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The Evolving Definition of Blog

Valleywag recently reported that the number of blogs being tracked by Technorati has stalled at 15 million and wonders if this is the end of a brief era. Hardly. Like others, I believe that this is really just a definitional shift of the term "blogging" - as the activity becomes more prevalent, the name evolves. What used to be just the realm of those savy enough to figure out WordPress and/ or Moveable type, now belongs to anyone with a MySpace page or even something to say in a Topix forum (where we are now getting 45,000 posts/ blogs every day).

But these aren't blogs you say - they're message boards. Don't tell that to our users. They seem to think they are blogs. In fact, everyday they write us and tell us so. They ask us to start a new "Topix blog" on a particular subject, have a "Topix blog" moderated more closely, delete a "Topix blog", etc. To them, the Topix forums walk like a blog and quack like a blog - therefore they're blogs.

This is actually an interesting example of the power of really effective naming. In my mind, the term "blog" itself was essential to the incredibly high rate of adoption of the medium. According to Wikipedia,

The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. A few called themselves "escribitionists."

Would millions of people seek to express themselves by online diaries and journals? Prior to blogging, we already had diarists and journalists - people knew what those things were and probably weren't interested in emulating them in their free time. As for "escribitionists", well, that's not too catchy, is it?

It was a new medium and needed a new name. The existing terms had brand baggage. For whatever reason, Jorn Barger creates the term weblog (I've heard as a reference to the Star Trek Captain's Log) , Peter Merholz doesn't shorten it to "blog", and it sticks. Intentional or not, its a great name for a new medium that has no pre-conceived notions about. Just what every marketer hopes for. And as the medium grows, so does the name and its meaning.

As a result, we now have millions of people all over the world participating in an activity called "blogging" and they know exactly what that means: it's the way to speak your mind when on the net.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 30, 2007 9:20 PM.

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