I sometimes think of myself as a blog archeologist. As I’ve mentioned before I got into blogging fairly early. 2003 wasn’t the birth of blogging but it was early days. Since then I’ve been far more of a blog reader than a writer. Anybody who follows any of my blogs can attest to that.
Back in the olden days I followed a blog. The person eventually moved overseas and I lost touch and stopped reading their blog. About two years ago I rediscovered them on the internet. They had been blogging the entire time. They had changed platforms a couple of times but all the posts in all three blogging platforms still existed. When I realized they had a different spouse I knew I had missed plenty. So I went back and read from where I had left them to the present. I read about moves and unemployment, children being born, sickness, a divorce and a remarriage.
This caused my rekindled love for the personal blog. Not only did I start following a lot of blogs again, but I have been reading them from their beginning. I’ve only done this with a handful of blogs at this point but it has been fun and enlightening.
1. The ancient past (1999-2003)
Not much remains of this ancient period. Many of the blogs no longer exist and many of the blogging platforms have disappeared. But I have found a few blogs started in this period that are still running or up. Blogging was a much simpler affair back then. Rarely were pictures involved and most posts where simple descriptions of the authors day. "I went for a run this morning. Later I met Bob for lunch." Posts where generally short much like facebook status updates. You often find people during this period complaining about using dial-up or having to find internet cafes. Note: 1999 was the year blogger was first made public.
2. The age of growth and innocence lost (2003 - 2007)During this period personal blogging really took off. Several solid platforms existed. Wordpress was released in 2003. Home internet starting becoming more common. Posts became longer though still several times a week. Blogging meant not only writing your own blog but also, reading and commenting on blogs. A slew of communities began to be created. People of like interests would share links, comment, and support each other.
This period also saw the rise of the popular personal blogger. People who would begin getting thousands of readers of their blogs. This helped spur the end of the innocence in blogging in two ways. First, people became aware that blogs were not anonymous(even if they tried to be) and were public. One of the most famous cases of this was the story of petite anglais. Her employer discovered her blog and fired her over contents. Several blogs completely disappear at this point. Their authors just seemed to not even take the chance of of being found out. Heck at the time I would put up personal medical details without even a thought. Secondly, now that people had many readers, the possibility of profit entered the picture. Bloggers started inking book deals, adding ads, and trying other ways to monetize their efforts.
3. Growth and Decline(2007 - 2010)This new found money led to an influx of people looking to get on the train. People started creating blogs looking to capture certain SEO rich topics. Some bloggers just kept on trucking with what they had been writing before while many tried to tailor their writing style and topics to acquire as many readers as possible. Some where successful, many were not.
During the middle of this period we see the big rise of facebook and twitter into mainstream popularity. We begin to see a corresponding decrease in blogland. You see a log of blogs dwindle to nothing. They authors post less and less and then just stop. Sometime there is a final message but often the blog just waits there in hopes someday of being reborn. I think many of these people just went to facebook and twitter for quick life updates. Why bother with the hassle of a blog post when you can just quickly fling something out on your smartphone.
4. Rebirth in the time of Facebook(2010 --)
Blogging has experienced a comeback in the last few years. Many people are creating blogs as a way to write long form to complement their other online activity. For many, their blog is the centerpiece of their social media presence. On their blog they have widgets that connect you to their twitter stream, or pinterest activity.
I will not vouch for the accuracy of anything I've said here. I am not a social scientist studying blog culture, I am just some dude who reads blogs.