The evolution of blogging has been in a constant state of flux from day one. Since the earliest days of the Web, the natural human inclination to communicate, share and form groups has expressed itself using whatever tools that happen to be available. Beginning with BBS and Usenet and continuing into the 90s with Personal Journals and cult sites like The Best Page in the Universe, the primitive blogging ecosystem was a wild and woolly place.
We've come a long way since those relatively unpolished times, and through the evolution of blogging our sites are now viewed as legitimate forums for commerce, information sharing and serious discourse online.
According to a 2006 article in The Economist the evolution of blogging began as early as 1997:
“The word “blog” appears to date back to 1997, when one of the few practitioners at the time, Jorn Barger, called his site a “weblog”. In 1999, another user, Peter Merholz, playfully broke the word into “we blog”, and somehow the new term—blog—stuck as both a verb and a noun.”
Niche Blogger Revolution
Many consider the key turning point in the blog explosion of the 21st century to be the rise of niche blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch, which attracted mainstream readership in droves. Hundreds of millions of people around the world turn to such blogs for entertainment, advice and more every day. News blogs like the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post now directly challenge the monopoly once held by corporate media. They're actually even more popular with many web users looking for a fresh slant on current events.
How Algorithms Have Changed the Evolution of Blogging
Considering how lucrative blogging can be to those with a large audience, it wasn't surprising that bloggers would attempt to “game the system” using any means necessary. For the better part of the past decade, it was quite simple for bloggers to use Long Tail Keywords to laser-target their content and dominate a niche. Unfortunately, this approach didn't always lead to high-quality content. Google's Penguin and Panda updates changed the focus of SEO to link authority and overall quality, making it easier for good bloggers who engage with their community to rank highly and attract traffic. As Google and the other search engines continue to tweak their ranking algorithms, SEO becomes less of an exact science and more of a guessing game and the evolution of blogging presses on.
Monetization, Marketing, Cookies & More
Once the Pandora's Box of commercial blogging was opened, all bets were officially off. The typical monetization strategy of the mid-level to high-end blogs these days includes affiliate sales, AdSense and a mishmash of alternate revenue sources. However, that paradigm is threatened by the constantly changing legal environment surrounding the Internet. The recent EU cookie legislation, for instance, had many worried about the future of blog-based marketing. Such restrictions and government meddling in the world of blogging are legion, and they continue to threaten amateur and professional bloggers alike.
The Social Media Factor
Although social media has been around in one form or another since Day One of the Internet, it's only recently made its impact felt on the larger web. Thanks to the inclusion of social media widgets on nearly every web page, the popularity of CommentLuv and constant Facebook sharing, building a reasonably popular blog is as possible as it ever has been – as long as you get through the difficult bit at the start. Increasingly, platforms like Triberr, Social Buzz Club and JustRetweet are being used to improve blog outreach and increase connections. More than anything else, social media has made blogging more of a conversational two-way street than just an “indie” version of mainstream media online.
Where the Future Evolution of Blogging Might Take Us
The convergence of our real and digital lives will eventually cause blogging to morph into a kind of uninterrupted virtual reality. The written word will continue to have value for the foreseeable future, all things being equal. Still, it's not hard to imagine a future where “blogging” ditches UTF-8 and trades up to holograms. Stay tuned, because the only constant of blogging and the web is constant change. Whatever happens, this constant state of flux spurred by the rapid advancement of online technology is sure to make for an interesting future for bloggers everywhere.