Everyone's (b)logging in!

Blogosphere: Ten years on, the world is blogging away to glory to make itself heard

Everyone's (b)logging in!


I have bad news folks. Kiran and I lost our baby. Despite our best efforts we were unable to avert a miscarriage. The last two months have been a struggle for us and that is one of the reasons I was absent from the blog in more ways than one. K and I need time to heal. I will be away for a while. Love.” –This is what Aamir Khan posted on his blog at 12:27 AM on August 12.

 Sharing of such personal grief by one of the topmost film stars with the rest of the world directly was unthinkable till a few years back. But now, thanks to the tool called Blogging, celebrities have taken to sharing even their very personal thoughts, more often than not bypassing the media.

In fact, thanks to increasing use of blogs by film and sport stars, media now often picks up newsy stuff from their blogs, sometimes creating genuine news items and sometimes sensational and gossipy nuggets – remember Aamir Khan’s “Shah-Rukh-the-dog-licking-my-feet” and Amitabh Bachchan’s critical comments on “Slumdog Millionaire” that gobbled much newsprint and television space?

But it is not just the public figures, millions across the world are using blogs to express their views on anything and everything under the sun. So much so that it is hard to believe that Blogs as a communication tool has just completed its first decade of existence, with the oldest blogging platform, Blogger - a Google property since 2003 - turning ten a few days ago (though actual blogging started a little before that). But then, ten years is eons by Internet standards, where new developments take place almost every few hours, including that of the Twitter, the micro-blogging site whose zooming popularity has redefined blogging to such an extent that from US President Barack Obama to our own diplomat-turned minister Shashi Tharoor to Bollywood’s oomph girl Mallika Sherawat, all are falling prey to its charms in a major way.

Higher profile

Blogging has, in fact, now acquired a much higher profile than just being a “web log” or personal diary on the Internet space. While the overwhelming majority of over 133 million blogs worldwide (as estimated in 2008 by leading blog search engine Technorati, which alone tracks more than 100 million of them) are personal thought-sharing space, now it is being used as a tool for as diverse causes as political and business networking, disaster relief, creative pursuits (in a first, the legendary Royal Opera House in London has decided to stage an Opera that will be created by Twitter users by working on a basic premise given by it and contributing their creativity through the 140-word-limit Twitter posts) and even journalism. For example,  it was because of evidence dug out by bloggers that the CBS network in the US had to apologise after it was found that journalist Dan Rather had presented forged documents questioning the then President George W Bush’s military service record.

The concept of blogging started when Bruce Ableson launched Open Diary in October, 1998, though the term “blog” was first used by Peter Marholz in his personal website in 1999. Open Diary also introduced the facility to allow readers to post their comments, heralding blog interactivity at the very initial stage itself. But blogging really took off when Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan of Pyra Labs launched blogger.com in August, 1999. Blogger.com, incidentally, is the largest blogging platform now, with 267 million unique visitors reading blogs hosted on it every month, as against closest competitor Wordpress.com’s 143 million worldwide.

In India too, blogging has found increasing number of users. The reason, it seems, is due to the connectivity it allows with people. Explains Dale Bhagwagar, who has done PR for some of the biggest Bollywood stars and  maintains five blogs himself, “Networking is a daily commitment in today’s world, and blogs are one of the best tools to achieve this. There are two big advantages of blogging. One, you have the complete freedom to put up whatever you wish. Two, you have the complete freedom to put it up whenever you wish. There are no imposed deadlines or content restrictions. Blogs are the true embodiment of freedom of expression.” This freedom of expression, despite the numerous legal cases many bloggers are facing worldwide for various reasons ranging from political to libellous, is what drives people to go for blogging.

Author Justine Hardy says Blogging is useful particularly for those who are isolated by location or who have physical limitations. “It offers an extraordinary highway of inclusivity into the mainstream for all.” But then, the whole information overload and blogosphere also misses out the “very vital” editing process. “And by this I do not just mean the formal editing, but actually our own ability to marshal and edit our thoughts before throwing them out there at the world, quite often in a fairly crude and solipsistic form,” she says. Hardy, who has written a book on Bollywood, also gives an interesting explanation to celebrity blogging. “The personal space to vent does feed into an aspect of  celebrity culture. There is a particular kind of fame that needs continuous acknowledgement and response, and the blogosphere offers this. As we are in the first generation of this technology, some evolution will no doubt hone the medium.”

Not everybody

IIM alumni and author Mainak Dhar, who maintains his own blogs, has  recognised the “key motivator” behind blogging. “For anyone in the creative field, the key  motivator is the opportunity to connect with readers and viewers and to reach as many people as possible. Similarly readers or viewers are always keen to get to know the person beyond the persona. Blogging needs to be seen as  another manifestation of this made possible by technology,” says the young management consultant, who began blogging to keep “creative juices flowing and writing sharp”.

But then, not everybody is taken in by this addiction. Renowned author Githa Hariharan is one. “My life is very full with reading and writing, and as for communicating with people I know, I am happy to do it face to face or on the telephone,” she says.

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