I’ve been blogging since 1997. But I promise you, you’ve never heard of me.
After listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast about 10 years of her online business recently, I’ve been feeling nostalgic over my own early internet days. In particular, the 1990s internet, which seemed so quiet and so small. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on 20+ years of blogging.
Before blogging was blogging
I started writing online when I was 17 years old. It was the same year my family got its first computer, and soon enough, like most people, I was drawn into the internet. Sure, I read the news and sent emails and chatted and things like that. But somewhere along the line I discovered online journals.
Part of me believes that it was mostly teenage girls like me writing these journals, though I do remember some women and men in their 20s and beyond as well. Or maybe I was just naturally drawn to those closer to my age. And there were a lot to choose from. Their journals were highly personal, experimental, day-in-the-life – anything and everything. People creating for its own sake. It was great.
I didn’t hesitate to go to Angelfire and start my very own website, complete with online journal. Unfortunately I don’t have those original site files anymore, but I remember my online journal having a mix of the usual teenage angst, with excitement about having a free platform to write and share anything I wanted. I even shared unpublished poetry – something unthinkable now!
Because platforms like Blogger were still years away, you really did have to know HTML and design your own site. For me that was part of the fun. I know I sound like an old Victorian reminiscing about gas lamps, but there really was something special about figuring out what code you needed to create the vision you had in your head. Even manually entering in your navigation links between journal entries was satisfying (yup, each entry was on its own page). This little code tinkering is something I still enjoy today.
How blogging is different now
My fellow internet dinosaur friends and I sometimes talk about how different the world of personal online writing is now. And it’s more than just “nobody says ‘online journal’ anymore.” Here are the top three ways blogging is different now than when I started.
It’s okay to use your real name now
I can’t count the number of aliases I had in the ’90s. Back then, it’s kind of what you did. There were a few people that blogged under their real names, but most of us didn’t. If your “real life” friends found out you were active online, you were looked at suspiciously. It was about as socially acceptable as whooping cough. Plus, “stranger danger” on the internet was real. Thankfully, because blogging is more popular now, we can spend less time thinking up clever aliases and more time building communities as real people.
Blogging is more credible now
Blogs turning into books? Being cited as sources on the news? These were impossible dreams in 1997! Then, lots of people didn’t see the appeal of personal websites. It was much more than “this is what I ate for lunch” – it was sharing experiences and ideas and discussing them with people around the world who felt the same way (or didn’t). It’s been truly remarkable to see the world at large come around to this idea, making blogging more powerful than before.
You can make money with blogging now
When I started blogging, the thought of making money from it … well, it didn’t really exist. Largely because of the above two points. Somebody must have doing it, but I can’t think of a single person who used their blog as a source of passive or even active income, the way many do now. While of course there are some examples of monetization changing a blog for the worse, overall I support anything that helps creative people make money doing what they love. It’s so exciting to see creative entrepreneurs find success they may not have been able to find 10 or 20 years ago.
Wow, writing this makes me even more nostalgic for the internet of the late ’90s/early ’00s! It was a great time in my life, and thanks to blogging, I’ve been able to connect with so many people and be more creative than ever. Honestly, I think my only regret about 20+ years of blogging is not sticking to one platform long enough! It’d probably take me a week to remember all my old websites, blogs, LiveJournals, Diarylands, Tumblrs, etc. That’s why you’ve never heard of me – my internet magpie tendencies. I’m better about that now!
Blogging is so different from how it used to be, but I’m excited to see how it evolves. I’m especially excited to see how creative entrepreneurs use blogs to build their businesses on their own terms, and connect with people all over the world. I know from experience that it’s the most rewarding thing!