The story of the rise of Blogger from the ashes of a dotcom startup to the largest blogging service in the world takes up a whole chapter in Say Everything. So when Rick Klau of Google’s Blogger team invited me to participate in a panel as part of Blogger’s 10th birthday celebration, I was happy to accept.
Last night I took a seat to talk about where blogging has been and where it’s going alongside Rick and his colleage Siobhan Quinn; prominent tech blogger (and Blogger user) Louis Gray; Blogher cofounder Jory des Jardins; Blogger and Twitter founder Evan Williams; and Twitter cofounder Biz Stone (who long ago worked at the early blog network Xanga and also worked on Blogger after it was acquired by Google).
Klau gave us some Blogger numbers to chew on:
He also announced a new partnership between Blogger and Socialvibe, which channels charitable contributions from web pages.
Jory Des Jardins shared some of the research from Blogher: bloggers on that network cite top motivations as “fun,” “self-expression,” and “networking.” Making money always takes last place on these lists, she said.
Klau talked about how Google itself uses blogs (more than 100 now), and now Twitter as well, to talk with its users. (I remember Google’s earliest days, when it really didn’t talk with anyone at all, beyond a handful of media folks.) He also discussed efforts to clean up the Blogspot hosted service, which a couple of years ago had developed the reputation of a spam-ridden “not nice neighborhood.” Today, he said, the percentage of spam page views on Blogspot has declined to “the low single digits.”
Williams recalled the moment, a year or two after the introduction of Blogger, when its creators began to imagine the possibility of a world in which every company and every politician would have their own blog: “At the time, these were crazy ideas.”
Stone pointed out the subtle transition in our understanding of blogging implicit in Blogger’s switch from the “Powered by Blogger” slogan at the bottom of users’ pages to “I power Blogger.”
I reminded people of the irony that, even though Blogger today is known as the sort of Everyman’s blog service, for its first year, it required that you host your own domain in order to use it. That made it tough for everyday people to use it, but perfect for the early-adopter blog-geek crowd — people who already had their own domains, didn’t want to give them up, but appreciated the convenience of Blogger’s publishing tool. This approach — enthrall the in-crowd first, then make it easy for everyone else to join in — turns out to be a very effective formula for startup growth, even if, in Blogger’s case, it was more stumbled upon than planned in advance.
None of this will do you any good, to be sure, unless what you’re offering has some intrinsic appeal and value. Blogger most certainly did, and does — along with all its progeny, including Movable Type and WordPress, all of which together have made posting your words on the Web a thing of once-impossible-to-imagine ease today.