It seems to me that in the past two years publishing one's own blog has become something of a fad. I swear that nearly everyone and their dog (and maybe their cat as well, for all I know...) has a blog these days. In the old days publishing a blog meant uploading the pages to one's ISP or to one's personal server. In other words, updating a blog was about as easy as updating any other website.
All of this changed in 1999 with the introduction of Blogger (which is, of course, the home of this blog). If not the first blog publishing service, Blogger was certainly one of the earliest and is still arguably one of the most successful. To me, at least, the appeal of Blogger is its versatility. One can publish his or her blogs on Blogger's own servers (as this blog is) or he or she can publish them on his or her own servers through FTP or SFTP. Blogger gives its users a choice of several different templates for blogs. And if one is like me and doesn't particularly care for those templates, he or she can design his own or go to a website like Eris Free Design. The template simply needs to be CSS compliant. Among other things, it includes an easy to use Post Editor--it's easier to use than some word processors. Obviously, I like Blogger a good deal or this blog wouldn't be hosted here. Indeed, Blogger is largely credited with popularising weblogs.
Of course, Blogger isn't the only blog publishing service on the block. Typepad is another such service. Typepad was based on the popular Movable Type blog publishing system, used for publishing blogs to one's own servers. I must admit that I don't know too much about Typepad, even though some of my favourite blogs are published through the service. It does seem to me that there is not the variety of blog layouts that one sees on blogs hosted on Blogger. I then have to wonder how much customisation is allowed on blogs, as it does seem to me that nearly every blog I've seen on Typepad looks somewhat the same.
While I have no real experience with Typepad, I do have some exerience with LiveJournal. I kept a LiveJournal for a year under a different nom de plume and on completely different subjects than A Shroud of Thoughts (don't bother looking for it--it's long gone...). LiveJournal is technically as much of a virtual community as it is a blog publishing service. Among the features which set it apart from other services is its "Friends" list, which allows for some social networking. Here I must point out that there has been some controversy over the use of the word "freind," as one can one can list people whom he or she doesn't even know as "friends." LiveJournal does allow for some customisation of one's blog, although it seems to me that it is much less than that seen on Blogger. Indeed, if one wants a lot of customisation where his or her blog is concerned, then one must get a paid account or at least one which is sponsored with advertising. I never cared for the small degree of customisation allowed on free LiveJournal accounts. I also must say that I never cared for LiveJournal's post editor--it always seemed to me that it was harder to use than Blogger.
Diaryland is another one of the oldest blog publishing services. Like Blogger it was founded in 1999. Diaryland describes itself as "a place where you can get your own online diary." Like Blogger and LiveJournal, there are different templates one can choose from. And one can even add a guestbook or chat to one's blog. I've never used Diaryland, so I have no idea how hard it is to use. It does seem to me that it must allow for a good deal of customisation, as I swear no two Diaryland diaries look quite alike.
Perhaps the best known blog publishing service to the general pubic is MySpace. Of course, it is arguable whether MySpace is so much a blogging service as it is a social networking website. At any rate, it has made the news quite a bit of late. Earlier this year saw several individual reports of sexual predators who used MySpace to surf for teenage victims. In Kansas teens posted plans of a Columbine style attack on their school to MySpace. Indeed, some schools have banned the use of MySpace on their premises. Many have argued that MySpace should raise its minimum age for use.
Beyond the headlines, however, I cannot say that I am impressed with MySpace as a blogging tool. Indeed, it seems to me from the few MySpace pages I have encountered that the emphasis is placed on one's profile (which contains such things as one's interests, personal details, et. al.) rather than on one's blog. From the few MySpace sites I have seen, it does seem to me that it allows for a good deal of customisation, but then it seems to me that MySpace makes no allowances for the user's lack of knowledge of CSS or proper website construction. I have encoutered MySpace sites where there is bad coding and highbandwidth objects (video and Flash and the like). I've never had a MySpace site lock up my computer or even Internet Explorer, but sometimes they can take forever to load. While MySpace may be popular, I think people might be better off using Blogger, Typepad, or even LiveJournal.
I would write about JournalSpace here, but I have only been to a few JournalSpace blogs. Worse yet, their main server crashed Friday, making it impossible to look the main site over. I really have no idea, then, of how easy it might be to use or how much customisation they allow on their blogs.
These aren't the only blog publishing services out there. There are several others which I have not mentioned. And I am guessing that with the continued popularity of blogging, there might yet be more blogging services come into being. As to which one is best, I suppose that depends upon what one looks for in a blogging service. If one wants basic blogging, then Blogger or Typepad might be the route to go. For networking, then one might try LiveJournal or MySpace. At any rate, it seems there is a blog publishing service for everyone.