Blogs are dead; long live the blog

Is blogging dead? Last year, questioning the future of the iconic weblog would have had me institutionalized. But today, in the face of the dramatic explosion of real-time social media services like Twitter, the future of blogging is far from certain.

It’s not just me questioning the blog. Last week, I was in Amsterdam, with a thousand of my closest new media friends, at The Next Web, one of Europe’s biggest and best tech conferences. And the words whispered in the Next Web hallways about the future of blogging weren’t always promising for the venerable digital institution. Some pundits at Next Web – such as Hermione Way, the London based founder of Newspepper and the presenter of Techfluff – have even begun to pen their obits to the blog. “Blogging as we know it is dead,” Way told me over dinner one evening at Amsterdam’s Loup restaurant. “It’s finished.”

Are these reports about the death of blogging exaggerated? At that same Loup dinner that Way announced the death of blogging, Matt Mullenweg, the San Francisco based co-founder of the open-source blog company WordPress, announced its resurrection.

“Blogs will become aggregation points,” the shamefully youthful, soft-spoken Mullenweg explained, as he mapped out the future of blogging for me between bites of Dutch smoked salmon. “They will become our personal hub. Places where we store all our personal media content such as our flickr photos and Twitter posts.”

I suspect that Mullenweg is right. When blogging was invented in the late Nineties by my dear Berkeley friend and neighbor Dave Winer, it represented an easy self-publishing tool, a simple way to publish dirty great lumps of one’s own static text. But just as the Internet has dramatically evolved over the last ten years from a self-publishing into a real-time broadcasting platform, so blogging is transforming itself with equally dramatic vigor.

With its 10 to 15 million users and blue chip media clients like the New York Times, CNN and the Wall Street Journal, Mullenweg’s WordPress epitomizes these changes. What distinguishes WordPress from some of its competitors is its open-source foundations. This open architecture has fostered an free ecosystem of 5,000 plug-ins that enable WordPress users to do everything from incorporate their Twitter feeds, videos and photos, to even managing their own independent record label.

And last week, WordPress released two new products – Buddy Press and P2 -- that underline Mullenweg’s vision of the blog as an aggregation point for all our media information. Mullenweg described Buddy Press to me as “Facebook in a box” – technology which enables WordPress users to create their own public or private social networks around their blog. While P2 is “Twitter in a box” which, according to Mullenweg, transforms the traditional WordPress blog into a real-time media experience. 

So who is right about the future of the blog, Hermione Way or Matt Mullenweg? They both are, of course. The old static blog is indeed dying. But it’s being resurrected by Wordpress as a real-time social media personal portal.  The blog is dead; long live the blog.