Rise of the Blogosphere Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Web logging, or blogging, an online form of communication that arose in the mid-1990’s, challenged businesses and the mainstream media, which established their own blogs to capitalize on this growing trend.

Summary of Event

The blogosphere, which first surfaced in the United States in the mid-1990’s, is a network of Web logs, or blogs, that includes news, commentaries, personal journals, and reader feedback as an online alternative to mainstream news media. Pioneered by Web designers, the blogosphere grew exponentially in less than a decade, spawning millions of blogs daily on virtually every subject. People use blogs as a source of information often ignored or minimized by corporate media and as a means of self-expression. The influence of the blogosphere forced syndicated media and businesses to become more responsive to their audiences and customers. Web logs Blogs World Wide Web;blogs [kw]Rise of the Blogosphere (1999) [kw]Blogosphere, Rise of the (1999) Web logs Blogs World Wide Web;blogs [g]World;1999: Rise of the Blogosphere[10290] [c]Communications and media;1999: Rise of the Blogosphere[10290] [c]Publishing and journalism;1999: Rise of the Blogosphere[10290] Berners-Lee, Tim Hall, Justin Barger, Jorn Marshall, Josh Atrios Noah, Timothy Reynolds, Glenn Johnson, Charles Robinson, Jim Moulitsas Zúniga, Markos

Some observers assert that the first Web log was actually the first Web site, created in 1990 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) by Tim Berners-Lee. The beginning of blogging is more often attributed, however, to those early Web designers who used their home pages to post personal diaries. Justin Hall, a former Swarthmore College student who started Justin’s Links from the Underground in 1994, is sometimes cited as the first blogger. The term “Web log” was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger, a maverick scholar and writer, who logged his thoughts on his Web site, robotwisdom.com.

Although blogs vary greatly in their format, length, content, and frequency, certain distinguishing features characterize blogs: informal and passionate writing style; reverse chronological order of entries; updating of entries regularly (blogging); links to related news or articles (attribution); integration of links to related blogs into the page (blogrolling); two-way communication; and archiving of old content. Blogging was made more accessible with the introduction of easy-to-use software programs such as Blogger, Greymatter, LiveJournal, Manila, Movable Type, and UserLand, replacing HTML.

As it expanded, the blogosphere grew to cover nearly every subject, ranging from art to zoo keeping. In the early twenty-first century, the number of existing blogs was estimated to be in the tens of millions, with many of them disappearing daily as new ones emerge. Some claimed that the blogosphere would double every six months and that a new blog was created every second. Efforts were made to classify and organize the blogs using directories and classifications. Eatonweb.com, for instance, presented a blog directory with approximately 150 categories and appearing in many languages. Commercial services, such as weblog.com, notified blog subscribers when new content was added to their sites. Specialized search engines, such as Blogdigger and Feedstar, existed to track and monitor blogs.

The political blogosphere expanded dramatically after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the Iraq War begun in 2003 fueled its growth further. Blogs also became powerful tools for political campaigning. One of the first noted politicians to take advantage of blogging was Howard Dean, a contender for the Democratic nomination in 2004. Blogs can be employed to raise funds, provide news and commentaries, e-mail alerts, RSS feeds, and podcasts. They also serve as watchdogs of information provided by political parties, businesses, and mainstream media. Besides the official, party-sponsored blogs, there are many political blogs initiated by individuals. At the end of the twentieth century, some of the most influential political blogs included Daily Kos, Instapundit, Crooks and Liars, Talking Points Memo, Little Green Footballs, Think Progress, Hugh Hewitt, Powerline, Americablog, Common Dreams, Eschaton, Firedoglake, Michelle Malkin, and Wizbang. Aggregator sites, which exist to track and collect political blogs, included Tailrank, Political Wire, Breaking News, Beltway Blogroll, Blogometer, RealClearPolitics, PoliticsOnline, WatchBlog, and The Truth Laid Bear.

The blogosphere’s relationship to the mainstream news media is complex. Some believe that blogging is a form of participatory journalism and that its popularity signals a shift in the public’s attitude toward mainstream media. Audiences increasingly desired a more active voice in the framing of issues and the setting of the agenda behind the news. While bloggers used information from the mainstream media, they also added greater diversity and multiple sources of information to validate perspectives, check facts, and analyze events more thoroughly.

