It’s 2019, and most of us know what a blog is, but do you know the history of blogging?
You read blogs (or at least you’ve now read this blog). You probably know of other popular blogs that cover topics you’re interested in, and I’m guessing you’ve either managed your own—or at least considered starting a blog at some point.
But do you know the history of blogging? It’s actually a fascinating journey how we’ve gotten to this point in the world of blogging.
Blogging can trace its humble beginnings back to the year 1993. For context here are a few things that also happened during that same year blogging first started:
- Bill Clinton became President of the United States
- Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and became the Czech Republic & Slovakia
- NAFTA was passed in the US, Canada and Mexico
- Famous pop singer Ariana Grande was born
- South Africa’s constitution was approved
Blogging has been around—and played a role throughout our collective digital history for the last 26 years.
And since understanding the past can often be the key to finding success in the present, we’re going to take a trip down memory lane as we meander through the history of blogging.
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We’re going to talk about the people, places, major events and (at times) tumultuous changes that’ve made the blogging world what it is today.
The History of Blogging: How Blogging Has Evolved (1993 to 2019)
Now, let’s dive into the history of blogging!
1993: Blogging Officially Begins
Right around the time Bill Clinton was being inaugurated as the President of the United States and Beanie Babies were making their debut, Rob Palmer, the self-described world’s first blogger and digital nomad, started what was essentially a blog for a communications company he’d been hired by in London.
When was the first blog started? In 1993 by Rob Palmer.
Side note: There are actually multiple competing claims about who the world's first blogger is, so it's a matter of dispute and likely impossible to conclusively verify.
Either way, this first or very early online journal (aka blog) was only made up of plain text—there were no graphics or fancy formatting, but this very first incarnation of a blog did something important. It had the ability to spread ideas.
This blog, which is quite possible the world’s first, showed that the Internet was teeming with potential. You can hear all about the world’s first blog by listening to my interview with Rob from earlier this year.
1994: The Founding Father of Personal Bloggers Starts (Over)Sharing
In 1994, then 19-year-old Justin Hall began sharing the dirty details of his personal life on his website, Justin’s Links From the Underground.
Of course, at this time, it wasn’t called a blog at all. His website mostly consisted of a list of links (hence the name) with some intermittent text woven in throughout. You can learn more about his story by watching his film, overshare.
It wasn’t actually until ten years after his Internet debut, that the New York Times dubbed Hall the “founding father of personal bloggers.”
1997: The Term “Weblog” Was Born
Believe it or not, the word “blog” actually has a very logical origin.
What’s the origin of the word blog? While most people call it a blog, the term is short for weblog. A weblog is a log—or written documentation—that’s published on the World Wide Web. Put those two ideas together, and you get the term weblog.
Early American blogger, Jorn Barger, is credited as the person who came up with the word. Prior to that, people called blogs things like “online journals” or “online diaries.” The term “weblog” has a certain brevity and charm to it, and it wasn’t long before it became shortened even further to “blog.”
1998: The First Blogging Platform (Open Diary) Launches
Now that there was a term for writing out your thoughts and sharing it with the world online, developers began to take notice and started creating platforms that were designed to allow everyday Internet users the ability to broadcast their own weblogs.
A vital component of the history of blogging, Open Diary, debuted in 1998 as a blogging platform that not only provided space for users to blog, but also a space for members to comment on one another’s posts.
It was also right around this time that the word “weblog” became too cumbersome and the shortened and more modern slang term, “blog,” began to proliferate.
From this point forward, this vernacular would remain the same.
1999: Competition Emerges
The turn of the century was almost here. Adults were worried about an upcoming potential disaster called Y2K (spoiler alert: nothing happened) and kids were catching them all with the latest craze, Pokemon.
In the blogging world, things were humming along smoothly as more blogging platforms started to emerge in the mass market.
In 1999, LiveJournal and Blogger both scrambled onto the scene, followed by Xanga (formerly a social networking site similar to the better-known MySpace, which wouldn’t emerge for several more years) in the year 2000.
2003: WordPress and TypePad Enter the Scene
Today, over one-third of websites (including my blog here) run on WordPress.
And looking at how beautiful the product is today, it's almost hard to believe their content management system (CMS) started out looking like this:
WordPress got its start in 2003, when college student Matt Mullenweg and his friend, Mike Little, had an idea that blossomed into what would eventually become the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world.
What year was WordPress created? In 2003 by then college students Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little.
Later that same year, TypePad, another less-technical blogging platform was introduced and continued pushing the boundaries on how to make blogging a more accessible activity for people who didn't know how to write their own code.
2003: Google Buys Blogger and Launches AdSense
The year 2003 was a busy one in the history of blogging.
