December 01, 2004

"Blog" wins

For the year 2002, the American Dialect Society chose blog as "the word most likely to succeed". Now, according to Reuters and others, Merriam-Webster has determined that the "number one word of the year" for 2004 was -- you guessed it -- blog. In this case, as I understand it, the "voting" is simply the count of requests on M-W's open web site.

More from the AP, the BBC, the Philippine Inquirer, Kerala Next, Internet Week, and CBS News, among many others.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced its own weblog service, called MSN Spaces.

"This is for the masses," said Blake Irving, an MSN corporate vice president. He predicted that the new MSN Service will expand the blogging category "at a pace that has not been seen before."

Amazing, if true, since blogging has recently undergone a period of exponential growth. Livejournal alone claims 5,316,446 users, of whom 2,360,747 are "active in some way"; then there's (Google's) blogger, Radio, typepad, xanga, and many other services, not to speak of the many individual and group or organizational sites. None of these publish statistics that I can find, but several of them seem to be pretty large operations -- blogger in particular may be bigger than livejournal. Technorati claims to index 4,830,726 weblogs. Anyhow, if blogging is now going to "expand at a pace that has not been seen before", that can only mean that the exponential rate will increase, and soon every literate person will have several weblogs. Perhaps our culture is really entering a unprecedented era of self-reflection and journal writing. Or maybe we'll see the development of autoblogging software, whereby a digital record of one's experiences and attitudes is created with little or no conscious effort. Say, a system that automatically transcribes cell phone conversations (and associated photos), adds in IM logs and email, compiles a thematically-organized sampler, and lets the user select passages for deletion or friends-only access.

Well, the underlying speech and language technology is not quite good enough for that yet. Until it is, I'll be pleasantly surprised if there are really an order of magnitude more people who are interested in actively maintaining an online journal , so that the total would go to 100 million rather than 10 million American bloggers. More likely, the whole MSN Spaces thing is a "me too" marketing effort, jazzed up with some inflated rhetoric by a big company that's late to the party, and it'll settle down as just another competitor to livejournal and blogger and radio and typepad and all. (But of course with some special anti-competitive aspects -- apparently the MSN Spaces blogging interface only works in IE6, and you need a Microsoft .NET passport in order to be able to post a comment.)

Microsoft introduced some weblogging software called "Sharepoint" back in 2002 or so, which doesn't seem to have gone anywhere. I spent a few minutes poking around on and didn't find a lot that seems inspiring. Some people will be excited by the ability to "upload photos from your mobile phone to your blog" and "create and manage your space from a mobile phone"; but moblogging is an idea that's been in the air for a year and a half or so, in a variety of forms. Most of the linked-to blogs on MSN Spaces so far seem to be "let's see what this is like" experiments, many of them from people who are obviously already experts. But we'll see what happens.


Posted by Mark Liberman at December 1, 2004 02:28 PM