Congratulations! Your blog’s been consumed by the commercial web

Five years ago I asked if blogging was dying. Five years later I think it’s safe to say that blogging is mostly dead.

I speak not just of this blog, which languishes in ever more obscure corners of the web, but pretty much any blog, at least blogs that are self-hosted. When this one started in 2002, blogging was a new thing. Now it’s beyond passe.

These days the biggest readers of my website appear to be robots. Probably eighty percent of the hits I track on StatCounter come from “Singapore” via the Huawei Cloud supposedly on Android devices all with 800×600 screens and no referrer links. They come in bursts about once an hour. They “read” obscure posts from a decade or more ago that I don’t even remember writing. So there’s obviously no human behind these hits and it’s unclear to me why these fake visitors are even hitting this blog at all. Most likely they are searching for security vulnerabilities.

Twenty years ago we had longer attention spans. Blogs, particularly blogs like mine, are meant for people who want more than snippets. They want detail, context and maybe some sound analysis. Since then there’s been this revolution called social media, and we’ve nearly all succumbed to it. Its purpose is to suck us into aggregator websites where our “friends” hangout, so we never leave it. These sites like Facebook and Instagram are all about short bursts of text and photos, and generally emoji too. By keeping you in their enclave they also keep your eyes and brain away from places outside of their sites, except of course to links recommended by their algorithms, all of which are designed to give you more reasons not to leave their sites. They want to keep you comfortable and in a friendly space.

So we have this amazing World Wide Web but most of us won’t venture much beyond our social comfort sites. It’s like going from the Internet back into a walled garden like Compuserve and AOL … anyone remember them?

Blogging gave everyone (including me) a place to exchange our thoughts with the world at virtually no cost except time. When it was new, there was the thrill of the discovery of independent and thoughtful blogs. It got lots of hits back then, but the lure of social media proved too powerful.

It’s nice to know that some blogs are still highly trafficked and going, but these are well established and almost branded at this point. Many of these blogs have found homes inside of other websites. Barack Obama blogs on Medium.com, which maybe makes it a trending blogging site, if you can put up with article limits and ads (assuming you don’t want to pay to read). There is also substack.com, where the emphasis seems to be on monetizing your “extra” content behind paywalls. So it helps to have a following already before posting on Substack.

There are of course many other blogging sites, some of which have been around a long time including wordpress.com and blogger.com. Posting there has no guarantee that your content will be read. In most cases you don’t have to pay to post on these sites, although they might serve ads to your readers. In short, they are likely to make someone rich, just not you. But hey, the hosting is free!

Having my own blog allows me complete freedom of content, design and setting the rules. I don’t have to worry it will be abruptly shut down if someone doesn’t like my content, as I pay for the hosting. But unless I want to spend lots of time and money to find readers and influence influencers, it’s likely to keep languishing.

So it’s probably going to get shut down at some point, not that anyone other than me is likely to notice. I’ll probably move the whole thing to wordpress.com and let it live there in perpetuity as an archive. If I blog again, I’ll do it elsewhere under a blog aggregator and under a new alias. I probably won’t even tell my friends where it is. At least I won’t have to pay for hosting.

Blogging has scratched an itch, but its moment was an aught decade thing. So expect the blog to disappear by December 13, 2022, if it makes it that long. At that time it will turn twenty but if it makes it than long it’s pretty clear I will be celebrating its longevity all alone.