The word “blog” is slang for web log. It refers to a regularly maintained journal or diary posted on the Internet. Within just a few years, the word went from invention to well known term around the world. This is a reflection of the awesome communication power of the World Wide Web. The word “blog” can be used as a noun to refer to the web log itself. It is also a verb denoting the act of contributing to a blog.
The technology for blogging was available to the public in the early 1990’s but was isolated to small groups of widely divided people. A few Internet users began posting regular journal entries on the Web. At the time there was no name for what they were doing. In December 1997, Jorn Barger coined the word “weblog.” It was used until 1999 when web logger Peter Merholz contracted the words and created the term “blog.”
There has been a meteoric rise in the popularity of blogs. In 1998, websites began appearing, allowing any Internet user to start her own blog. Within a few years the number of bloggers went from a several thousand to several million. Blogging become so prevalent that it changed the mass media. Any person with a computer and an Internet connection could instantly post her thoughts and have it read by billions of people around the world. The mass media quickly realized the power of blogging. Virtually every newspaper, magazine, radio station and television station has a companion website and blog for cross marketing purposes.
Businesses and politicians also make use of blogs to raise their profiles. Blogs are a way for consumers and voters to have semi-direct interaction with the maker of a product or their political representative. This interaction takes the form of questions posted by the public and responses posted by the business or politician. This type of communication benefits both parties by providing feedback in both directions in a way that never existed before blogs.
Blogs have been credited with breaking news that the mainstream media missed. The Drudge Report was the first with information on the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Activists use blogs to spread information about their work, organize followers around the world and raise money. Politicians build entire campaigns around blogs since they cost very little to maintain and have the potential of reaching an enormous number of people. Barack Obama raised more than $600 million in his 2008 campaign for president. Most of it came from the Internet.
The largely unregulated nature of blogs has led to a number of problems. Blogging is largely anonymous. This emboldens some bloggers to commit slander with video, liable with words or just make up things and lie. Court cases have set precedent with rulings indicating that bloggers are not immune to slander and liable laws that cover other media. Things posted on blogs have cost people their jobs and freedom. In some countries, criticizing the government in a blog is a crime. Blogs have been used as a tool to stalk and harass people. As blogs become more popular, an entirely new way of policing and enforcing laws pertaining to them is developing.