Blog: What it is and How it Works – Part I

We have all read blogs on the Internet, whether it is for reading reviews on the latest smartphones, troubleshooting your laptop, or even getting a recipe for that favorite pudding. While some of these blogs are written by celebrities (or they hire writers), most blogs are written and maintained by regular people like you and me who have information to contribute. I am sure that you too have opinions on, or expertise in something. So why not start writing on your own blog…and at the same time earn some money off it? Sounds exciting? Then go ahead and read on.

What is a Blog?

The word blog is short for Web log. A weblog is a hierarchy of text, images, media objects and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser. Source: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/whatMakesAWeblogAWeblog.

A blog is a journal (mostly personal) published on the Internet consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs can be a work of an individual, or a group, and often are themed on a single subject. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. The growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated easy posting of content by non-technical users.

Although not a must, most good quality blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. Bloggers not only produce content to post on their blogs but also build social relations with their readers. Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. Yet still others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, videos and other media related to its topic.

What is the Difference between a Blog and a Website?

First up, every blog is a website, but not all websites are blogs. Just as every iPhone is a smartphone, but not all smartphones are iPhones. As mentioned before, blogs are like a journal where the content is regularly added. In addition it has interactivity in terms of visitor comments built in. On the other hand, websites may serve function as simple as information brochures to as complex as e-banking and news portals etc.

Websites started as simple documents with text and images formatted for the web, and which can only be viewed using a web browser. They were just ‘static’ pages without any interactivity (for visitors to communicate with each other). Creating them needed knowing HTML programming language. So the person who created the website then also added the content. Moreover, any change in the content or design necessitated edits to multiple pages. Now, imagine that for a website with 100 pages, you simply need to change one menu item…yeah, it was tedious.

This led to the evolution of dynamic websites which are database driven and are often called CMS (Content Management Systems). These CMS separate content from the software that is delivering the content. Now the developer writes code for this system using even more complex programming languages like PHP and Python etc. The designer creates beautiful frontend or interface using languages like HTML5/CSS, Javascript and some graphic editor. This ensured that the content writer can now focus on her creative writing. One of the types of CMS is a blog which serves the function as an online journal.

How Does a Blog / Website Work?

(This is a bit technical.) A website typically needs some setup to work on the Internet. This setup comprises the following:-

(a) Web Hosting Space. This is a setup which “stores” and “serves” the website content comprising text, images, videos etc to the website visitors. Hosting space is provided by companies which house the requisite servers (powerful computers) with associated hardware & software for storage. They also have the required security, electrical power, environment control (temperature, humidity etc.), network communications and computing applications. The entire hardware and software setup is typically referred to as a data centre (see image). You can purchase hosting (rent server space and the required software to make websites work) from such companies.

(b) Domain Name. A domain name is an easy to remember address of a website e.g. www.how2freelance.com. Every device or entity on the Internet (including a website) is identified by an address called IP (Internet Protocol) address which is like 192.168.100.101. Remembering 3 or 4 of such addresses is going to be difficult, let alone 20 or 30. So, there is a system which maps the easy to remember domain name to these numerical address. This enables us to easily remember our favorite shopping or social media portal.

(c) The Network. It includes thousands of network switching equipment connected globally by cables on the surface of the earth and sometimes even under the oceans and in the space. Technically, the web hosting data centre would be part of this. I separated it to explain that as a consumer you rent Internet connectivity from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or the telecom service provider whether you have a website or not.

Now, let’s put all the above together in a diagram to understand this.

The diagram is an overly simplistic representation of the way websites work. There is much of the other technical stuff that goes on which I have decided not to bore you with. If you interested, there are numerous pages of information on the web that will help you.

Every web hosting service has certain features which you should consider and compare before purchasing. Check out this post where I recommend the easiest and cheapest website creation tool. Using just your computer / laptop you can create your website or blog in a day.

Also read this post where I recommend top 3 web hosting companies that are fast-loading, secure and cheap.

Now that you got the basics of a blog / websites, let us delve further and understand the anatomy of a blog.