Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Kevin Marks
20 million served

Technorati passed 20 million blogs today. The 20 millionth was Les CE2/CM2 Anquetil, a blog from an elementary school in Reims, France, in the heart of Champagne country. They started the blog to celebrate running 2 miles in a Relay Marathon.

That's a lot of blogs. I wouldn't say "20 million can't be wrong" (because history tells us otherwise) but blogging is clearly more of a trend now than a "fad".


The best comment I've seen on fads vs trends is that trends normally bubble "bottom up" and fads are imposed from the "top down"

blogs are certainly not a fad!

There are quite a few countries/territories with fewer than 20 million (Laos, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland, to name some that pop quickly to mind.)

Also, how many populations are 100 percent wired and communicating via net?

Three letters gentlemen.

B. M. X. It was massive, it was ground-up, but it was still a fad.

I don't mean to slag blogs off. This blogging thing just hasn't panned out yet. It's not quite making sense. You can't categorise it as a 'fad' or a 'trend' yet. It isn't making sense yet.

Blogs are different from other things we've seen. Blogs are inherently about the edges, not the centre. That's not to say they aren't or won't be influential or important, but they might turn out to be important in the same way that Marx's writing was, or 'Foreign Policy' magazine or that funny secret society they have at Yale. But being influential and important isn't the same as being mainstream. Blogs are a strange animal in commercial terms. That's the nature of the long tail, I guess.

Self-publishing for family and friends, that's slightly different, it's definitely a trend, and it's going to be a mainstream activity. It's a great space that the likes of 6A and Flickr have headed for. But it ain't really blogging.

I am also concerned on how spamblogs are influencing the numbers. There is a lot of sheer junk in there. Try searching for 'LG Electronics' for instance ( Some of it is just pure searchengine baiting. A lot of it is just pressreleaseware, the same old claptrap repeated again and again.

Can someone give a realistic estimate of how many blogs there actually are?

There is no use comparing the number of bloggers to the number of people in a country. The level of commitment is completely different. And I hate to boil things down to money all the time, but the level of revenue is on a different plane. A first world country has an annual ARPU of 5 or 10 grand in direct and indirect taxes. The average blogging hoster is lucky if it can get 60 euros off its customers!

That's not to say I'm pessimistic about the sector. I think there's a lot to the blogging and personal publishing business and I think it's worth investing in. But the numbers mask a lot of subtlety.

This is cute and all, and of course those with vested interests should be patting themselves on the back and all that, but how can you talk about something being a trend when no one can agree what that thing is in the first place?


By "edges" I assume you are speaning in the metaphorical "aint we cooler than the unwashed masses" sense because from a network perspective, I see increasing reliance on centralized servers rather than any distribution to the edges of the network.

Holland has 16 million inhabitants. 20 is a huge number, but I have to wonder how many of these blogs are active (i.e. have been updated in the last month)?

Chris_B, well, I don't know if being on the edge is 'cool' per se. The edge is where all the weirdos are. Sometimes ideas move from the edge towards the centre (skateboarding or email use) but they often don't (CB radio in Europe). But I think you mean what I mean.

I agree that architecturally, we are beginning to see centralization, but I wonder will that continue forever? Servers will commoditize eventually, home bandwidth will go symmetric, bandwidth in the 'core' of the network will become an issue again, and P2P will become part of the standard media distribution chain. Then maybe things will move around again architecturally.

B.M.X. is still alive and kicking was just completed a few weeks ago in Amsterdam - it is not a fad! It is however - still subversive and on the edge of popular culture - but this "culture" attracts big names and big sponsors such as Braun and Adidas. The immediate neighbourhood in Amsterdam where the event was held was a mix of people from all over the planet - freaking out on day-glo freestyle bikes - and the community are blogging it seems...

Of course the 20 millionth blog had to be French ;-)

20 mio. means 18 mio. boring, private egomaniac diaries that are not maintained regularly.

But: BLOG is simply a way to organize a website. Chronological from newest at the top to elder articles at the bottom. This is everything it has in common with a diary. The rest is content. Content shifted from "normal" websites to BLOG-CMS's or even to Blogger.

And spam is not a problem to blogs because they are interlinked. eMail was killed by spam, but blogs are not endangered so far. If a spam-blog is boring no one will link it. Voilá!

Well, I don't agree with that. There's a bunch of personal-type content that blogging software has enabled, that wasn't there before. It's not just a transfer over.

What's wrong with being an egomaniac?

