Is blogging dead? Last year, questioning the future of the iconic weblog would have had me sectioned. But today, in the face of the dramatic explosion of real-time social media services such as Twitter, the future of blogging is far from certain.
It's not just me. Last week, I was in Amsterdam, with a thousand of my closest new media friends, at the Next Web, one of Europe's best tech conferences. And the words whispered in the hallways weren't always promising for the venerable digital institution. Some pundits at Next Web – such as Hermione Way, the London-based founder of Newspepper.com and the presenter of Techfluff.tv – have even begun to pen their obits. "Blogging as we know it is dead," Way told me over dinner one evening at Amsterdam's Loup restaurant. "It's finished."
Are the reports about the death of blogging exaggerated? At that same Loup dinner, Matt Mullenweg, the San Francisco-based co-founder of the open-source blog company WordPress, announced its resurrection. "Blogs will become aggregation points," he explained in a soft voice, as he mapped out the future of blogging. "They will become our personal hub. Places where we store all our own media content, such as our flickr photos and Twitter posts."
I suspect that Mullenweg is right. When blogging was invented in the late 1990s by my bosom Berkeley friend and neighbour, Dave Winer, it was an easy self-publishing tool, a simple way to publish lumps of one's own static text. But just as the internet has dramatically evolved over the last 10 years into a real-time broadcasting platform, so blogging is transforming itself with equal vigour.
With its 10 million to 15 million users and blue chip media clients such as The New York Times, CNN and The Wall Street Journal, Mullenweg's WordPress epitomises these changes. What distinguishes it from some of its competitors is its open-source foundations. This open architecture has fostered a free ecosystem of 5,000 plug-ins that enable WordPress users to do everything from incorporating their Twitter feeds, videos and photos, to managing their own independent record labels.
Last week, WordPress released two new products – Buddy Press and P2 – that underline Mullenweg's vision. Mullenweg described Buddy Press to me as "Facebook in a box" – technology which enables WordPress users to create their own public or private social networks around their blog. While P2 is "Twitter in a box" which, says Mullenweg, transforms the traditional WordPress blog into a real-time media experience.
So who is right about the future of the blog, Hermione Way or Matt Mullenweg? They both are, of course. The old static blog is indeed dying. But it's being resurrected by WordPress as a real-time social media personal portal. The blog is dead, long live the blog!