Before blogging became popular, digital communities took many forms including Usenet, commercial online services such as GEnie, Byte Information Exchange (BIX) and the early CompuServe, e-mail lists, and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). In the 1990s, Internet forum software created running conversations with “threads”. Threads are topical connections between messages on a virtual “corkboard“. From June 14, 1993, Mosaic Communications Corporation maintained their “What’s New” list of new websites, updated daily and archived monthly. The page was accessible by a special “What’s New” button in the Mosaic web browser.
The earliest instance of a commercial blog was on the first business to consumer Web site created in 1995 by Ty, Inc., which featured a blog in a section called “Online Diary”. The entries were maintained by featured Beanie Babies that were voted for monthly by Web site visitors.
The modern blog evolved from the online diary where people would keep a running account of the events in their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. Justin Hall, who began personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earlier bloggers, as is Jerry Pournelle. Dave Winer‘s Scripting News is also credited with being one of the older and longer running weblogs. The Australian Netguide magazine maintained the Daily Net News on their web site from 1996. Daily Net News ran links and daily reviews of new websites, mostly in Australia.
Another early blog was Wearable Wireless Webcam, an online shared diary of a person’s personal life combining text, digital video, and digital pictures transmitted live from a wearable computer and EyeTap device to a web site in 1994. This practice of semi-automated blogging with live video together with text was referred to as sousveillance, and such journals were also used as evidence in legal matters. Some early bloggers, such as The Misanthropic Bitch, who began in 1997, actually referred to their online presence as a zine, before the term blog entered common usage.
The first research paper about blogging was Torill Mortensen and Jill Walker Rettberg‘s paper “Blogging Thoughts”, which analysed how blogs were being used to foster research communities and the exchange of ideas and scholarship, and how this new means of networking overturns traditional power structures.