BMX is over. You guys need to get with the script. *ducks* ;-)

Antoin - *duck* is right that's why some of the riders earn high 6 and even early 7 figure sums ($) a year because BMX is old skool! ;) That's why many manufacturers of the freestyle bikes can't keep up with production to meet demand - in S.Korea and Japan it is hot - in Holland is is screaming and in London the freestyle parks are sponsored by's under your radar but BMX freestyle is there - it's everywhere where it should be (underground and hardcore) - but its not a fad - just like Rolling-Stone magazine and MTV said that hip-hop was a fad. nuff said!

Antoin, you are right. Blogging is different.

But these numbers don't help. There is a network of blogging people out there, but 90% of bloggers are not involved.

What does it mean that every 10 seconds a new blog starts? What does this mean to blogging in general?

It's the network that counts. And only 10% of the blogs are intertwined. (Personal estimation.)

And technorati simply counts links and blogs. It's just bloogle.

Zep: what you said in #10 nails it. I still dont see why this fad is any different than the fad for ~/username home pages in the 90s.

Antoin: I massively disagree with your predictions in #6. The hardware and software for the "smart edge" is included with every home computer sold now or available for free. Anyone with any sort of broadband already has enough bandwidth to participate. What has not changed and will not change is the ammount of effort (learning, mainenance, etc) required to particpate at the edge.

Well Zep- and others who think that splog (spam blogging) is not a problem.

Hate to burst your ideal bubble, but the numbers are exagerated exactly because of that reason. Splogs are a huge problem. Its not as easy as saying nobody will link to them- they are linking to you, on a wide scal basis.

Try this link to read more about the problem that even Google cannot solve at this point:

Google Tries CAPTCHA

But to echo the great news, it is catching on, and it is a trend.

Hutch - you are right. I underetimated the risk of splogs. I read some articles - for example the one you linked - and know more now.


sure, everybody has the actual hardware now, but they aren't participating for two reasons.

1. The software isn't right. It's too complicated, it's hard to find something you can trust. There are all the dumb NAT problems too (although they are soluble). The software can and will get better.

2. There isn't any benefit for the mainstream user. At the moment, the bandwidth choke is on the broadband link between the user's home and the core. You might as well download from a large 'core' site as from P2P because the speed will be pretty much the same.

This won't always be the case. As more users are added and last-mile pipes get bigger, there will be some degree of congestion in the core once again. Servers in the core just won't be able to keep up with multimedia downloads. So there will be more of a need for some type of P2P infrastructure for mainstream media.


You actually re-enforced my point rather than rebutting it.

1. The problem is inddeed client side rather than server side in terms of complexity. Any drooler can setup a blogger/AOL/MySpace/.Mac page, but setting up a server at home is enough work to deter even the majority of "power users". IPV4 is complicated, IPV6 even more so. Even if home routers become simple enough for Joe & Jane Sixpack to easily configure a route to a home server, there will always be a learning curve to debugging and maintaining said server which will deter almost all but the most willing.

2. Actually serving up text/images takes very little bandwidth. Expantion at the edges creates incentive to take and possibly share but not to create and share.

Additionally, AFAIK, it remains to be proven whether a distributed peering distribution system scales better and more consistantly than a well designed centralized or quasi-centralized distribution system. I am not advocating one over the other, just saying the jury is still out on this one.

While there may be 20 million blogs out there, Blogger, I mean so many, are absolute junk. What I find more annoying that splogs are the blogs that just set up RSS feeds of other people's blogs in an attempt to generate some Goo-Bucks (Bucks from Google Adsense). That is my term......and it is trademarked, copyrighted, registered and patented.


Well, it's all complicated. Running a server is pretty simple compared to routing and NAT. It's a matter of bundling the thing up sensibly.

I'm talking distribution rather than creation. I have no idea whether decentralized distribution will drive decentralized content creation. The answer is probably 'sort of'.

I am pretty certain that a centralized unicast system won't scale to TV-like levels. It just doesn't work.

Also, how many populations are 100 percent wired and communicating via net?

--exactly. The whole www thing is not half as ww as we like to think (especially the web 2.0 as it is enviewed by some is not even desirable for many ppl in RL)

Nevertheless, I agree with the common perception that blogging is changing society, but it hasn't hit the RL mainstream yet as Ebay i.e.
South Korea, if you consider cyworld and the such as weblogs (rather mini-homepages imho) is an exception. Haven't seen any other country where ppl where interconnected on the web as often as in Korea.

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