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Happy 20th Birthday Blogger!

Twenty years ago today, folks were Livin' la Vida Loca and Blogger was born at Pyra Labs*.

"Weblogs" were a fairly new idea, and Blogger was not only one of the first weblog platforms, but also helped popularize the terms "blog" and "blogging", which is not quite as much of a mouthful.


After struggles with funding, Blogger was sold to Google in February 2003. This may have rescued the platform, as Guardian reported at the time:
The sale is a dramatic turnaround for San Francisco-based Blogger, which rode the high and subsequent low of the dotcom boom. The company was founded in 1999, and Mr Williams had to lay off the company's entire staff in late 2000. He continued to maintain the service by himself from his home until last year, when he increased revenues by starting a premium version.

In those early days, Blogger's own blog - "Blogger Buzz" - had a casual tone, and frequently highlighted interesting blogs and bloggers, from both celebrities and regular folk (most of which no longer exist). There were blogging tools, meetupsparties and awards.

In the few years after Google's purchase, Blogger got a number new features like autosaving draft postsmobile postingfree image hostingmonetization with AdSense, and much more. 

I think of the mid-2000s as the golden years of blogging. "Bloggers" were named "People of the Year" by ABC News and it seemed like everyone at least took a stab at it. Google launched the much-beloved Reader, an easy way to keep up with content on sites with feeds and blog search and discovery site Technorati reported exponential growth of the "blogosphere".

But social media was also appearing on the scene. MySpace launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006. Social platforms were moving in as an easy place to post personal updates where your friends were likely to see it.

Blogger stats in March 2011, just a few months before the launch of Google+.

While it feels like social media has taken over much of publishing over the past decade, the tide may be turning. As there have been increasing concerns about privacy breaches, harassment and fickle algorithms on Facebook and Twitter, there are rumblings that blogging is making a comeback.

Why I use Blogger

I created my first Blogger blog in May 2004, when Blogger was less than 5 years old. I mostly posted personal updates and shared links (and no, I'm not linking it here).

Since then I've started (and mostly abandoned) half a dozen blogs. One of my blogs was even featured on Blogger's old "Blogs of Note", which was exciting! 

In those early years, bloggers (with a small b) helped promote each other with blogrollswebrings, and blog carnivals.We commented on each others posts, and discussed topics and blogging in forums and email lists. It didn't feel like solitary posting; it felt like being part of a community. I was aiming for that "Magic Middle" of the attention curve; I'd never make the "A List" of blogs, but I didn't want to be so far out on the "long tail" I didn't have any readers.

Much of that old community long moved on to social media. And that's where I now post my personal updates and photos. 

But I've found that social media posting isn't great for writing detailed posts. I want to be able to format text and images, not be at the mercy of changing algorithms, and be able to easily move to a new platform if my social media platform of choice is shut down (RIP Google+).

I've also tried other blogging platforms from LiveJournal to self-hosted WordPress. I've always come back to Blogger. 

Blogger has the features I need. For my purposes, I don't need a full-fledged content management system. Blogger lets me easily create posts and pages with text, images, and embedded content. 

Blogger is customizable. I can modify one of Blogger's themes, or install one created by a third-party template designer. If I don't like Blogger comments, I can switch to Disqus or another comment system. And there isn't a limit to embedding content, widgets, buttons and other website gew-gaws (whether that's a good idea is another issue).

Blogger is both completely free and lets me monetize. Blogger is not only 100% free of charge, but I'm allowed to place ads on my content. I can choose the advertising platform and insert the ads where I want them to appear. WordPress.com has limited monetization options for free accounts, and your readers won't run into a paywall the way they can on Medium.

I don't have to worry about updates or traffic spikes. Because it's on Google's servers, I don't have to worry about keeping the platform up to date or whether I have enough bandwidth if one of my posts starts getting a ton of traffic (a problem I'd love to have!). 

Blogger is integrated in the Google ecosystem. It's easy to link my Blogger blog to AdSense and Google Analytics, set it up in Google Search Console, insert images from my Google Photos or videos from my YouTube channel. That may not be a selling point if you aren't using other Google products, but I find it quite handy.

I'm not locked in to Blogger. When Google+ shut down, many of us found that being able to export your content isn't that useful if you can't read it or import it to another platform. When you expert your content from Blogger you can import it into WordPress. And by using a Custom Domain I shouldn't lose much traffic if I did move to another platform (that supports Custom Domains, of course).

That's not to say Blogger is perfect. There are many features I wish they'd implement (Responding to comments on the Comments tab! A recycle bin for deleted posts! Spruced up Profile pages! Tables in posts!). But Blogger does what I need it to do.

I also have seen some concern that Blogger will be shut down as have so many other Google products. While surprise shut-downs aren't unheard of, I was more concerned about Blogger when Google+ seemed to be Google's primary focus. While Blogger has had few major updates in recent years, I don't see any indication it will be going away anytime soon.

I'm hoping for 20 more years of blogging. At least!

Edited to add: Paolo Amoroso has noted this 2018 comment about Blogger's future by Elliott Ng, Google's Director of Product Management, Content Creation and Search Tools:
 Why does Google even care about Blogger? :) It’s actually still a HUGE platform and important part of the internet. I’d rather not share specific metrics, but we’re around the same size or maybe a little larger than WordPress.com (just the hosted version by Automattic — not the full WP ecosystem which is much larger) and thus multiples in size in monthly active readers compared to other nice and vibrant platforms like Medium (and we’re bigger than Google+ not surprisingly!) We’re might not be as big in the Valley and in your newsfeed, but we’re HUUUGE in Indonesia, India, and Brazil and many part of the emerging markets where the Web is very sparse and fragile.

Blogger Trivia

Writing this post, I spent some time perusing the Blogger Buzz archives and found some interesting tidbits.

* Pyra labs was founded by Ev Williams and Meg Hourihan. Ev Williams was later CEO of Twitter, and founded Medium in 2012. Meg Hourihan co-founded Kinja along with Nick Denton of Gawker Media.

Header: Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels 

Comments

  1. This is where I get my Google news.

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  2. Yours is one of the first Blogger blogs I came across, especially when looking for help. During my ten years some have drifted away from blogging, but there are still, always new people coming in.

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    1. Diana: that's totally true. And I feel like maybe these days there are a higher percentage of new bloggers who are a bit serious about it, since people can post their short updates on Twitter :)

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  3. This has been so fun to read, and informational. I've really loved it. Thank you for writing this!

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    1. It was really fun researching it and trawling through the Internet Archive. Good memories there :)

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  4. Thanks for inspiration to stick to Blogger, I was almost fed up listening by SEO Marketers that Blogger platform is not at all SEO Optimized, in order to get indexed better for your content switch to Wordpress.

    Thanks for all the help!

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