The market research firm, Gartner, has reported that less than 2% of all Internet users are frequent contributors to content on the web. The Gartner researchers also said that 200 million people already have given up blogging and that the total number of bloggers will peak during the first half of this year at around 100 million. Quite a few journalists and bloggers picked up on the Gartner predictions and you can find a lot of different reactions. Mine is simple. Blogging is just beginning!
There are quite a few stories here on patrickWeb about blogging (you can see the list here) where I have shared my vision about the future of blogging but the bottom line is that it has grown to it’s infancy. The folks at Gartner are very smart and I suspect that they are looking at the U.S. only and at people like me and others who write stories. To me that is a small subset in multiple ways. For openers, 100 million people would be less than 5% of China and India alone. Total Internet users in 2007 are estimated at 1.1 billion which is slightly less than 17% of the world. I think we could all agree that those numbers are going to continue to grow, especially with explosive growth of the mobile Internet being made possible by technology such as Opera Mini.
The other major factor behind my comment that blogging is just beginning is that blogging is not just about people writing stories. Blogging has now entered the phase where it is a fundamental technology — one that is enormously profound and is altering how information is documented, distributed, syndicated, and archived. As with all fundamental technologies, there are a lot of myths in the early stages — like "The Internet is free" or "The web is for documents, not for applications". Add to the list that blogging is a vanity tool for people to write about themselves or their hobbies. Sure there are many personal blogs. Someone may write a blog that is only read by the blogger’s mom. That’s ok. A volunteer parent on a school trip may write a daily posting for the other parents to read. Pundits may write a "column" that is read by very large numbers of people. Some people view blogging as a way to document and archive their activities or their thoughts over time with the thought that someday their children’s children will find it interesting to read. The "diary" aspect of blogging is important, but there is a lot more to blogging than people writing their personal accounts or views.
Blogging is a very effective way for departments of companies to stay on top of what is going on. We all know that special person in the department who always knows who is working on what. That special person is now blogging and providing the departmental "news column". It is not a task that can be assigned to someone, it is a task sought out and enjoyed by that special person who loves to write, takes the extra time to add useful links to what she writes, and is a very effective communicator. Similar persons are providing customer support or valuable insight to customers and business partners. In every walk of life, the "authors" among us arise to share their skill with others. The old saying, "I could write a book", is true. Millions of people have a book in them but prior to the power of blogging they had no practical way to publish. And blogging is not just about individuals who are writing.
How about warranty expiration notices, product recalls, press releases, weather updates, shipment notices, doctor appointment reminders, auction completions, stock trading activity, and wine harvests? Blogging is not limited to traditional documents or notices. For example, a patient on a hospital gurney moving from the ER to the recovery room can generate important information as the patient is wheeled through the doorways of the hospital. An RFID tag could trigger a short blog posting which gets delivered to the primary care physician’s Patients folder. A periodic glance at the doctor’s blog reader would indicate whether there are any new postings advising of patients whereabouts. Primary care physicians today are too busy to go to the hospital and visit patients — but they do care what is going on and want more data. The bottom line is that it will become very hard to justify publishing any kind of information in anything other than a blogging format. See BlogOn 2005 for more about the blogging format and other aspects of blogging.