Blog Software — Packages and Services to Get You Started

Blog SoftwareBlog software, or blogware, is a specialized web application designed to create and maintain weblogs. Current development in weblog software has moved the software beyond what it was designed originally. Some of them now resemble a simple yet powerful content management systems.

When talking about blog software, sometimes people also refer to desktop applications used to publish content to a weblog. The so called blog editors are also part of blog-related software.

This article covers two popular blog software, WordPress and Movable Type, plus important add-ons that make them more usable and search engine friendly. If self-hosted or standalone blog platform is not for you, refer to later sections about Blogger.com and WordPress.com, two of the most widely used free blog services out there.

Customized Blog Software is Rarely an Option

Blog software have grown from simple applications used for personal journal to full-featured site management tool. Although the features are still behind most content management systems, they are more than enough for maintaining small- to medium-sized web sites.

Nowadays, there is rarely a need to develop your own blog software from scratch. Take WordPress as an example. It has gone through years of development. When it doesn’t have a feature you need for your blog or site, you can easily find a solution among thousands of plugins developed by the community.

In most cases, if a solution doesn’t exist, developing a plugin is a much better option than building a custom blog software from scratch.

Popular blogware are used by millions of blogs and are proven very stable. There have been a lot of man hours spent to develop it, so I presume it is obvious if you take advantage of it.

If you are serious about web publishing, you should allocate your time to develop content and promote your blog instead of building your own blog application — although I have to admit it could be fun.

Different Types of Blog Software

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When I was getting started in 2004, choosing the right weblog software confused me. While I have been using blogs for personal projects before 2004, I wanted to make sure the choice for my professional blog was nothing but the right one.

Nowadays, it is almost a no-brainer. Although some people still prefer one blogware over another, nowadays for most people the choice is between WordPress and Movable Type, with more people polarize to the former rather than later.

Although they are not without their own drawbacks, there are solutions — or at least workarounds — to almost every problem you face. People have been using blogware to create content-rich to corporate web sites which layout doesn’t resemble a blog at all.

Modifying blog templates to make them SEO-friendly is also easy, not to mention that it is a one-time process. I rarely use the traditional web site templates nowadays, mainly because with blog software I could spend more time on content than design and html codes.

With that said, there are 3 main categories of blog platforms:

  1. Hosted services. WordPress.com and Blogger.com are just two examples, although there are also paid options such as TypePad.com. When using this type of blogware, your blog will be hosted within a subdomain of the blog service. They usually allow you to transfer or map the blog to your own domain, but still the limitations on installed features are there. This is less than an ideal platform for power users because of their lack of flexibility. It is great for people who want to get started in a minimum amount of time without the need to maintain their own software package on their domain.
  2. Self-hosted software. Sometimes this is referred to as standalone blog software. Basically you have to install the blogware to your own domain before you could run the blog on your site. This is my favorite option, with a slightly steeper learning curve. The time you take to learn the software will be worth it because of the additional benefits you gain from using this type of weblog software.
  3. Hybrid. For this option, you can almost get the best of both world. You don’t need to maintain the server code on your own domain but still can host the blog as if it is self-hosted. Blogger.com has this capability via FTP and SFTP transfer. The main drawback is, of course, you are still limited with features.

Confused and want a quick overview so that you know enough to make an educated decision between WordPress and Movable Type? Here’s an article about WordPress vs. Movable Type.

WordPress — Blog Tool and Publishing Platform

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WordPress (WP) was originally a fork of open source blog package B2, but currently it is far more popular than b2evolution.

WP remains open source and with the size of community, it has the widest selection of blog themes / templates and plugins available. Unless you have very specific requirement that WP can’t accomplish easily with plugins, WP is almost always the choice nowadays.

Most hosting companies — either it is a Linux- or Windows-based platform — can support WP out of the box.

WordPress requires MySQL database server to store its data.

The famous 5-minute installation process makes it at least worth a try. Alternatively, you may sign up for the free WordPress.com account just to get your feet wet. Although there are differences here and there, they share the same interface and look and feel.

Movable Type — Professional Publishing Platform

Movable Type (MT) was the first major software package available for maintaining blogs. However, due to one reason or another, its popularity is far behind WordPress nowadays.

Despite the fact, many MT fans still love the blogware and have no plan to switch to another platform. This has always been the situation not only for blog software, but you could find it in almost everything related to software and operating system. It is like the Windows vs Linux war.

People who have been using MT think WP is less flexible but WP lovers boast about the large community, ease of installation and other features.

Unlike WP, Movable Type is able to store its blog content and data in various database engines such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Berkeley DB and SQLite.

The fact that MT generates static pages on the fly makes it far more efficient. Chances are you will be able to handle traffic surge easily with a bit of optimization.

As of December 2007, MT has decided to make the software open source. Everyone is now able to modify, redistribute and use Movable Type for any purpose freely.

Blogger.com — Hosted Blog Platform by Google

BBQ Grill

Without doubt, this is the most popular blog service on the planet. Even if you are a beginner, you may find Blogger (Blogspot) easy to use.

Blogger.com has plenty of features and simple photo uploading features. You can even add gadget (or to borrow from WordPress’ term, widget) into your blog by a few mouse clicks, including AdSense ads.

Changing Blogger template requires a little HTML knowledge, but the fact that bloggers don’t have to maintain code and perform upgrades make it very compelling to people who want to start a blog just for the sake of getting their words out there.

WordPress.com — Hosted WordPress

WordPress.com now hosts more than 4 millions of blogs. It is the hosted blog platform of choice for many people, although it is limited in certain ways.

For instance, there were cases when WordPress.com deleted blogs because they contained ads or affiliate links. If you use your blog for your business, the best advice is to use WordPress.com as a testing platform and switch to self-hosted WordPress software for your web site or blog.

The look and feel of WordPress.com are very similar to standalone WordPress installation, so it may be an easy option to get started.

What’s Next?

Blogware is just software that helps you get content up on the Web. While it includes rich features like media management, you also need various other tools to edit images, track stats, create polls, etc. With so many choices out there, and more available on a daily basis, which one should you start with?

If you feel overwhelmed, like I was back then when I got started, this post about blog tools will certainly be of help.

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