashion norms of communication six-feet under… permanently. The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 indeed marked the end of an era that was defined by ancient forms of communication, and introduced an uprising of technological advancements in blogging and the online world.
Online diary and so much more
The next significant phase in the development of blogging occurred between the years of 1994 and 2001, where the concept of “the blog” as an online diary first took root. This essentially meant thousands of people kept an online record of everything that went on in their lives. The term “blogger” wasn’t used then obviously – in fact, it probably hadn’t even been conceptualized yet – and most people who engaged in such online activities referred to themselves as “diarists” or “journalists”. Many of these practitioners were members of the academe and the scientific communities, and these people are recognized today as the earliest “bloggers” in the modern sense of the word.
It is surprising to note that these early blogs actually had more in common with modern blogs than you would think. An early blog called the Wearable Wireless WebCam utilized text, graphics, and video in pretty much the same manner that modern blogs do today. Of course, the results were far from the smooth and slick displays that confront you with some of today’s more impressive blogs, but you can definitely see the roots of today’s current blogging scene at work in these early examples.
Blogging trickles down to the masses
As significant as all these previous events have been, these wouldn’t have been much different if it weren’t for the introduction of easier to use blogging tools that essentially served to democratize the entire blogging process. Back then, blogging remained a “black art” for many of the less technologically inclined Web residents, many of whom didn’t have the slightest idea about how to go about putting together a blog. Apparently, Borders didn’t carry “Blogging for Dummies.” This eventually led to the rise of a new stream of online publishing and made it easy for anyone anywhere to post his or her thoughts online without having to know very much about the underlying technologies. These days, you can simply download some sort of browser-based blogging software, of which services such as WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger and LiveJournal are some of the most widely used.
The origins of the word
All this still hasn’t explained where the term “blog” came from. As it turns out, the term “weblog” was introduced by Jorn Barger, with Peter Merholz later coming up with a shortened term “blog”, and the rest is history. It was shortly afterwards that “blog” came in the popular usage as both a noun and as a verb.
Blogging is a potent political tool
Beginning roughly around 2001, blogging became particularly prevalent among certain individuals in the American political scene. Blogs such as Politics1.com, Political Wire, Instapundit, and Little Green Footballs all greatly contributed to the wider spread exchange of information among political analyzers and the public. One blog called The Daily Dish achieved considerable popularity in the days after the September 11 tragedy involving the WTC twin Towers.
More recently, blogging has been used to marvelous effect during some of the more newsworthy political campaigns, such as the drive to instill now-President Barack Obama into the White House. If that doesn’t drive home the influencing power of the blog, then we don’t know what does!
Blogging made easier
By the end of the year, blogging was sufficiently popular to inspire the release of several blogging how-to guides, all of which aimed to instruct the general public on the finer points of blogging. At the same time, blogging’s role in the community outside of the Internet increased exponentially as well. In fact, even many of the more established journalism schools all over the world were looking into the implications of blogging as it related to traditional journalism.
Blogging today and in the future
Today, blogging has undeniably penetrated the mainstream, with everyone from high-powered corporate executives (and those involved in scientific and academic pursuits), to housewives (and even younger children) blogging on a regular basis.
It remains uncertain as to what the different forms of blogging would take on in the coming years. Even now, many bloggers have moved on from the Web into various other media such as radio and television. The migration process has gone the other way as well, with many personalities associated with “traditional” media having gone on to become influential bloggers in their own rights. One thing is for sure, with the many benefits that blogging continues to offer, anyone who is looking to achieve web success, grow your business online, launch a direct response marketing campaign, or simply get their thoughts out for the world to read, blogging will remain an important facet of the online experience for many years to come.