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March 20, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Blogs turn 10--who's the father?

Someone, somewhere created the very first Web log. It's just not quite clear who.

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 estimate, 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.

December 1977
The finger protocol becomes an official standard.

January 1994
Swarthmore student Justin Hall begins compiling lists of links at his site, links.net, and continues adding to the site for 11 years.

January 1995
Early online diarist Carolyn Burke publishes her first entry for Carolyn's Diary.

April 1997
Dave Winer launches Scripting News, which he calls the longest-running Web log currently on the Internet.

September 1997
Slashdot begins publishing "News for Nerds."

December 1997
Jorn Barger's RobotWisdom.com site apparently becomes the first to call itself a Web log.

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.

August 1999
Three friends who founded a San Francisco start-up called Pyra Labs create a tool called Blogger "more or less on a whim."

January 2001
First crop of blogs nominated for the "Bloggies" award.

October 2001
First version of Movable Type content management software becomes available.

February 2003
Google acquires Pyra and its Blogger software.

May 2003
First official version of WordPress open-source blogging software released for download.

October 2003
Six Apart releases first version of its Typepad blogging service.

January 2004
Boston-based Steve Garfield launches his video blog, considered one of the first such "vlogs."

October 2005
VeriSign buys Dave Winer's Weblogs.com. Around the same time, AOL snaps up blog publisher Weblogs Inc.

February 2006
Veteran blogger Jason Kottke abandons his yearlong attempt to live off of micropayments through his blog.

January 2007
Members of the Media Bloggers Association are among the first bloggers to receive press credentials from a federal court.

February 2007
Freelance video blogger Josh Wolf 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).

Winer is a pioneer of Web syndication techniques and editor of Scripting News, which launched on April 1, 1997.

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 "WebLog." 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.)

See more CNET content tagged:
Dave Winer, Pyra Labs, blogger, Weblogs Inc., blog

Add a Comment (Log in or register) Showing 1 of 2 pages (25 Comments)
First real blog was...
by cshotton March 20, 2007 4:20 AM PDT
NCSA's What's New page was without a doubt the prototypical
Weblog. It was in all respects identical to today's blogs, carrying
snippets of info about new sites that shown up on the brand
new "Web" the day before. It was maintained by a couple of
editors and was one of the most-viewed sites on the early World
Wide Web.

For all of the spin and hype from people like Dave Winer and
others, it is an inescapable fact that this weblog predates their
efforts by 5 or 6 years, used HTML, was updated several times a
day, and was a weblog in every sense except for the
Reply to this comment
Agree with your logic
by dotmike March 20, 2007 6:49 PM PDT
Even in the more blog-like "online diary" sense, there were similar
web pages up long before the people talked about in the article.

As for Winer, maybe he was too busy spouting insults in the real
world before he worked out he could get a bigger audience in the
online world. ;)
first real blog.. THIS IS IT!~!!!
by djpaisley March 21, 2007 9:13 AM PDT
seriously.. this is the answer.. NCSA.. dave winer? blah..

check this out..

my first blog.. labor day 1996... exactly as was..
I did it in '96!
by Steve Jordan March 20, 2007 6:01 AM PDT
I had a weblog on my personal homepage that I called a Digital Diary, back in 1996. It was tech related observations and comments on news items. I have changed websites over the years, but I've always maintained the diary. I still do it on my site www.SteveJordanBooks.com, under the name Techlog.

I personally never liked the name "blog," but if that's what everyone else wants to call it, okay.
Reply to this comment
offline blogging in 1993
by joebuff75 March 20, 2007 6:21 AM PDT
While being away in 1993 on a 6 month student exchange I
programmed a little diary application which used hypertext and
tags to track my daily activities.

The daily entries where shown on the home page and different
words where linked to my money tracker (typing "stamps" would
popup a window asking for the amount of stamps and then
calculated the expenses, the same worked for bus tickets,
sandwiches etc.) The program allowed to search for posts and to
add additional notes. When my friends came over, they were
able to add their own witty comments to the entries, making it a
nice memory of my semester as AFS student.

There were various login/user levels and the program even
exported certain parts of my entries to text files for e-mailing
them overseas to family and friends.

That offline program was similar in many ways to todays
Wordpress platform however it was written on a PowerBook 170
using HyperCard...

Too bad I had protected the HyperCard stack with a password
which I've now forgotten. The diary is still here but cannot be
opened any more... Duh!
Reply to this comment
Self Centered Bloggers
by fhinner March 20, 2007 7:54 AM PDT
This article is interesting and seems to me very one sided. So we believe we invented something new, really new! A way to express ourselves, our believes and do this in a public forum. BLOGS...yeah! Looking closely the whole discussion about who had the first blog, who wrote it, seems irrelevant. Isn't what the blog offers something that we should cherish?

