Sunday, November 19, 2006

Picking A Blogging Platform: Blogger

Now that you've decided to blog ... you need a place to blog from. You need a host. And a blogging platform.

Here's the thing: you can get both from the same place. Not all the time, of course, but lots of times.

And there are two ways to go: free and paid.

What's the difference? Well, more than money.

Let's talk about free services. I'm going to limit it to two services: Blogger and

First, be aware that not all WordPress blogs are blogs. But we'll talk about that later. Right now, let's talk about Blogger.

The Blogger Platform

Blogger is a free blogging platform that started in 1999 by three friends in San Francisco who ran Pyra Labs. It took off. And Google bought Blogger in 2002.

It's still a free platform, and it's quite customizable. You can do just about anything with its template ... if you know HTML.

Blogger supports posting of images and of YouTube and similar videos. It also allows comments, along with word verification (for reducing spam) and comment moderation (also for reducing spam and trolls) features you can enable.

Blogger also offers 31 standard templates ... all of which can be modified in just about any way you like. If you know HTML. And you can modify the templates to include add-ons, such as a TrackBack service or alternate commenting services.

The Down Side

Some people don't like Blogger because it's owned by Google. And some people don't like Google. If you're someone who's passionate about Google ... in the negative sense ... then the Google ownership is a minus.

Blogger doesn't offer native TrackBack support. Yes, you can add code from HaloScan, but unless you want to use HaloScan for both comments and TrackBacks, then you have to manually add the HaloScan code ... and that can be a little bit frustrating.

You can't have your own domain name with Blogger ... for free. Now, to be fair, that's true of any free blogging platform. Yes, offers domain names, but not for free. And we're not talking yet. The point is, your URL will be Some think of this as a minus.

Clarification: You can have your own domain name with blogger, but it would be hosted elsewhere, and there are fees involved: domain name ownership ... and hosting fees. Without paying out money, your Blogger blog will have a domain name.
Of the top ten blogs in TTLB's Ecosystem, 1-9 have their own domain name. Hugh Hewitt has a URL. Of numbers 11-30, all but 2 have their own domain name. Only Eschaton has a Blogger ( address and Andrew Sullivan has a TypePad ( site via Time. So, having a Blogger domain doesn't mean you can't succeed. But there is that feeling that many have.

Other issues that some have with Blogger include:
  • It's annoying to have to republish the entire blog for small edits
  • Not supporting categories
  • Not offering extended entry functionality ("More..." or "Click to continue...")
  • Unhappy with the general appearance of Templates. That is, a Blogger blog looks like a Blogger blog.
  • Fixed width Templates
  • 300-post limit on the edit page
  • Inability to schedule posts for future publishing
  • Difficulty for beginners to edit the Templates
  • Service disruptions
  • No window-esque, drop-and-drag interface to use when creating a blog
Just so you know, some of these are being address in Blogger's new version ... that's not yet been released. It's still in beta. But it's coming. Not all these issues are addressed, but some are. Particularly the "Blogger look" and the drag-and-drop interface.

The Up Side

It's free. And, despite the occasional outage, it's usually up. About as much as any other host. The reason Blogger outages get so much attention is because so many people use it. If Blogger is down for 20 minutes, millions and millions are affected, and the total blogs downtime is huge: 20 minutes times millions. Not sure how many years that is. So, Blogger outages are actually rate. They just affect lots of folks when they do happen. Did I mention it's free?

New features are being added. In the last couple of years, comment moderation, open comments (not requiring logging in to comment), photo/video publishing, new templates, Backlinks (not quite the same as TrackBacks, but a good idea that will become great when they get all the bugs out), and more have been added.

Blogger is a good choice for starting your first blog. But it's not the only choice.

Next time: as a blogging platform


  1. Excellent critique
    Technically, blogger is YouTube supportable, but I had so many problems I quit linking YouTube vids
    I switched to Haloscan for comments/trackbacks. Better control. It's free and installation was no big deal

  2. You can have your own domain name with Blogger and my website is proof of that. You just set up the ftp options to point to your server. I use You Tube links all the time. I just paste the object code into the post and it works fine. The new beta version has labels or categories to sort your postings. I wish I knew a way to add technorati tags without having to code each one by hand. I also wish it were possible to embed javascript into my postings.

  3. Scott: Yes, that is absolutely correct. I wasn't clear in what I was saying. I hope I have clarified in the post. But to your point: Yes, you can use Blogger to create and maintain your blog with your own domain name. But there's a fee. You have to pay for a separate Website to include FTP access (usually included) and a registrar for domain name registration.

    My plan is to cover this in detail when we get to the "paid hosting" topic. Today, I'm focusing on the free blog platforms ... to include free hosting. And you can't have your own domain name with Blogger,, or anywhere else.


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