Blogs still aid global freedom of expression | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 29.05.2013
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Blogs still aid global freedom of expression

While blogging has existed for more than a decade, WordPress, the software that runs millions of blogs and websites, celebrated its 10th anniversary. The free service has made it simple for anyone to share their views.

A person's hands typing on a laptop Photo: Aya Bach Copyrigth: DW/Aya Bach

Berlin Café St. Oberholz

Although use of social networks like Twitter and Facebook has increased in recent years, millions of people around the globe still choose to express themselves on blogs. And many of them use the free and open source software provided by WordPress.

"WordPress is easy to use and makes blogging as easy or complicated as Microsoft Word," German journalist and blogger Falk Steiner told DW. "It has a good system of multimedia content management and is consistently developed by a huge community."

Over the last decade, WordPress transformed from a simple platform to write a blog into an online content management system used by multinational corporations to maintain their Internet presence. A report issued in May by Royal Pingdom, an Internet service monitor, found WordPress is used by 52 of the world's top 100 blogs.

Screenshot of wp10.wordpress.net showing map of meet ups to celebrate WordPress' anniversary http://wp10.wordpress.net/about/

People around the world met up to celebrate WordPress' 10th birthday

Blogs: a permanent home on the Internet

Created by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, WordPress had been downloaded over 21 million times by the time it turned 10 on Monday (27.05.2013). The software allows people to change the look of their blog easily and, because it's an open source platform, make use of third party add-ins developed by anyone.

Blogging has changed from when it started as a highly technical undertaking in the mid 1990s, and in 2008 Wired magazine proclaimed it a dying practice that would succumb to shorter posts on social networks.

"I think many of the former very short blog posts have moved elsewhere, to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram," Steiner said. "But there is no real such thing as having a real own blog when it comes to longer and 'stay forever' content, where you don't want to rely on free services."

Tool for freedom of expression

Blogging also remains an important tool when it comes to freedom of expression, according to Christoph Dreyer, a spokesman for Reporters Without Borders in Germany.

dice spell the world BLOG Photo: Fotolia/Claudia Paulussen

Blogs provide the space to go further in-depth than social network posts

"Blogs have been and still are a tremendously powerful instrument in defending freedom of expression and freedom of the press simply because they are so easy to set up and easy to use and so hard to control, especially in settings where traditional media are tightly controlled," he told DW.

Advances in technology have made it possible for journalists and citizen journalists to post more multimedia content to their blogs and other online services to help spread information, he added.

"It's almost more likely that an important event happening anywhere in the world, including countries at war like Syria, will be photographed and filmed and posted on the Internet rather than it not being posted, which used to be the case," Dreyer said. "Blogs have become much more interactive. People share, and sharing has become a very important activity and way to disseminate information and opinions."

A compliment to social networks

It is in sharing detailed and nuanced views and opinions that blogs still excel while shorter messages on social networks act as a complement, said Georgia Popplewell, managing director of Global Voices.

"The people who are still blogging are using their blogs to explore ideas in longer form, to establish themselves as experts and thought-leaders and possibly having a conversation around those topics on social networks," she told DW.

"For smart people who are blogging, the social networks are complementary platforms - they are places to promote your work or to test ideas," Popplewell added. "There is not a lot of detail you can describe in 140 characters."

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