Oh man am I happy! People that hadn't written on their blog in a long time are blogging again. Websites that hadn't been updated in many years, some over a decade, are being spruced up and published to again. And popular news outlets are publishing articles about blogging.
Of course, those of us that have kept our focus on blogging know that blogging never died. The activity of publishing just moved around from platform to platform. In some cases behind a wall like on Facebook and Instagram, in others, into data silos where the content couldn't flow out onto the open web like Twitter.
Perhaps you're reading this and you totally ignored blogging over the last few decades or you're a young person just starting to venture into the blogging world. I won't cover the entire history of blogging but let me sum up what happened in just one paragraph.
The weblog exploded onto the scene in the early 2000s. Many websites were being frequently updated prior to that, but the blog format really jumped into the mainstream during that time. There were millions of active blogs. Then, social networks sprang up to help make publishing on the web easier or more approachable. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - all of these began to see enormous growth in popularity and the amount of content that is published on them. Today, hundreds of millions of posts (which, are not unlike blog posts) are published on these three platforms daily. So, in a way, blogging is more popular than ever. The thing that changed was where people published.
And, that was a shame for a variety of reasons.
Having your own personal website is still not as easy as signing up to Instagram. And the fear of publishing to a blog paralyzes some people. However, the advantages to having your own website are myriad. You own it. The content that is on it can be visible to everyone on the web. The fate of your blog isn't tied to the fate of a public or venture backed company. Etc.
I think the resurgence we are seeing has been caused by many variables. Two primary drivers over the last few months has been the upheaval caused by unhinged billionaires and privacy invasive business models. But I think there are other factors at play too.
One possibility is that the same people that desired a much more simple publishing tool in the early 2000s are now older, wiser, more patient and desire more control, ownership, and features. When I started publishing on the web I was 15 years old. I'm 42 now. I've changed a lot over that time period. So, some of the recent surge may be that people are willing to put in the time to have a home on the web they can be proud of and that scratches their particular itches.
Then there are those that already had blogs that laid dormant for a few years. They found their audiences on Twitter and so they saw far more engagement there. And, for those willing to admit it, they became addicted to the feedback loop of having large followings on social media platforms. When they publish to their blog it sort of feels like throwing a ball into a black hole. But publishing onto social media, when you have tens of thousands of followers, feels like playing table tennis. Even with that addiction to engagement, they desire to own their audience rather than build one for a tech giant. And so they reach for their blogs hoping to bring that audience from social media onto their own platform.
Some of them will succeed. Some of them will crawl back to social media once the dust settles over the protest du jour.
Whether or not blogging is alive or dead is not a new topic of discussion. It is a topic that reoccurs every few years. I've written about it dozens of times. But the current push seems slightly different. I believe we will see many more people blogging again or, at the very least, publishing on a platform that compliments the web rather than chafe at it.
A set of protocols or standards will need to come along to help connect all publishing platforms together. The incredibly useful features we find inside of networks like Twitter will need to find their way out onto the world wide web. This means bringing actions like following or subscribing, mentioning, citing, link previewing, etc. to the independent web and have them be completely separate from any single service.
The IndieWeb set the standards for some of the tools and protocols we now see finding footing. ActivityPub has been a boon for modern day platforms, like Mastodon, to give people the best of both worlds -- you can have your ease of publishing and be web friendly too. I hope we see a lot more platforms built from the priciples of the IndieWeb so that people don't need to think about federation, microformats, syndication feeds, webmentions, etc. People do not care about these things. Developers need to.
I'm so very happy that blogging is getting a shot in the arm.
Here are a few links worth looking at:
- The Year of the Personal Website - Matthias Ott
- Bring back personal blogging - Monique Judge for The Verge
- Personalsit.es - By Andy Bell, a showcase of personal websites
- Ooh.directory - By Phil Gyford, a directory of blogs