It may not be one of the Internet's grandest accomplishments, but with the number of active bloggers hovering somewhere around 100 million, according to one , there are some serious bragging rights to be claimed by the first person who provably laid fingers to keyboard in the traditional bloggy way.
Was the first blogger the irascible Dave Winer? The iconoclastic Jorn Barger? Or was the first blogger really Justin Hall, a Web diarist and online gaming expert whom The New York Times Magazine once called the "founding father of personal blogging"?
Blogs: The evolution
Sometime in 1971
Stanford's Les Earnest creates the "finger" protocol.
Swarthmore student Justin Hall begins compiling lists of links at his site, links.net, and continues adding to the site for 11 years.
Early online diarist Carolyn Burke publishes her first entry for Carolyn's Diary.
Dave Winer launches Scripting News, which he currently on the Internet.
Slashdot "News for Nerds."
Jorn Barger's RobotWisdom.com site apparently becomes the first .
Sometime in 1999
Brad Fitzpatrick launches Livejournal, which he calls his "accidental success."
Peter Merholz of Peterme.com declares he has decided "to pronounce the word 'weblog' as 'wee-blog.' Or 'blog' for short."
The word "blog" first appears in print, according to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster.
Three friends who founded a San Francisco start-up called Pyra Labs create a tool called Blogger "more or less on a whim."
First crop of blogs nominated for the "Bloggies" award.
First version of Movable Type content management software becomes available.
Google acquires Pyra and its Blogger software.
First official version of WordPress open-source blogging software released for download.
Six Apart releases first version of its Typepad blogging service.
Boston-based Steve Garfield launches his video blog, considered one of the first such "vlogs."
VeriSign . Around the same time, AOL snaps up
Veteran blogger to live off of micropayments through his blog.
Members of the Media Bloggers Association are among the first bloggers to from a federal court.
Freelance becomes the longest-serving journalist behind bars in U.S. history, on contempt charges.
Or did all three merely make incremental improvements on earlier proto-blogs? The answer is most likely "yes" to all of the above. In truth, awarding the title "first blogger" is more than a little tricky because the definitions of blog and blogger are slippery. Any definition should probably include posts sorted by date, with the newest posts at the top and the rest archived for future use (criteria that would eliminate the Drudge Report, for instance).
He boasts on his site that Scripting News "bootstrapped the blogging revolution" and that it is the "longest currently running Web log on the Internet." A decade ago, however, Winer wasn't actually using the term "Web log," nor does he claim to have invented the term. Winer did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CNET News.com until after this article appeared. He replied in a post claiming "the first blogs were inspired" by Scripting News.
Barger, a programmer, futurist and James Joyce scholar, is not afraid to say, indeed, he's the guy who invented the term "Web log." In December 1997, he created RobotWisdom.com to feature entirely bloggy collections of links to articles about politics, culture, books and technology that he found interesting.
"Since I made up the word, I assume I get to define it," Barger said in an e-mail message to CNET News.com on Monday. "And by my strictest definition Winer wasn't quite a blog--he mixed up the reverse-chronological ordering too much. So--unsurprisingly--the first 100 percent Weblog would be mine."
Barger said his site amounted to something of a day-to-day log of his reading and intellectual pursuits--and because it was online, he called it a "." And thus a new term, which would soon be abbreviated and de-capitalized to "blog" by Peter Merholz of Peterme.com, was born.
"Winer called them 'news pages,' but I didn't plan to do mainly news, but rather anything I found that I thought was worth reading or visiting," Barger said in an e-mail. "So at the last minute I needed to come up with a title, and I used AltaVista to see whether various possibilities were already taken (with 'log' being the critical descriptive term). 'Weblog' was being used as a synonym for 'server log' or 'html log' by site administrators, but since they had the other options I grabbed the more general one."
Building on the .plan
But as any Internet graybeard will tell you, early Net denizens were just as active in sharing details of their personal lives and commenting on politics (though, perhaps, not the antics of their pet cats) as the latest generation of bloggers. They did it on mailing lists and through a now virtually forgotten technique called a ".plan" file that was invented in the early 1970s.
A .plan file was a publicly visible text file of any length that could be attached to each individual account on a Unix system and often used reverse-chronological blog-like ordering with newer items at the top. Internet users could edit their own .plan files to include details of their personal life, work projects or musings on the nature of reality.
Many did. One of the most famous .plan files was created by John Carmack, who co-founded Id Software and was the lead programmer on blockbuster video games including Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. (Carmack's .plan file has since been converted to a blog.)