Now an article over the phenomenon of blogs would be much more interesting. A blog used to voice an opinion is one, a blog blabbing about everything in the information age where you just toss out useless information is are the two ends of a spectrum. The consequences of the two are different, that is the key to see culture evolve and see change.

I would contest that Karl Kraus in 1899 had a blog! Relative to the technology in existence. I also believe that he is probably not the earliest "blogger".

The Torch was Karl Kraus' medium and it is a source for the history of the time, for its language and its transgressions. Karl Kraus in his own typical and idiosyncratic manner dealt with the themes of journalism and war, of sex and crime, of politics and corruption, of literature and lying. The influential journal »Die Fackel« comprises in literally thousands of texts an enormous thematic variety in a great number of different text types, such as essays, notes, commentaries, aphorisms, poems, drama and other literary expressions.

So when I see this you have to ask the question, what are we really looking for? The first technology that allowed voicing your opinion on the internet on stuff? I would start with forums then. Or do we look for the social impact, commentary and documentation of the times that have value long after we are gone.

This is what I never understood about the whole blog hype; there was a way of doing this log before we put the label on it. Is it really important to read someone?s journal on the web? Is this itself a something that needs to be documented that we got so lonely that we have to tell a web audience in relative anonymity about our day? Why is this, is it because we forgot how to communicate with each other. How to listen?

So I think if you want to find the first blog or blogger you have to go way back and frankly '72 in your chronology does not cut it! Seems to me a very self centered view only considering a certain technology, but not the problem addressed.
Reply to this comment
What's the new maryjane?
by tonybove March 20, 2007 8:37 AM PDT
What a shame Dave Winer had a pain at the party! (With
apologies to John Lennon, who wrote "What a Shame Mary Jane"
-- a rare Beatles outtake).

For what it's worth, I started writing a diary online as of Nov. 2,
1995 (at 6 p.m.). It's title: "What's the New Maryjane?" and you
can still read it: http://www.rockument.com/thought2.html

The first entry quotes Thomas Pynchon: "In the name of the
cathode, the anode, and the holy grid." I called it a "web

As a newsletter editor, on Dec. 25, 1996, I converted my
newsletter into a free online column called "The Bove & Rhodes
Report" and its first entry can be found here:

Maybe these weren't the first, but online diaries and columns
were proliferating way before Winer and others created RSS. Give
them credit for the structure of delivery and the technology, but
not the idea.
Reply to this comment
Keith Dawson
by tbc0 March 20, 2007 8:39 AM PDT
This is an excellent history. Good to document the way we used to work. But I'm disappointed that Keith Dawson's JargonScout isn't mentioned. That's where I learned the word "blog" in 1999: http://www.tbtf.com/jargon-scout.html#blog
Reply to this comment
Tim Berners-Lee?
by JHitrov March 20, 2007 9:21 AM PDT
Is Tim Berners-Lee the first blogger in Alice in Blogosphere?

Reply to this comment
HTML Blog in 1994
by Derek Pearcy March 20, 2007 10:10 AM PDT
After starting an early ISP, io.com, SJ Games kicked off a blog to advertise our upcoming games (which at the time were Illuminati: New World Order, a card game, and In Nomine, a role-playing game). The Daily Illuminator ran from 1994 uninterrupted to the present day. It meets this article's blog criteria: in HTML, dated entries bottom to top, archives available for browsing.


I don't remember thinking we were doing anything special at the time; it seemed like a natural extension of the regular communications we'd had with customers over the years.
Reply to this comment
Cyborganic's Geek Cereal and Justin Hall's were the first!
by jdrefahl March 20, 2007 11:52 AM PDT
When I was working at Cyborganic at the ripe old age of 18 way back in 1996 we built an episodic blog in PERL/CGI that featured 6 or 7 dot.commers based in SF called Geek cereal. I believe this was the first "ad supported Blog for Profit" that was launched. At the same time, Cyborganic's sister company (and Jonathan Steuer's literal brother's company) launched a New York based version called, "The Couch".

In addition to this.. I always thought Justin Hall's "Links from the Underground" site.. gosh I think it was based at links.org.. This was a site where he blogged about interesting links that were starting to show up on the very new internet.. as well as bloggin about his travels throughout America introducing the internet to the people..
Reply to this comment
g21 First Blogger Documented
by thecatch March 20, 2007 1:12 PM PDT
Rod Amis is the longest Blogger on the Internet, his blog, 'Don't
Read Me First', later renamed 'My Glass House', found it's way to
WWW, through Mr. Rod Amis's ZINE, G21.

The Zine hit the WWW back in 1995. And it has never left. His
Blog, a journal about his life and travels, has been requested to
be turned into a biography.

Mr. Amis, a trained writer, has been publisher & editor of his
ZINE for 16 years, the first five were a paper journal, that was US
MAILED delivered (snail-mail) to a list of dedicated subscribers.

