Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Whiskey Bar: Davos Discovers the Blogs

An interesting post over at Billmon about the present and future states of blogs, spurred by a session he attended at the Davos Economic Summit. Questions of who gets it, who doesn't, is it a threat or a compliment to mainstream media, is it ever going to be a self-sustaining form, or will its practitioners have to do it out of love (or hate or rage or pain) and absorb the costs themselves, among others.

Tricky, all of this, because the very idea of blogs is so encompassing of so many different purposes. It's like asking what the future of television programming will be. It depends on what channel you'll be watching. Some blogs are great at redirecting visitors to interesting content in other parts of the web, much like the vaunted "content portals" that were all the rage in the tech boom, while others engage in a revival of the almost-lost art of pamphleteering, posting long tracts on a variety of topics. Would Thomas Paine have a blog? Would James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton post the Federalist Papers online?

Five, six, seven years ago, everyone tried setting up a website. Some struggled with HTML, others started using Geocities and the like to set up crude pages using templates. Netscape offered a rudimentary WYSIWYG editor in its Navigator suite, Microsoft Word started to offer a "Save As HTML" option, and every ISP account came with X MB of web space. Blogs are just the latest evolution of this. Their content can be added or edited online, via the web (as I'm doing with this), or by using programs run on an individual machine. Either way, blogs are created and abandoned at the same rate that fan sites devoted to "Dawson's Creek" were only a few years ago, but they're still an attempt by individuals (or small collections of individuals) to have some sort of say about the affairs of the day. Readership isn't as important to them as the expression of thought itself.

It will be fascinating to see how this evolves over the next few years, just as it's been fascinating to see how so much of the internet has impacted our daily lives over the last decade.