I heard a recounting of weblog history on the radio this morning, and it’s completely wrong. If it were just once I would ignore it, but I hear this history repeated on the CBC over and over. Even a tiny bit of research on the matter would have avoided this problem. It seems that someone at the CBC would rather go with their gut on the history of the weblog than actually look it up.
Weblogs did not begin as “diaries”. This is like saying radio began in 1981 with the launch of MTV. Weblogs in fact began as change logs for websites. At the time, it was standard practice to post a line with a date attached to indicate that change had been made to a website. With time, those change logs morphed into sites dedicated not to posting diary-like reflections but annotated links. The first incarnation of weblogs was as an annotated bibliography of the web, since searching wasn’t quite as easy and efficient as it is now, and this was a way to make sure people saw the cool parts of the web.
Blogging didn’t get conflated with personal online diaries until well after 1999 with the creation of Blogger, and when I started blogging in earnest in 2000, blogs were still largely expected to be link-heavy rather than diary-like. As blogging got easier and the broadband revolution took over (with more and more parents getting home connections and more and more teenagers getting online as a matter of course), blogs were increasingly expected to be personal accounts of daily life. At that time, blogging platforms like Livejournal, Xanga, MySpace, etc. started being used more frequently for personal purposes. With increased access to the internet, the userbase of the internet changed; new users were more interested in sharing their personal stories and less interested in geeking out about the web. While blogging was intially a sort of meta-internet (creating websites about other websites), with time users of all stripes started using the web as a means of communication rather than as a tool to remark on the medium itself.
Today, there are blogs of all varieties; political, professional, corporate, personal, fictional, etc. Highlighting one element of the blog world (the personal, diary-like weblog or the political journals alone) does a great disservice to the medium, and encourages the general perception of weblogs as simply diaries or pulpits of political opinion. They are so much more than that.