Weblogs (or "blogs" for short) are websites that are updated frequently, that contain links to other sites on the web, that include commentary on selected topics, and that reflect the "voice" or opinions of either an individual author or a group of authors.
They surfaced in the late 1990s as a handful of personal sites. Site authors pointed out interesting or useful things on the Web, or posted commentary on specific topics. Weblogs continued to grow in popularity because they offered an easy, quick way for people to publish on the Web, because they had changing content, because they had an author's voice and personality, and because they harnessed a lot of the communication advantages of the Web.
An emerging phenomena
Weblogs came into particular prominence on and after 9/11. On the day the World Trade Towers were attacked and in subsequent days, weblogs served a timely and a useful purpose with frequent news updates, personal accounts, and links to valuable resources. Some New Yorkers were posting photos and commentary of events as they occurred; others were amalgamating news links or information about relief efforts.
After 9/11, many journalists started weblogs, and the political or "warblog" phenomena surfaced. These are thousands of individual sites that post news links or commentary, often with lively discussions by regular readers.
Today, the weblog community has mushroomed out to encompass tens of thousands of sites on a variety of topics. Some blogs are personal journals; some focus on news events; some point to interesting things on the web; and some have a particular topical focus or area of expertise. Some personal blogs may be read by only a very few readers - family and friends, for example; some prominent weblogs have thousands of visitors each day, including regular readers who visit on an ongoing basis.
Why so few business blogs?
Businesses and corporations have been slower to jump on the weblog bandwagon. Perhaps this is due to corporate lawyers being cautionary, but more likely, it is because businesses focus on advertising and marketing to communicate with their varied constituencies.
The idea of an ongoing and authentic public dialogue may simply be an alien concept, particularly for large corporations. Nevertheless, every company has its area of expertise, and weblogs could and should be a useful communication tool with a company's many publics.
Increasingly, the professional community of experts is beginning to embrace weblogs. The ranks of physicians, professors, attorneys and consultants who are maintaining weblogs continually increases. Some stick strictly to business while others overlap business and personal interests.
How do you find weblogs that interest you? The best way is to surf from site to site. Most weblogs include lists of links to other weblogs - either ones they like, or ones on a related topic. These link lists are sometimes called a "blogroll."
After you visit a few sites, you start seeing certain conventions and similarities, as well as some differences. And as with any information on the Web, be a savvy information consumer. Take the time to know your source - just because it appears on the web (or in the newspaper or on TV) doesn't mean that it is true. Be a discriminating reader.
Build your own blog
Think you'd like to have your own weblog? There are a variety of free and low-cost tools that can help you get started, even if you are not technically proficient. Here are just a few:
Weblogs as defined by weblog pioneers
Weblogs - a history and a perspective
The History of Weblogs
Anatomy of a Weblog
Weblog Resources FAQ
Why I Weblog
What Makes a Weblog a Weblog
Links to FAQs & Definitions from Eatonweb
Special Report: Best Blogs, Forbes, October 6, 2003
Executive Life: The Corporate Blog is Catching On - NY Times, June 22, 2003
Business Pros Flock to Weblogs, MSNBC, April 15, 2003
Blogging: the New Journalism? Journalism, March 25, 2003
News By the People For the People, Online Journalism Review, May 20, 2002
Blogs Take Web Diaries to the Next Level, CNN, May 10, 2002
The Coming of the Blogs, CNET News, April 19, 2002
Blogging: An Economist's View, Tech Central Station April 10, 2002
All the News That's Fit to Blog, Fast Company April 2002
Blog Therefore I Am, BBC, February 2, 2002