Even though Microsoft’s spell check insists that “blog” and “blogger” are not real words, they’ve been in the dictionary since 2003. Blogs and their platforms have a lengthy history.
The beginnings of blogging was a time not unlike today: Plaid was in style, a beloved rock star had passed, and the Internet was just gaining momentum on college campuses. In 1994, then Swarthmore College student Justin Hall started an online diary called Justin’s Links from the Underground. The site, which first started as a guide to the web, soon became an account of Hall’s life and earned him the surely coveted title of pioneer blogger. Three years later, Jorn Barger would coin the term “weblog,” and its short form, “blog,” was later coined by Peter Merholz.
Today, the web is comprised of millions of blogs covering every topic imaginable. Here is a short history of some of the medium’s most popular platforms.
1. Open Diary
Founded in 1998 by Bruce Ableson, Open Diary was the first website that brought online journal keepers together as a community, as users had the ability to read each other’s journals and leave comments on them. To date, the site has hosted more than five million diaries since launch, with more than half a million diaries currently being used.
2. Live Journal
Live Journal was launched in April 1999 by Danga Interactive’s Brad Fitzpatrick. It was one of the first free blogging platforms and online communities. For the first few years, the service was by invitation only but eventually became accessible to everyone.
What started as a fun project — a way for Fitzpatrick to keep up with his old high school friends in pre-Facebook days — soon became too big for one person, and Live Journal began hiring their first team.
In 2005, Six Apart bought Danga Interactive, with Fitzpatrick continuing to work on the site. In 2007, a Russian company called SUP purchased Live Journal and established LiveJournal Inc. to run it.
Similar to MySpace, Xanga started off in 1999 as a social networking site frequented by teens. One year later, Xanga added blogging capabilities. The platform offers users the option of giving “eProps” to show love for a particular post. The site has an estimated 40 million users (though I’ve yet to meet anyone who uses it), and is the 1,438th most visited site in the world.
Blogger was created by San Francisco company Pyra Labs in 1999. Created on a “whim” according to the site, Blogger took off, gaining in popularity. The site was bought by Google in 2003, and the platform subsequently saw the integration of Picasa and Hello.
5. Dead Journal
Based on the same open source code as Live Journal but with a darker theme, Dead Journal was created by Frank Precissi in 2001 and became a place for Goths and emo kids to write their dark, angsty thoughts. The site actually touts itself as a place “where you find the journals that nobody else wants to see or even host,” and that they “love pissed off people, if you’re a pissed off person who hates incompetence, please sign up now!” With only 500,000 accounts, it’s surprising that every netizen isn’t a member.
Launched in 2003, TypePad comes from Live Journal’s buyer, Six Apart. TypePad is based on Movable Type’s platform with the two sharing the same templates, technology and APIs. TypePad was Six Apart’s platform for the non-technical blogger. Unlike most blogging sites, TypePad isn’t free, but users do get their own .com domain names.
“WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPL,” according to the site. It launched in 2003 as a joint creation between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little as the successor to Michel Valdrighi’s b2/cafelog blogging site. Today, WordPress is the most popular blogging platform with 54,283 of the top million sites on the Internet using it, including Mashable.
MySpace launched in 2003 ready to take on Friendster as the social network of the day. Created by Brad Greenspan, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, the site was similar to how it looks today; hosting full profiles and very basic blogging options. Today, according to MySpace, there are 225,747,687 blogs on the site.
Created by wunderkind David Karp in 2007, Tumblr is a recent addition to the blogosphere. Users are able to easily upload photos, text, images, video and conversation to the site for short, quick posts or lengthier ones. The site emphasizes its ease of use and encourages sharing by allowing users to “re-blog” posts they loved. With more than 6 million blogs, The New York Times (strangely) called it, “Facebook and Twitter‘s new rival.”