Once a neologism, the blogosphere celebrates a 10th Birthday this week. Here at Chitika we are thrilled to commemorate a decade of blogging. Since its advent, the blogosphere has been loosely defined, which in itself is congruous to a blog’s open and casual nature as a communicative medium. The word blog was contrived by Jon Barger on December 17th, 1997. Barger created the word to describe his Robot Wisdom web page, and according to BBC News, “the word was an abbreviation of the “logging” of interesting “web” sites that Mr. Barger featured on his regularly updated journal.”

Although many web users already maintained regular journals online, 1997 marks the point at which these ‘web logged journals’ in theory became a particular online pursuit. It is estimated that in late 1998 the blogosphere encompassed only 23 sites. In 1999 the technology arose to make the writing and the maintaining of blogs more user-friendly. And of course a date we all hold dearly in our hearts, in 2003, Chitika was born, making advertising work on blogs and thereby supporting bloggers with advertising generated revenue.

Where are we today? It’s been decade since Barger coined the term and blog-monitoring company Technorati reports tracking more than 70 million blogs. Today common text book definitions of ‘blog‘ resemble, “a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order.” Popular blogger Andrew Lark offers a more intricate and whole-hearted version as he describes, “It’s as if though the blog becomes the center point of your own little opt-in community. You get to fuel it with dialog and if folks like it, they come back and not only share in your views but participate in your little walk through life.” Today’s plethora of 70 million blogs include subject matter ranging from ‘personal blogs’ of diary-like expressive prose, to specialized industry news (at times referred to as ‘corporate blogs’), offering up-to-date information and commentary regarding developments or breakthroughs in that field. The Wall Street Journal describes this advancement in diversity of content, explaining blogs have evolved from being “once a smorgasbord of links, [blogs] have evolved into vehicles for fuller, more forceful and opinionated prose.” The Wall Street Journal further reflects that after ten years, there “are a dozen brief meditations on what the blog has come to mean and on the role blogs play in the usual tussles of any civilized society.

The appropriate question about blogs, 10 years into their first appearance, is not whether they are a form of exhibitionism, or journalism, or theater. It is, instead, this, and I pose it with a courteous apology to Tom Wolfe: What would we do without blogs?” Regardless of content, blogging offers the unique and powerful opportunity for direct and immediate communication with others who can respond to ideas on a democratic platform. Through this as well as the utility of technology, the blogosphere enables the formation of social communities, or public forums, in which democratic discourse can take place based on shared interest or opinion. Blogging has accomplished a lot over the past ten years. I contend that the impact of blogs exceeds just offering a platform for direct communication on a global level at best. The blogosphere initiates a new era of trust when it comes to public discourse. A transcendent quality of the internet in general, is that everyone with a computer has equal access, and with this, and particularly relative to the blogosphere, anyone can say anything.

The question; how do we know who and what to trust? When it comes to the blogosphere, there seems to be an underlying notion that if an individual is taking the time to blog about a topic, this implies that they are resourcefully, correctly, and intelligently informed on the topic. Perhaps it is the emotional and almost compulsive persona that bloggers exhume, or the forum-like, and the professionally aesthetic structure of the blogs themselves. The growth and popularity of the blogosphere over the ten years serves as evidence in itself; people trust bloggers and in many cases assign to them expert status when it comes to information and commentary. Speaking of trustful sources and to add fuel to my fire, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in his blog, “New Political Prosumers,” equates blogging to the social trend of the DIY movement, referring to customers who prefer to fix their homes themselves rather than rely on professional repairmen. Gingrich explains, “in our always intertwined media and political culture, blurring the lines between professional producers (news organizations and politicians) and amateur consumers (citizens), creating what Alvin Toffler called “prosumers,” characterized by their desire to play an active role in creating the products they consume and by their distrust of professionals who claim to know what’s best.” Through enabling a platform for democratic discourse between individuals, the blogosphere cultivates a climate of trust and shared-resourcefulness between engaged bloggers and blog readers. If all members of the blogosphere own equal stock in what they are allowed to say in a public-forum, said members share equal stock in what they are to believe. In this dynamic situation, bloggers also equally enjoy the opportunity of being experts in their relative fields.

The 10th Blogiversary not only marks a successful decade of growth for technology enabled ‘web logging’, but also a social movement of evolved trust and democratically-staged influence.

By Tessa Rudd -Account Executive – Advertising Media Division, Chitika Inc.