Blogs are about to grow up. As newborns, blogs were simply diary-like entries on which readers could comment. Then, blogs added Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds, notifying readers when a new entry was posted. Still, as Richi Jennings, of Ferris Reseach, writes in his blog, discussions on blogs can hardly be called conversations, like the ones we can have over e-mail or Instant Messenger (IM). "Comments are too prone to comment spam, most people find it hard to understand the concept of trackbacks, and the whole thing is just too difficult," he says. Basically, today, blogs are more akin to cave men’s disjointed mumblings than the Gettysburg Address.
Blogs are about to evolve, however, thanks to an idea called tagging. Tagging is a software tweak that's already used on photo-sharing site Flickr.com, for example. Here's how it works: As the site's users post their photos for everyone on Flickr.com to see, they tag a photo taken in, say, Iraq, with a tagline, "Iraq." A blog search engine called Technorati.com uses these tags to retrieve search results. If you entered "Iraq" into its search dialog box, the engine would serve you up with news stories, blogs -- and photos tagged with "Iraq" (See this article on Salon.com for other examples of tagging).
Such tags could completely change the way we blog and communicate, believes Glenn Reid, who, while at Apple, created iPhoto. In a recent blog entry, Reid gives a great example of the possibilities: All reader comments on all blogs could, potentially, be linked up based on their tags, so that, instead of following individual blogs, people would be able to follow conversations on specific topics (such as Iraq) conducted on hundreds of blogs.
Searching for data will become a piece of cake. Information will spread around the blogosphere a lot faster. And blogs will, in some cases, become a viable alternative to e-mail and IM, writes Jennings. After all, we use e-mail and IM for conversations on specific topics. Today, you might send an interesting article with a personal comment to your 40 best friends via e-mail. Tomorrow, you might comment on it on your blog, and your comment would reach 4 million people, including all your friends. Not bad, huh?