What are Blogs?
A blog, or web log, is a regularly updated online journal. Some keen bloggers post new entries several times a day but most are updated daily.
The most recent entry sits at the top of the blog and features a title, text, time it was posted and a permanent weblink to the post. Entries often combine text, images and links to other blogs. Blog-tracking service Technorati estimates there are 52 million blogs in existence.
Many people keep a blog on a site dedicated to blogging but the technically savvy host their own on a domain they own.
What are they about?
There are blogs on every conceivable subject. All share the characteristic of noting or commenting on events significant to the blog owner. These could be anything from family holidays, new gadgets, foreign policy or TV shows.
Some artists use them to keep fans updated, some politicians keep in touch with constituents via a blog and companies let customers know what they are working on via these online diaries.
Who reads them?
The vast majority of blogs have a very small audience. For instance, some gap year students use them to keep friends and family up to date with their travels.
Few people blog to become famous though some have earned notoriety via their writings and have turned their journals into a book.
The most successful blogs have a community of readers and become more about the conversations generated by updates rather than about the entries themselves.
In many industries, particularly the technology world, blogs are becoming the place that news breaks first.
Why are they popular?
The word "weblog" was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger but long before then many people used a personal webpage to maintain a journal, diary or keep a conversation running.
Blogs have become much more popular as easy-to-use tools to create them have appeared. These websites and programs let people create and annotate entries using basic word processing and mouse skills.
Because of this most blogs are text based but increasing numbers use photos, video or audio.
Why are they important?
Blogs have become the standard bearer for the second wave of the web in which users collaborate to create content rather than simply get what they are given by more mainstream outlets.
Blogging tools are now offered by a huge number of sites. Many social networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo let people create a personal webspace they can illustrate and annotate.
Some blogs, and bloggers, have become very influential and their opinion on an event can shape how the rest of the world sees it.