How important has the Internet become to the general culture and politics of our time?
Consider this: There are those who believe that the 2004 presidential election between John Kerry and George W. Bush was decided to a great extent by what was then an emerging web technologyblogs. Candidate Kerry was the subject of a well-coordinated attack of numerous blogs, and some people believe that was enough to tip the election in George Bush's favor.
Blogs are no longer "emerging"propelled by that election, they have become a powerful, cultural force.
So what, exactly, is a blog? To a certain extent, that's open to debate, but generally, most people agree that a blog is made up of individual entries on a web page in diary-like format. Entries can be as short as a single line or a few words, or even a link, or as long as multiple paragraphs. Often, but not always, someone writes a blog about a specific topic, such as Washington politics, or a specific technology. Increasingly, corporations are letting their employees blog as well, as a way to personalize the company. Microsoft, for example, encourages its employees to blog. And Google has a blog that gives the latest company news.
So, what is so revolutionary about blogging? It gave individuals a way to gain an audience for their opinions and writing, without having to work for a newspaper, magazine, TV or radio station, or a media company. The original idea was that individuals could express their opinions without having to go through a media corporation, and could also get information out quickly, because they would not have to go through the procedures normally required by media companies.
Blogging works so well that many bloggers have gone on to join those large media companies they initially disdained or have signed book contracts. Some make a living blogging by selling ads on their blog or joining sites that aggregate blogs and then sell advertising.
In addition, the mainstream media has caught onto blogging, and now many reporters, editors, and writers blog as well.
Not all bloggers write about big things such as politics and technology. Countless people muse about their daily lives and celebrate the simple and the mundane.
One of the earliest problems with blogging spawned a related technology called Really Simple Syndication (RSS). Bloggers faced a major problemhow to get people to visit their websites whenever they post a new blog entry? Some bloggers post multiple times a day, and even if they only post once a day, it was difficult to convince people to spend the time to visit their blog.
The answer, RSS, allows the blog, or portions of the blog, to be automatically fed to anyone without that person actually having to visit the blog itself. Instead, the entry, or portions of the entry, is read in a special RSS reader that automatically goes out and grabs new blog entries on its own.
This not only makes it easy for bloggers to get a new audience, but it makes it easier for people to visit multiple blogs in a day. Rather than having to visit a dozen or more blog sites, which could take a substantial amount of time, a person need only run an RSS reader, which automatically grabs all the different blog entries from many different sites, and lets them be read right in the reader itself.
RSS can be used for keeping up to date with news stories as well, although its primary use remains for reading blogs.