During that same year, Google purchased one of the largest blogging platforms, Blogger. At that point in time, Google was still fighting hard to climb the ladder of becoming the most popular search engine in the world. And buying up all of those blogs allowed the company to glean more data than ever before—which drastically improved the quality of their growing search engine.
At the same time as they were buying up popular blogging platforms, Google was also working on and launching two of their flagship products, AdSense and AdWords.
These are the products that, among other things, allow people to monetize their blogs through advertisements from relevant products and services, which is a big step in altering the course of the history of blogging.
If you’ve seen ads for everything from shoes to laundry detergent, and your dream car floating around on the blogs you read, then you know who you’ve got to thank.
Wondering how you can drive more traffic to your site to make money with your blog? Check out my guides on how to do exactly that:
- How to Start a Blog in 10 Easy Steps
- 32 Proven Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog (Today)
- How to Make Money Blogging on the Side of Your Day Job
Want my Free Guide: How to Start a Profitable Blog?
Come read my guide to starting a blog that's been featured on Forbes, Business Insider and Entrepreneur.
2004: “Blog” Becomes the Word of the Year
Every year since 2003, Merriam-Webster has published a list of words that seem particularly relevant to the year in question. Recent words of the year lately have included “justice,” “feminism,” and “surreal.”
In 2004, however, the most looked-up word of the year on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary was “blog.”
This is significant, because it showed how much blogging was impacting the mainstream world.
Rather than automatically tuning in to news stations or opening a newspaper, Americans were beginning to turn to their favorite blogs for the content (and even news updates) they were craving.
As we all know now, this has ended in pretty mixed results. A lot of important news that doesn’t make it to the mainstream outlets can be distributed through blogs (and on Twitter), but so can a lot of fake and potentially damaging, misleading news.
2005: Vlogging Happened
In 2005, YouTube officially launched, and while it didn’t happen right away, the platform set the stage for what would become the modern vlog.
What is a vlog? A video-based blog.
At the same time, the Yahoo! Videoblogging Group saw an increase in their membership. In short, this is the year that a new way to express yourself online was truly born.
2006: HuffPo and BuzzFeed Blur the Lines Between Blogs and News
While some had been looking at blogs and taking them as seriously as they the largest news outlets for years by this point, 2006 brought a new age with the launches of Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.
What, really, is the difference between a blog and a news site? These platforms had the look and feel of a mainstream news site, but glancing through some of the “articles,” many were written as editorial content, fun listicles and explorations into other creative blog post ideas writers wanted to try out with their growing audiences.
The side effect is that the distinction between fact and opinion became more blurred after this point, which is a trend that’s continued today in some corners of the Internet.
2007: Microblogging Becomes a Thing
In late 2006, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse suggested to his readers that they keep their blog post length short enough to allow the average reader to get through it in about a minute and a half. It was also around this time that a little known blogger, Tim Ferriss started his blog to drum up press for his upcoming book, The 4-Hour Workweek.
If the average person reads 200 or 250 words per minute, this would mean that the ideal blog post during this period of time may have been somewhere between 300 and 400 words. That’s pretty short by today’s standards. But, if short was good, then ultra-short must have been better, right?
A new era in the history of blogging, called microblogging, had begun.
At this point, Twitter (then called Twttr) had been humming along for about a year, but it finally took off and became explosively popular in 2007. How much could you really say in 140 characters, (which was the limit at the time)? Enough, apparently, because the site is still wildly successful over a decade later.
2012: Medium Is Founded
In 2012, while you were learning the dance to Gangnam Style, Medium was launching.
This online publishing platform (that now has some paywalled content), was wide open to all for the first few years of its life. There are both professional and amateur writers publishing their blog posts on Medium, and similar to BuzzFeed and HuffPo, it tends to blur the line between news and opinion.
Medium gave yet another outlet to social journalists who wanted to make their mark.
2016: WordPress Launches the .blog Domain
Blogging had become so popular by 2016, that WordPress decided to add the domain extension .blog to its list of possible blog URLs.
This meant that in addition to the original six (at the time) domain extensions in popular use, which included .com, .net, and .org, people and organizations could now choose a domain name with the .blog extension.
This move opened up many new domain options and highlighted the popularity of blogging.
2019: You Start (or Grow) Your Own Blog
The history of blogging will never be over, and even better, you can still become a part of it.
Whether you’re brand new at blogging or you’ve been trying your hand at it for a while and just haven’t quite gotten to where you want to be, I’ve compiled my ultimate guide to starting a blog as a completely free resource that’ll help achieve your goals when it comes to making money with your blog this year.
Don’t let another year go by without staking out your own corner in the history of blogging.