You think Swarthmore student Justin Hall had any idea how big a revolution he would kick-start when he crafted his first blog entry in January of 1994? Little did he know that he had submitted the first blog entry ever. By all accounts, the blogosphere’s growth has been nothing short of meteoric. Today, the number of current blogs in existence ranges from anywhere between 150 and 250 million blogs (depending on the source).
Justin Hall’s story is similar to the Morris Worm of 1988. In the fall of 1988, Robert Tappan Morris, a student at Cornell University, was one of the first to distribute a virus via the Internet. Morris’s intentions were not to cause harm but rather to gauge the size of the internet. Little did he know that he had literally opened up a can of worms that would never be re-sealed. Today, cyber criminals run rampant through the internet’s cracks and crevices, stealing identities, money and information from unsuspecting users. Some experts estimate the cyber crime industry to be worth upwards of $8 billion.
Hall’s discovery has spurred nearly two decades of unprecedented growth on the internet, albeit much less insidious than computer viruses. Nevertheless, in both cases, the internet served as the platform that led to the unbelievable growth in both of these activities.
The word blog is derived from two words, “web” and “log.” Jorn Barger, an online diarist (who would ever use this title today?) coined the term “weblog” in December of 1997. Less than a year and a half later, programmer Peter Merholz changed the nomenclature from “weblog” to “blog.” By the turn of the century this nebulous term spawned an entire category. Content management software became popular, with one of the most popular platforms, Blogger, launching in August, 1999. WordPress burst onto the scene in 2003, which now, 8 years later, has become the standard-bearer for the online content management software category.
By the end of 2004, Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the “Word of the Year.” Less than 6 months later, The Huffington Post launched and a year later became the fourth-most linked to blog on the internet. Today, The Huffington Post is widely regarded as the top blog on the internet, which has been confirmed by top blog search engine Technorati. Technorati lists The Huffington Post as the top blog, followed by Mashable, Techcrunch and Engadget.
Blogging today is similar to the television in the 1960’s. The TV played a pivotal role during this tumultuous decade. For the first time ever, Americans were able to witness the horrors of war (in this case the Vietnam War) on televisions in the comfort of their own homes. Early in the decade, during the first Presidential debate, candidate Richard Nixon’s performance was directly influenced by his appearance, which would have never been known had the Presidential debate never been broadcast on the Boob tube. Those listening via radio felt Nixon was the more compelling candidate than Kennedy, which stood in stark contrast to those who watched the debate on television. Viewers saw a gaunt and pasty Nixon, who was just days removed from an extended hospital visit. His appearance greatly influenced their perception and as a result, the 1960 election is known over 50 years later as the election that brought the debates to peoples’ homes.
The Future of Blogging
Blogging has provided every person with internet access the ability to speak up, broadcast their opinion and educate others…all at no cost. How else would Keenan Cahill have blown up? His rendition of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, has garnered well over 4.7 million views to date. In less than a year, Keenan has become a star and most recently has a pending nomination for Viral Web Star at the J-14 Awards. His barrier to entry? Hardly anything…a webcam, functioning computer and a dose of creativity were all Keenan needed to start vlogging (video-logging). The rest is history (or can be merely found with a quick YouTube search).
Have you joined the conversation yet? The great leveler of our generation is at your fingertips. Blogging no longer is a choice or a niche activity. Employers, friends and colleagues expect to find you online. Who knows, your next idea you broadcast to the world may turn out to be the Morris Worm of our generation…or better for you (and society), one of the greatest equalizers of this century.