Happy Birthday, Blogger!

This morning’s Observer column.

“When a true genius appears in the world,” wrote Jonathan Swift, “you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” So it was with blogging. It was ridiculed as self-indulgent, lazy vanity publishing; lampooned as the product of obsessives tapping feverishly in their pyjamas; blasted as a parasitic activity, feeding on the blood of hard-working professional journalists; and derided as a doomed fad because there was no ‘business model’ to support it. After all, virtually no one makes money from his or her blog, so the thing clearly didn’t have a future.

And guess what? Blogging is thriving. In virtually every area of human interest, the diversity and quantity of fact and opinion available online dwarfs what was available in the print era. In the old days the News of the World had a ludicrous slogan: “All Human Life Is Here”, a promise on which no publication could ever hope to deliver. The ‘blogosphere’ is the first medium we’ve ever had which could conceivably live up to the slogan…

Erratum: A computer scientist has emailed, objecting to my reference to Tim Berners-Lee as “a physicist working at CERN” when he was, in fact, “a computer scientist employed by CERN in that capacity, who just happened to have a first degree in physics”. He’s right of course. Mea culpa. My only defence is that, as an engineer, I regard physicists much as some people regard Catholics (as in the saying “once a Catholic, always a Catholic…”).