Why Do They Call It a Blog?

It's a weird word. Say it with me: blog. Weird.

Photo credit to NOGRAN s.r.o on Flickr.

There have been some weird words that have become popular as our century has worn on—I'm looking at you, twerk—but one of those that has always confounded me is blog. Who on Earth came up with that? In another life, a "blog" is probably a life form on an alien world that they encounter in Star Trek (Probably blobs of things, or perhaps an aquatic species that is ok with being named after something people do on the Internet.) But here, in this dimension, a blog is a website containing written entries about things. Here's the technical definition:

Blog (noun)
1. A website containing a writer's or group of writers' own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites.
2. A single entry or post on such a website.

Sounds about right. We're familiar with blogs, blogging, and bloggers in our daily lives, but who came up with the word blog? According to Dictionary.com, the word blog came to be popular in the period from 1995-2000, and is a shortening of "weblog."

Are you satisfied with that answer? Me neither. Let's keep going.

Origins of the Blog

In the 1990s, digital communities were in their infancy, mostly taking the form of email lists, Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), and commercial services like GEnie and Byte Information Exchange (BIX). 

The first initial inkling of something like a blog was the birth of forum software that could create running conversations, which would eventually enter the zeitgeist as "threads," which are connections between posts, like string connecting paper on a conspiracy theorist's wall.

Some companies, such as Mosaic Communications Corporation, began maintaining news lists on their websites, which were updated daily.

But a news feed is a far cry from a true blog. The modern idea of the blog came from the practice of keeping an online personal diary, where people would keep running accounts of their lives. A student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania named Justin Hall began his personal online diary in 1994, and he is considered one of the earliest of bloggers. Dave Winer's Scripting News, which also began in 1994, is credited with being one of the Internet's oldest and longest-running blogs.

Though, the term blog had not yet been invented, so these people would refer to themselves as "diarists," "journalists" (which probably made reporters angry) or "journalers." (I know, blogger is so much more catchy.)

These online diaries were called "weblogs" by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997, and the term must have gained a little bit of popularity, because the short form was coined in one such "weblog." Peter Merholz, the author of Peterme.com, jokingly broke the word into "we blog" in his sidebar in May 1999, and the term stuck.

Shortly after Merholz's sidebar stunt, a man working for Pyra Labs by the name of Evan Williams used the term "blog" as both a noun and verb, which gave us the activity of "blogging," and he also devised the term "blogger" for users in connection with the product that Pyra Labs was developing—Blogger, which was purchased by Google in 2003 and remains one of the most popular free blogging platforms in the world. And thus, blogs were born.

As of 2008, blogs were so popular that a new blog was being created every second. And, though they took a hit in 2004 with the creation of Facebook, blogs have remained a significant medium within the digital world. Now, we have what is referred to as the "blogosphere," which is the collective community of all blogs and bloggers out there on the Internet. The blogosphere is monitored closely by mainstream media and marketing companies, as it has proven to be a good indicator of both trends and public opinion.

Cool, right? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to update my blog.

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Why Do They Call It a Blog?