It's become a method of personal expression, a tool of political opposition, a corporate marketing method and a form of religious protest, but did you ever think to ask: from where did the word blog come in the first place?
Finding Out From Where Did the Word Blog Come
In order to find out the answer to the etymological question of the term "blog," the quickest route is to go to another iconic element of the internet: Wikipedia. This communal source of knowledge is quite eloquent about many aspects of the whole blogging phenomenon.
Starting with a Joke
The root of the word "blog" is actually "log" - such as a ship's log, a daily diary kept by a ship's captain, or the data kept by a computer of all the activity within a certain site, computer, or period of time. A weblog was an idea created by Jorn Barger in 1997 on a site called Robot Wisdom. That caught on, and was jokingly modified into the two words "We Blog" on PeterMe.com, the online journal of Peter Merholz in 1999.
The word was readily adopted, its short form and hard consonant beginning and ending lending itself to everything from limericks to changing parts of speech. An employee named Evan Williams of Pyra Labs (which would later develop the very popular Blogger platform) officially defined the word:
- Blog (noun) An online journal or weblog
- Blog (verb) The act of editing or posting to one's weblog
- Blogger (noun) One who engages with blogs and the act of blogging
While Pyra Labs would have enjoyed retaining control of the word, it spread far and wide, becoming both a badge of pride to those who began to sense the power of the "citizen journalist" and as a derogatory term used by those (usually in the mainstream media) who didn't like the usurpation of their role as primary disseminators of information.
Blog Events That Shook the World
The phenomenon of blogs would have probably remained the purview of technicians and geeks if it were not for a few unforeseen advantages. One is the ease of reading and writing them; unlike print magazines, there is no barrier to production, distribution, or storage. In fact, that's part of the difficulty with blogs. The sheer number of blogs online is a result of the ease of setting up new ones (not just Blogger, but also on sites like Livejournal which also became wildly popular). Soon, other social media giants like Facebook and Myspace included blogging capabilities in their interfaces.
Then the words that were printed online began to have real-world results:
- Blogger Ellen Simonetti was fired from her job as a flight attendant because Delta Airlines felt her blog, "Diary of a Flight Attendant," was inappropriate. She sued the company for wrongful termination.
- Mark Cuban criticized NBA officials on his blog and was fined, as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks was not supposed to speak of the NBA that way.
- Guarav Sabris, an IBM employee, exposed what he considered to be false claims made by a business school in India. The management threatened to burn their IBM laptops in protest, and the result was Sabris' resignation.
The creation of blogs took the power of free speech to surprising new heights. Aside from the personal events noted here, some of the biggest exposés came in the world of politics. Trent Lott, Speaker of the House in 2002, made some comments at a speech that some considered to be tacitly racist. No mainstream media outlets cared; however, when bloggers focused attention on not only those comments but Lott's history of similar remarks, the papers and airwaves were suddenly questioning his comments as well. The end result was Lott's resignation as Speaker.
On the liberal side, Dan Rather was the target of bloggers after he brought up documents casting doubt on George W. Bush's military service. Many questioned, with valid research, the authenticity of those documents, and the result was a public apology by CBS news.
To have such an established media source apologize to bloggers was proof that the phenomenon of "blogging", coined back in 1997, had become a major factor in the real-world actions and flow of information.