How Does a Blog Work?

by James T Wood

Blogs are everywhere, from the movie "Julie and Julia" to the news site The Huffington Post to the gossip site TMZ to the tech journal Gizmodo. All blogs -- short for web logs -- have a similar format where the newest posts appear first, but they can span the gamut of topics, styles and content.

History of Blogs

Early on in the history of the Internet, posting content required knowledge of the hypertext markup language to code each site manually. But as tools became available that allowed individuals to produce content without needing to know HTML, blogging became more popular. The first blogs were primarily a place for individuals to share thoughts online. As the medium grew, people began using blogs as a way to share news or gossip. One of the early entries was the technology-focused site Gizmodo that shared both tech news and gossip.

The Tech of Blogs

On the surface a blog looks much like any other website, but the creation of the content is very different. Blog platforms are interfaces that automate the coding of a Web page so the blog authors don't need to know how to code. Many blogging platforms -- like Blogger, Tumblr and Wordpress -- also offer free hosting for the blogs, making it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to post online without having to pay for server space or Web design. Blogging platforms allow bloggers to modify the underlying code of their blogs if they want to tinker with the HTML, but it's not required. The linking of blogs to other blogs through a blogroll -- or list of blogs that a blog author follows -- allows ideas to spread virally. Reblogging is the reposting of content and credit is given to the original author through links that trace back to the original blog; these links are known as trackbacks.

Blogging in the Mainstream

Few things demonstrate the democratization of the Internet better than the popularity of blogs. The Huffington Post -- started by Arianna Huffington -- now boasts more views than any other news site other than CNN. The gossip sites TMZ and Gawker have the power to break stories, topple billionaires and reshape politics. Blogs broke the news of Michael Jackson's death in 2009, as well as exposing the drug abuse of Toronto mayor Rob Ford in 2013 and the racist comments of NBA team owner Donald Sterling in 2014.

Bigger and Smaller

The future of blogging is showing in both large and small ways. Twitter is often called a "microblogging" site, as no more than 140 characters can be used in a single post (or "tweet," as the site calls them). The visually oriented sites Pinterest and Instagram focus on sharing pictures more than words and the short video site Vine allows the microblogging of very short video clips of under 7 seconds. Some people have turned video sites like YouTube into video blogging platforms garnering millions of views. The Vlog Brothers, John and Hank, take turns explaining complex ideas to each other -- and in turn to the world -- via YouTube video and have over two million subscribers.

About the Author

James T Wood is a teacher, blogger and author. Since 2009 he has published two books and numerous articles, both online and in print. His work experience has spanned the computer world, from sales and support to training and repair. He is also an accomplished public speaker and PowerPoint presenter.

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