Although the impact of the blogosphere is difficult to measure accurately, several major incidents serve to illustrate how bloggers kept alive an issue that the mainstream media either misconstrued or ignored. One such event surrounded the so-called Killian documents, which raised questions about President George W. Bush’s Bush, George W. service in the Texas National Guard during the 1970’s and were presented by longtime television news reporter and anchor Dan Rather Rather, Dan in a 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast on the CBS network on September 8, 2004. The late Colonel Jerry B. Killian, Bush’s commander at the time and the alleged author of these documents, apparently claimed that Bush had used political influence to evade training requirements and also to obtain high marks on his evaluation. CBS producer Mary Mapes obtained the documents from Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, a former Texas Air National Guard officer. Within hours of the broadcast, a post by Buckhead on the Free Republic challenged the authenticity of the documents. Other blogs, including Power Line, Little Green Footballs, Drudge Report, RatherBiased, and Wizbang, picked up the story. Expert analysis of the typewriting eventually proved that the memos were fake because they could not have been produced with a 1972-era typewriter. On September 20, 2004, CBS acknowledged that Burkett had “deliberately misled” the producer, and it expressed regret for using the documents in the report. The incident led to the resignation or termination of four CBS officials and to the eventual resignation of Rather.

Another incident involved Senator Trent Lott, Lott, Trent who, at a gathering on December 5, 2002, to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of Senator Strom Thurmond, Thurmond, Strom remarked that if Thurmond had been elected president when he ran for the position (in 1948), the United States would not have experienced many of the problems it had. With such remarks, Senator Lott appeared to endorse the segregationist platform of Thurmond’s Dixiecrat Party. No prime-time television news network reported on the controversy, nor did newspapers cover it until bloggers wrote about Lott’s comment on such sites as Salon, Eschaton, Inside Politics, Instapundit, and Slate magazine. Bloggers continued to focus on Lott’s remark until television talk shows, including NBC’s Meet the Press and CNN’s Late Edition, interviewed Lott, and Time and Newsweek as well as The New York Times covered the incident. As a result, calls for Lott’s resignation came even from his own Republican Party. On December 20, 2002, Lott resigned from his position as Senate minority leader.

Bloggers have also served as “netroots” activists, scrutinizing the practices of businesses. In 2002, the blog site Slashdot helped check facts in a Microsoft advertisement portraying a Mac user switching to Windows. The site revealed that the Mac user in the ad worked for a marketing company employed by Microsoft.


The blogosphere emerged as an effective, agile, and inexpensive medium challenging mainstream media, checking facts, and questioning how issues are framed. In response, mainstream news organizations, as well as businesses, began to participate in the blogosphere by establishing their own blogs. Although bloggers do not always abide by traditional journalistic standards, their networked nature, the competitive environment in the marketplace of ideas, and the intense scrutiny of information by millions of bloggers helps to self-correct the blogosphere continuously. At the end of the twentieth century, there was consensus that the blogosphere had come of age and that a convergence of different types of media had already occurred, changing the practice of journalism itself. Web logs Blogs World Wide Web;blogs

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Meloni, Julie C. Blogging in a Snap. Indianapolis: Sams, 2006. Offers a quick and practical guide for setting up and managing a blog. Topics include blogging tools, customizing blog templates, and the etiquette of the blogosphere.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Scoble, Robert, and Shel Israel. Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. Describes how blogging helps businesses to connect with consumers in a more personal way through two-way communication.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tremayne, Mark, ed. Blogging, Citizenship, and the Future of Media. New York: Routledge, 2007. Using quantitative and qualitative studies, the book explores the implications of the growing influence of blogging on politics and mainstream media.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Warlick, David. Classroom Blogging: A Teacher’s Guide to the Blogosphere. Raleigh, N.C.: Landmark Project, 2005. Offers practical lessons for teachers who wish to use blogs as a teaching tool.

Decline of the Big Three Networks

Libraries Transform into Information Technology Centers

Development of HTML

Release of Netscape Navigator 1.0

Rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web

Google Is Founded

Categories: History