I don’t know for sure, but I think my first blog started in 1996, two years after I built my first website.
At that time, they weren’t even called blogs. You’d simply update the front page of your website every day with a few interesting links you discovered since the day before.
Add a sentence or two about why the link was cool and voila! You were now a publisher within a new community you were helping to build.
This was later called “link blogging” or “link posts” but to me it was just sharing cool stuff — the heart of web publishing, the generosity of a community expressed in a simple, clear form that was perfect for skimming.
It was respectful of your time, both as a reader and a creator. The pickier you were (the more respectful you were), the better the links. You built trust and authority as the editor of your tiny corner of the web.
It was a pretty great system.
Occasionally, you’d have something significant to add to the conversation, so you’d post an essay or a new work you created. That got linked to by the community on their sites if it was any good.
No one was getting burned out on producing too much content.
So, why did blogging evolve into endless essays? Why did the humble link post die out on most sites? Why are people scared to share great links in simple ways on their sites? Why did the generalists with good taste mostly disappear to social media? Why did we lose the spirit of 1996?
Most writers started writing to please the search engines (later just one search engine). To feed the beast, more “original” content was needed. The sharing moved to social media and got lost with the ephemera. Writers burned out producing longer and longer posts for ad pennies over trust and community.
Massive publications took over the attention of the majority, turning the sharing of a cool link into a bloated summary of whatever they were keeping you from seeing just long enough to show more ads.
This is now what your reader expects to see at every blog.
The trust is lost.
With so many experts urging writers to go all in on long-form content, selling courses on how to please Google and build your list, I know I’m not going to make a dent here. But I encourage you to join the many old school bloggers who write at their readers’ pleasure, not Google’s.
You’ve always seen link posts in my newsletter, but I’m going to start sharing them more here as well. Thank you to all the writers who never stopped link posting. You’ve kept your corner of web more interesting and generous. It’s appreciated!