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Technology

Early blogs were simply manually updated components of common Websites. In 1995, the “Online Diary” on the Ty, Inc. Web site was produced and updated manually before any blogging programs were available. Posts were made to appear in reverse chronological order by manually updating text-based HTML code using FTP software in real time several times a day. To users, this offered the appearance of a live diary that contained multiple new entries per day. At the beginning of each new day, new diary entries were manually coded into a new HTML file, and at the start of each month, diary entries were archived into their own folder, which contained a separate HTML page for every day of the month. Then, menus that contained links to the most recent diary entry were updated manually throughout the site. This text-based method of organizing thousands of files served as a springboard to define future blogging styles that were captured by blogging software developed years later.[15]

The evolution of electronic and software tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of Web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible for a much larger and less technically-inclined population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of “blogging”. Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, on regular web hosting services, or run using blog software.

Rise in popularity

After a slow start, blogging rapidly gained in popularity. Blog usage spread during 1999 and the years following, being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted blog tools:

Bruce Ableson launched Open Diary in October 1998, which soon grew to thousands of online diaries. Open Diary innovated the reader comment, becoming the first blog community where readers could add comments to other writers’ blog entries.

Brad Fitzpatrick started LiveJournal in March 1999.

Andrew Smales created Pitas.com in July 1999 as an easier alternative to maintaining a “news page” on a Web site, followed by DiaryLand in September 1999, focusing more on a personal diary community.[22]

Blogger (blogspot.com) was launched in 1999[23]

Political impact

On December 6, 2002, Josh Marshall’s talkingpointsmemo.com blog called attention to U.S. Senator Lott’s comments regarding Senator Thurmond. Senator Lott was eventually to resign his Senate leadership position over the matter.

An early milestone in the rise in importance of blogs came in 2002, when many bloggers focused on comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.[24] Senator Lott, at a party honoring U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, praised Senator Thurmond by suggesting that the United States would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president. Lott’s critics saw these comments as tacit approval of racial segregation, a policy advocated by Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign. This view was reinforced by documents and recorded interviews dug up by bloggers. (See Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo.) Though Lott’s comments were made at a public event attended by the media, no major media organizations reported on his controversial comments until after blogs broke the story. Blogging helped to create a political crisis that forced Lott to step down as majority leader.

Similarly, blogs were among the driving forces behind the “Rathergate” scandal. Television journalist Dan Rather presented documents on the CBS show 60 Minutes that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush’s military service record. Bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented evidence and arguments in support of that view. Consequently, CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques (see: Little Green Footballs). The impact of these stories gave greater credibility to blogs as a medium of news dissemination.

In Russia, some political bloggers have started to challenge the dominance of official, overwhelmingly pro-government media. Bloggers such as Rustem Adagamov and Alexei Navalny have many followers, and the latter’s nickname for the ruling United Russia party as the “party of crooks and thieves” has been adopted by anti-regime protesters.[25] This led to The Wall Street Journal calling Navalny “the man Vladimir Putin fears most” in March 2012.[26]

Mainstream popularity

By 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services, and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Blogging was established by politicians and political candidates to express opinions on war and other issues and cemented blogs’ role as a news source. (See Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.) Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK’s Labour Party’s Member of Parliament (MP) Tom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents. In January 2005, Fortune magazine listed eight bloggers whom business people “could not ignore”: Peter Rojas, Xeni Jardin, Ben Trott, Mena Trott, Jonathan Schwartz, Jason Goldman, Robert Scoble, and Jason Calacanis.[27]

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