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This review focuses on Blogger, one of the oldest free-standing blogging platforms still in existence today. Founded in 1999 by the co-founder of Twitter and founder of Medium, Ev Williams, Blogger was sold to Google in 2003 (per Wikipedia). Blogger is a free platform to users and remains a product maintained by Google.
When coming to the site to sign up for a blog (blogger.com), the impression is ok. Can’t say ‘sheik’ or ‘trendy’, but certainly fresh and inviting. Colorful, sliding views to start “publish your passions, your way” slogan, ‘easy and free’. Ok, let’s see what’s going on.
I click on Create Your Blog. After a rather annoying and lengthy struggle with signing up using Chrome, I immediately was able to create a blog account on Firefox. Not sure what the issue was with Chrome, but none of my gmail accounts would let me create the account. That is more than a little ironic since Google owns both!
The first welcome setup screen invites you to set up your profile using Google+ or Blogger. Google clearly wants to push me to choose a Google+ approach. I resist. Actually, I already have a Google+ account for another site and have found it, uh, not particularly valuable. I go with the Blogger profile.
The next screens allow you to select options for your blog such as the theme you wish to use and the layout of your blog page. There are several theme options to choose from. I must say, however, they all feel more or less the same.
There are a number of additional options available to set up your blog. [Just for clarity, a blog is a unique internet address (URL) where you publish articles. We often hear writers say they wrote or posted their latest ‘blog’, by which they mean a new post or article on their blog.] So, in the case of Blogger, you can operate up to 100 distinct blogs from this one account.
You have the option to set up your blog layout, monetize your blog (with Google Adsense, now call Ads), comments can be activated, as well as other aspects. After naming your blog, you could set up to follow other bloggers under the heading Reader List. And again, a setup for your Google account is promoted here.
The message in all this is that Google really wants you to sign up to be a full-blown Google member, with Google account as the core. From there you may add Gmail, Ads, Youtube, Google+, and all the Google products. The money for Google is not in a free blog, but the pulling of you into the Google family and thus their access to everything you do – for good or ill.
Creating My First Blog Post
Once you’ve worked through the setups you want to complete, you can start writing. Click on the orange button labeled New Post and screen opens which looks in some way like a Microsoft Word document. Near the top of the page, you find a space to enter an article title.
And below that a page awaits.
Looks like you can just start writing. Easy enough, and not confusing. It auto-saves pretty regularly, though is a bit distracting as the save button flashes regularly when it is supposedly saving.
The editor is a basic WYSIWYG (word-processor type) with a modest but acceptable set of formatting options. The page allows you to see and write in html, which seems odd for the person who I’d imagine would write on a site like this. I mean, this is basic, hardly cutting edge and thus, I envision the site being used by users who want free and are pretty basic in their blogging sophistication, but want to easily access certain cool stuff, such as making money, getting your own domain, analytics, and such. We’ll see, maybe I’ll change my view as I work with this.
The right-hand column has a number of options for posting, including scheduling a post, creating a url, location reveal (where are you), and labels, which I assume means tagging of sorts? Yes, the labels function supports keyword tags associated with this article. They appear in your live post at the bottom of the article.
To preview your post (as your reader sees it), click the Preview blog link in upper right-hand corner of your blog page. If you publish it, you can access the live blog post by clicking the View blog link in the upper left-hand corner.
It is interesting to note that the URL address switches to blogspot.com when you come to view your posts live. That is, your real internet address is yourblog.blogspot.com, not yourblog.blogger.com. Interesting little twist.
What I Like about Blogger
1) It’s Free. For those who wish to just get started writing and see if they can, this is a definite option to consider.
2) It’s Simple to Start Writing. Few things beat simple, and this platform makes it simple to setup a blog and get to writing. It also has a decent array of tools and options to work with to make this a writer-friendly experience. That’s cool.
3) It’s Google. Look, Google has its hand in a lot of things, and you have immediate access to these things. This also gives you immediate identity with the world’s largest and most used search engine. That can’t be all bad! This also means your blog will integrate well with one of the world’s most respected brands.
4) Allows You to Monetize. This is part of the perks to be had in point 3, but is worth emphasizing as many folks envision making some hefty money off their blog. Never mind that it’s more fantasy than reality, but it is part of many people’s vision for themselves. Blogger makes this easy.
5) Hook Up a Personal Domain. It doesn’t take much effort to have your own personal domain connected to your blog. Google facilitates it and will be happy to sell you the domain registration.
What Bothers Me about Blogger
1) It Feels 1990s… in look, layout and functionality. This may say more about how little has changed in blogging over time than it does about the platform, but still. I get the feel that not much new has happened here in some time. It’s as if the clock was built and it runs more or less without a hitch forever.
2) It’s Google. I know, I said that was a virtue just a moment ago. But, for some, it is a good reason to avoid Blogger. Google doesn’t miss an opportunity to wrap people into the full web of products and services, all the while mining and storing your data – the real gold mine to Google. Welcome to the family!
Of course, if you don’t care about that kind of stuff, then this is not a negative.
3) Not Much is Being Invested in Platform. This can be a bit of a pick as many, if not most, platforms run on autopilot. That is, once built, they pretty much run on their own. But it is also evident when an owner hasn’t invested anything in quite a while and that is what I sense here.
Look, in the end, Blogger is a feeder system into the Google money making system where you can buy a domain to adding an ad or two without having to look anywhere else. It is tremendously convenient and all you give up is your privacy, er, I mean, your data.
In sum, it is simple to set up and use. And, for a free blog, it does the job relatively simply and efficiently. You want free, you get free. That’s the price for free.
Confessions: I’m a blogger and an operator of a blogging platform. I do not possess the skills of a programmer, so keep this in mind on any reviews I might do. With these disclosures, let’s get started, if you’re willing.