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Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Blogging Phenomenon

Is it just me, or has the whole web gone blog-crazy? Type any query into Google, especially on topics related to web design, and it seems like at least half the results are likely to come from blogs or from pages that look like blogs.

Blogs have become such a serious phenomenon that a new genre of search tools has evolved just to search and/or aggregate their contents. Likewise, their potential for abuse was quickly recognized by spammers, and the phenomenon of splogging was born. Splogs are blogs that have no meaningful content and exist solely to spam the search engines with advertising. Already, sites have emerged just to track and purge splogs. (See the WebLens Blogs and Blogging page for a list.)

Blogs are affecting the web in other ways. They have a characteristic "look and feel" that is starting to impact web design. They have the potential to make everyone an instant publisher, with global access. Depending upon your point of view, this is either flooding the web with inane garbage or the beginning of a profound democratization that threatens to loosen the stranglehold of mainstream media.

What Are Blogs, Anyway?

So, what exactly are blogs and how do they differ from regular web pages? Blogs are, of course, web sites, though not all web sites are blogs. Confused yet?

Blogs tend to be personal, though they can be on any topic. Blog content is semi-automated, created through a content management system and propagated through the web via RSS or XML feeds. Regular web site content is independent of such systems, and can be opened and edited with any text or HTML editor. (That said, already people are using blogging tools for web site creation because of the powerful automation features.)

Other key differences lie in page layout. Blogs tend to have navigation choices on the right whereas traditional web sites place menus down the left. Blogs are ordered by date; regular web sites order content by topic. Conventional web sites utilize a hierarchichal information architecture; blogs tend to have a less obvious, somewhat sprawling structure. Navigation is less intuitive (in my humble opinion).

For more about blogging, and for links to blogging resources, see the WebLens blogging page. For a more in-depth discussion of the differences, see Lorelle VanFossen's excellent blog.

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