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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 18:39 GMT
Fame or misfortune beckons for weblogs?
Google has bought the company which helped make weblogs a worldwide phenomenon. Does this mean blogs will now really hit the big time - or could going mainstream destroy their cult appeal?
When a successful search engine buys a software company, it usually is not interesting enough to warrant a lot of attention from ordinary people.

But when Google (the search engine-du-jour) purchased Pyra (a hip software company), and thereby acquired the technology behind Blogger (the software/website that powers millions of weblogs all over the world), it got a lot of attention.

Weblogs, for those of you still outside this ever-increasing loop, are personal web sites, updated frequently, and increasingly interlinked and interconnected to such an extent that some people have started to think of them as a kind of "hive mind" for the internet community.

WHAT ARE WEBLOGS?
Google headquarters
Weblogs, or 'blogs' for short, are frequently updated personal websites
They're made easy to build and update using sites such as Blogger and Movable Type
As American technology writer Dan Gilmor, who first reported the Google/Blogger story, has realised and publicly stated many times: with the advent of weblogging, the readers know more than the journalists. And the journalists had better remember that.

With the coming of weblog-enabled connected thinking, nothing published on the internet can be sure that it won't be dissected in minute detail, or subjected to the most stringent of criticism, by a global collective of people, sharing their thoughts and opinions about that subject via their weblogs and the network of links between them.

Vexed question

Why then is Google, a company proud of being little more than a very reliable search engine, interested in buying Pyra and the Blogger technology?

GOOGLED
Yes, it is a 'good thing' - it wasn't a case of needing to sell, we were doing well and getting better

Evan Williams, co-founder Pyra
That's the question now vexing the weblogging community. Across the blogosphere, from Slashdot (not really a blog, but often lumped in with them) to Boing Boing, from Anil Dash to Interconnected, they are talking about it and wondering what the implications might be for the future not just of Blogger, but of blogging.

Matt Webb, the London-based creator of Interconnected, a well-respected (and much-linked) weblog, thinks the deal can only be good news for both parties involved, and for everyone with a weblog.

"Blogger fits with the Google way of doing things," he said.

"Google's strategy is to make its search box deliver what users want, no matter what they type into it.

"They've noticed that people want the stuff that's happening right now, they want timely information and comment and the only place that can offer that is the weblogs.

"They don't just want to know what's on the weblogs themselves, they want to know what they are linking to."

Catch-up

With Google's backing, Blogger's future suddenly looks much brighter, irrespective of Google's motives. Evan Williams, co-founder of Pyra, was fairly open about the circumstances of the deal in a post on his weblog ("Actually, it was just the food,") and will now have the crucial infrastructure he needs to expand Blogger's features and catch up with some of the rival blogging software products that have leapt ahead in recent months.

Will the new resources mean more Blogger blogs? And will more blogs be a good thing?

WHAT'S THE POINT?
Everyone has a story to tell - and that's exactly what weblogs are good at

Rebecca Blood
Since there are already uncounted millions of weblogs out there, will the medium's emergence into the mainstream - one possible outcome of the Blogger deal - devalue the whole idea of blogging?

Most webloggers would say no. The consensus (as much as you can have a consensus in the blogosphere, where difference of opinion is often as important as the topic under discussion) seems to be that the more people blogging, the better.

Matt Webb again: "Weblogs are valuable in aggregate. Although there are ever greater numbers of weblogs to keep track of, people are developing software tools that make it easier to do just that.

"If this deal means more weblogs, so much the better. Better still, if Google decided to give something back to the weblog ecosystem some of the data it extracts from the Blogger database, thereby enabling others to piggyback more ideas and technologies from it, that would be even more wonderful."

Validation

Rebecca Blood, veteran weblogger and author of The Weblog Handbook, says weblogs are "vox populi".

"Everyone has a story to tell," she says. "And that's exactly what weblogs are good at."

No matter how many new weblogs appear - and Rebecca Blood expects there will be more as a result of the Google deal, if only because more people know about Google than know about Blogger - the blogosphere will only benefit.

"Google buying Blogger validates the importance of weblogs to the internet ecosystem. You can't devalue people and the things they care about."

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
04 Feb 02 | dot life
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