Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 09:03 UK

Blogger marks 10 year milestone

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Blogger front page 1990
How Blogger looked back in its early days

In an age when online dialogue lasts no more than 140 characters, some have pondered just how relevant the business of blogging remains.

Those running one of the world's most popular blogging platforms argue that this very personal way to share, sound off and express oneself has a healthy future ahead if the numbers are any guide.

With a decade under its belt, Blogger boasts more than 300 million active readers and enough words to fill about 3.2 million novels.

That equates to 270,000 words a minute or 388 million a day on Blogger.

"We are a product that lives and dies by the stories that the user tells using our platform. Without that, Blogger doesn't exist," said Rick Klau, Blogger product manager.

"Blogging has become part of the air on the internet. And I believe we will see a bit of a renaissance in blogging where whole new groups of people will understand this gives them a lot more control and flexibility in what they share and how they share it."

Industry watcher and founder of Salon.com, Scott Rosenberg believes most people will want to continue to tell those stories using blogs.

"If you can express an idea in 140 characters, Twitter is great. But there are a significant number of ideas and stories that don't fit that format and blogs are simply a better outlet for that."

Milestone

Blogger was started in 1999 in the midst of the dotcom boom as a side project by San Francisco start-up Pyra.

One of its founders was Ev Williams, who is now one of the triumvirate behind the micro-blogging service Twitter.

Blogger was created on a whim to aid in-house communication but the team opened it up to see if anyone else liked it.

Passenger plane hits second tower of World Trade Center on 11 September 2001
The events of 9/11 put blogging on the map

It quickly took off thanks to world events.

"Blogging first emerged in the tech world," said Mr Rosenberg, the author of Say Everything which chronicles blogging's rise.

"The next big milestone that helped take blogging further out into the world were the terrorist attacks of 9/11. People used blogging as a way to reach out, share their grief and debate what had happened.

"Journalists went there to find eyewitnesses and for information and quotes. Once they started writing about blogs, that of course published it to a wider world," said Mr Rosenberg.

He also said that the New York attacks showed people the value of blogging and that it was no longer just for geeks.

"There was always the dismissal of blogging as being about people telling you what they had for lunch but what 9/11 demonstrated, even to the sceptics, was that the ability to self publish to a large number of individuals had public value."

Not long after, search giant Google recognised that value and bought Pyra for an undisclosed sum.

Personal printing press

Industry commentators argue that blogging marked a change in how people communicated and what they were willing to share publicly.

"It was unique at the time," said Mr Klau, who began blogging himself in 2001.

blog her conf08
Blogging gives women a voice and sense of community says BlogHer

"At the time we weren't yet used to interacting socially on the computer. The web was not about writing stuff and certainly not about sharing. It was not a personal place and Blogger, I think, really changed all that," he said.

"Blogging was truly born on the web," Mr Rosenberg told BBC News.

"It was native to the medium. It was logical. It made sense and it spread."

Women were one of the biggest groups to take to the format.

"Women were used to writing journals, but they took this to another level where they were finding community," said Jory Des Jardins, co-founder of BlogHer.

It is today's leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women reaching more than 15 million women every month.

"The top three reasons why women blog are for fun, expression and to meet other people like them," she said.

"Today we are seeing a shift in the way people are leveraging blogs, finding new jobs, creating consultancies, and creating voices for themselves in ways they could never have done before.

"It's a personal printing press," said Ms Des Jardins.

Anonymity

While Blogger credits its success to the myriad voices who use it, it caught criticism in early 2009 year over the naming of an anonymous blogger who posted insults about model Liskula Cohen.

Ms Cohen went to court to force Google to identify those behind a blog called "Skanks of NYC."

Blogger front page 2009
Blogger's front page ten years on stresses ease of use

Rosemary Port, the identified blogger, subsequently announced she would sue Google for $15m (£9.4m) for failing to protect her identity.

"When the court compels the production of information, we will produce that information. As a corporate citizen we don't have any choice in that regard," said Mr Klau.

"There is nothing in our terms of service that says you can't blog anonymously. Nothing to say you can't say things about people that are not nice. They can't use it as a shield to say something that is possibly defamatory."

The case led to claims that freedom of expression was being eroded, Mr Rosenberg believes that anonymity is not there for people to hide behind.

"The web has some rules that are its own but you are not entering some magic zone where the laws of the land no longer apply because you have stepped into the web.

"Anonymity has its limits on the web. Sooner or later if you are successful enough to develop a large audience for your blog, people will find out who you are," he said.

Immersive

Over the last 10 years Blogger's look has changed little, a fact Mr Klau believes has aided its success.

Blogger product manager Rick Lau
Mr Klau says people are sharing more and feeling comfortable about it

"There is a lot going on under the hood technologically speaking to keep this working for hundreds of millions of users around the world.

"But our key is that we simply need to stay out of the way of our users and let them tell us where they need us to be. They are the ones with the stories."

In the future Mr Klau hopes to leverage Google's strength and its array of products to make Blogger more immersive.

"That is part of our challenge and if we can make it so that you can click a button and say survey your readers, that would be great. Something our users have asked for is to make it easier to give things away and we are trying to figure that out."



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