It can't be disputed, because the ZINE and blog have had the
same URL since it creation on the WWW. Yes the word was ZINE.

Mr. Amis has found himself jobless and homeless over the years,
but he was still able to deliver the ZINE and the Blog 'My Glass
House', on a bi-weekly schedule, that he rarely missed. He has
produced the Zine & Blog while living in 6 locations over the last
16 years. A true testament to coffee house editing, and wireless


Reply to this comment
I blogged before the war
by t8 March 20, 2007 2:16 PM PDT
Depends which war aye!
Reply to this comment
Bruce Simpson 1995
by ndhbol54qw1 March 20, 2007 2:34 PM PDT
Every week day since 1995 on technology etc at www.aardvark.co.nz
Reply to this comment
Blogging from the dawn of time
by rupertg March 20, 2007 3:35 PM PDT
Over in the old country, ZDNet.co.uk has a blog running from 1996. It's still going, even in these CNet days, which must be some sort of record.


Back then of course it was known by the archaic name of a 'diary'. Well, if it's good enough for Pepys...

Reply to this comment
David Rodale was the first blogger via PARTI
by Slooze March 20, 2007 11:54 PM PDT
In 1984, David Rodale used the PARTI software on the Source to document the events of his daily life and, ultimately, death (AIDS).

The Source was the first internationally accessible (thanks to Telnet and TYMNET networks) consumer timesharing service available to dialup subscribers for comparatively low hourly rates.

PARTIcipate, the Source's licensed "conferencing" software (aka tree-structured BBS with a slew of innovative capabilities), made it easy for Source members to read and comment on other members' individually generated, long-running threaded-message journals, or logs, or discussions ("conferences"), and also to selectively point to or retrieve single posts within individual journals.

Ask Joi Ito. He was there around that time, a young kid who "ported" (by downloading and then reuploading) PARTI conferences to TWICS, the network in Japan that was roughly similar to the Source or EIES. I'm sure he'd remember David Rodale's PARTI conference.

Alternatively, see this: http://cgi.gjhost.com/~cgi/mt/netweaverarchive/000155.html
Reply to this comment
Well what have we discoverd.....
by thecatch March 21, 2007 9:12 AM PDT
Seems 1995 for modern times was the date to shoot for. And
then a dispute over what blogging is, would then need to be
ironed out.

This is an interesting discussion, because so much of tech.
history is being falsely recorded, mostly by the Valley co.s who
have big media machines behind them.

I run a company and my founder has been in the business going
on 45 to 50 years. He started at IBM after being plucked out of
the US Military, and then went to what they called IBM college.
He was teaching it 1 year later, at the US Air Force Division.

He went onto RAND. He is a systems and OS expert, but he has
told me that at RAND and other places he worked, things were
being invented on a monthly basis. But it was G12 clearance in
those days, and you weren't walking home after work and telling
the world or your wife, what you had created that day, or what
you had seen created.

It would be a good time to at least get some different opinions
and versions of how it all went down. Or we might be left with
AL GORE really getting all the credit for inventing the Internet.

The Internet and all it's tools like the Browser, would be a good
place to start, concerning correcting the history being recorded
surrounding it's creation.
Reply to this comment
http://www.coolwebsites.org/septcool.html 9-1-96
by djpaisley March 21, 2007 9:15 AM PDT
labor day 1996.. and this wasn't the daily update we had been doing on the home page of the ISP I ran at the time... which was i think 9600 - 14.4 modem switching time.. or was it 14.4 to 28.8?

Reply to this comment
Edith Frost's Blog - 1991
by writinguy March 21, 2007 10:23 AM PDT
Singer/Songwriter Edith Frost started a blog back in July 1991.

Reply to this comment
I was wrong
by writinguy March 21, 2007 8:27 PM PDT
1991-95 was offline electronic journaling... 1996 was when she went online with it.
Excite Writers Blogs1996
by gtrotta March 21, 2007 6:41 PM PDT
We called them Web Tours back then:
and did short columns each week:
All best,
Reply to this comment
And In Some Federal Court Somewhere....
by CarpalDiem March 21, 2007 8:09 PM PDT
...Al Gore filed his paternity claim.
Reply to this comment
Almost, but not quite, a pioneer
by Ecrivaine25 March 22, 2007 8:34 AM PDT
I began using the Internet in 1994, I think, and since I had a love for journaling and writing since I was a kid, it only made sense that I would search for a medium that allowed me to do this through online media.

Voila! I discovered OpenDiary.com, which was around when I began my first blog ever, there in 1998. And I'm still with the site and many others.

I love blogs, and with social media and Web 2.0 (YouTube, etc.), the power of Internet continues to fascinate me unendingly.

Reply to this comment
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