the page of only weblogs

According to Rebecca Blood, in early 1999, Jesse James Garrett posted a list of 23 web sites that posted links and brief commentary. The Wayback machine’s archive of Garrett’s site returns this list from early 2000.

It might be interesting to see what happened to each of these sites.  When I started blogging later in 1999, I hadn’t heard of a single one of these, though I was very familiar with the genre of what was then called the “list of links.”  In February of 1998, while working at the University of Toronto’ s Engineering Writing Centre, I urged web authors to “Annotate Your Lists of Links.”   Later that same year, one of the e-school staff members e-mailed me a link to Arts & Letters Daily, which was precisely that — an annotated list of links, carefully selected and always worth visiting.

When I first started blogging in the spring of 1999, I closely copied the format of A&L Daily, which used multiple columns, did not date its entries, and used “[more]” as the link. (I first dated an entry on July 20, 1999, because I was writing about the 1969 moon landing, and I wanted to emphasize that the event took place exactly 30 years earlier, and I’ve dated every entry since then — about 5500 separate entries.)

Arts & Letters Daily, which did not focus on technology issues, was not on the early 1999 list of 23 sites that have become accepted as the canonical list of early blogs. There must have been many, many other sites that were not part of this particular subnetwork.

Before the weblog genre had a name (the term “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger, 10 years ago next month… his site, “robotwisdom,” is one of the canonical 23), home pages had guest books, web-based discussion boards had postings and threads, and in the pre-Google days when new content was hard to find on the web, a “What’s New?” page (with a collection of short links) was an important part of large, active websites.  Many sites featured a “link of the day” or a “link of the week,” though you often had to click the link to find out what was on the other end.  Dating from about 1995 was the concept of the “Web Ring,” which was a standard interface that webmasters put on their home pages, with “next” and “previous” links that went offsite, to other pages in the “ring” (populated by a centrally-hosted database).

After Googling for a bit, I just learned that the Web Ring concept was invented by Sage Weil, apparently in May 1994. In 1995, he started a company that was eventually bought out by GeoCities, which was in turn bought by Yahoo!  I remember now that the Yahoo! Webrings was a bit controversial, since Yahoo! didn’t implement all the features of the original WebRing concept, though recently a Webring 2.0 concept was spun off from Yahoo!

One final note… an undergraduate student of mine, Kirsten Schubert, wrote a term paper on weblogs in 2002, which was well before there was any published scholarship on the subject. It’s a good time capsule of what was available at the time — general articles on hypertext rhetoric and digital authorship. (When teaching that class, I hadn’t yet come across Mortensen and Walker’s 2002 article, Blogging Thoughts — the first academic essay focusing on blogs.)

6 thoughts on “the page of only weblogs

  1. Thanks for that link, Barbara. I was scheduled to present at Hypertext 2009 and would certainly have been in the audience, if I didn’t get sick on my previous trip (and sadly chose to stay in bed rather than risk a 5-hour drive whist hopped up on cold medicine).

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Dan. A&L Daily cited magazines and essays rather than blog postings, which places it into the “filter” category for me. The “personal voice” criterion is just one of many components of the definition of weblog, which, like any living term, continues to develop.

  3. I could believe that that’s a fourth quarter ’98 list. I think John (at Genehack) started in September ’98, most of those other folks look like early adopters, by the time ’99 hit I think the term “weblog” had actually stuck, through ’98 we were still wavering on terms like “microportal” (remember when portals were big?) and such. If A&L Daily didn’t make a “weblog” list it was for lack of an individual voice, I think I’d have tossed it in the microportal category in that era, though I was fairly sure I was stealing links and crediting it fairly early on.
    On the other hand, whenever anyone starts talking about “The History of Weblogs” (in capital letters with an important voice), it’s easy to go back to the early ’90s and find examples of online journals or lists of annotated links in chronological order, I think what made the 1998 through 2000 era interesting was the community that built up around these sites and the amount of cross-linking that happened in those eras. Despite my “early adopter” cred in such matters, I don’t think of Flutterby as anything particularly pioneering.
    And what’s really fascinating about that list is how many of those sites are still around, although a few of them have moved. I’d bet that survival rates a lot higher than any list created in, say, 2000 or later.

  4. Stumbled on this when doing a rare search on places that link to Windowseat Weblog (which has been dormant for quite a while).
    I suspect that JJG’s list of 23 dates to 1998 not 1999 or else early 1999 possibly. I know that most of the original weblogs did link to Arts & Letters Daily shortly after it debuted (and I remember that Windowseat was one of the few weblogs they linked to in their early days).

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