Update: Since the original writing of this, Vox has closed its doors. You can now get a free, basic blog on the Typepad site.
The six most commonly used blogging services
If you’re just starting a web log, or thinking about it, you should know about the various types of blogging platforms, their levels of difficulty and their costs. Software starts at free, but limited, and goes up to business-level costs and support. Here’s a list of the six most common blogging platforms. There are many more blogging communities and software available, which we’ll cover at a later time.
1) Blogger (http://www.blogger.com)
Owned by Google, Blogger is one of the more popular free services. You can set up a blog on their site relatively easily. With Blogspot, they host your blog posts, template design, and software. You set up an account, choose a template, and start typing! Blogger also allows you to set up a blog using your own hosting space. For instance if your ISP (the company that provides your internet access) gives you free hosting space, you can use that instead of Blogger’s space. This is helpful if you want to post a lot of pictures and you exceed Blogger’s limit. If you’re brand new to blogging and don’t have your own hosting space or don’t know what it is, start with letting Blogger set up everything for you.
2) Vox (http://www.vox.com)
Owned by Six Apart, Vox is another free service. It’s incredibly easy to use and they have a lot of easy to install templates – just choose one and the look of your site changes immediately. They also make it easy to add pictures, books, and music. Vox is big on building community and encourages members to interact with each other and join discussion groups. Vox has varying levels of posts: public, friends only, and private, just to name a few. So you can decide who sees your entries and who doesn’t.
3) LiveJournal (http://www.livejournal.com)
LiveJournal is one of the original journal sites. Another free service, it’s also easy to set up and use. You can friend other people and participate in topic-based communities. Like Vox, LiveJournal allows you to restrict your posts to certain audiences.
4) WordPress (http://www.wordpress.com)
WordPress is yet one more free service. You can find free templates, set passwords on posts, and even set posts to show up on a future date. It’s a powerful and versatile hosting service. While similar to Blogger, it appears to have a lot more available options and customization. Also like Blogger, you can use your own web space to host a WordPress blog. But with WordPress, you install the software on your server and tailor everything to suit your needs there. WordPress (http://wordpress.org) is open source software. That means the background source code is available to anyone. This allows developers to improve the software and to more easily make plug-ins that work along with it. With plug-ins, you can use spam blockers to help prevent spam comments (one of the occasional annoyances of having a blog) or install fun things that help your readers interact with you more. WordPress, when installed on your own site, is a lot more versatile and powerful but also requires some technical knowledge (or hiring someone with that technical knowledge to install and customize it for you).
5) Movable Type (http://movabletype.com)
Movable Type, owned by the same company as Vox and LiveJournal, is free software for personal use. It is not hosted for you, however, so you must have your own hosting space. It also requires some technical knowledge to install and set up a template. There are many design companies, though, that will install the software and a template for you. Movable Type also has commercial versions available for businesses wanting a robust blogging platform that allows multiple blogs.
6) TypePad (http://typepad.com)
TypePad is another hosted service, saving you the hassle of setting up your own hosting space. However, TypePad is not free after the 14-day trial. Monthly fees start as low as $4.95 per month, which includes support, and goes up to business level. Many free platforms don’t include technical support. Instead, they rely on community message boards where users post problems and other users answer the questions. TypePad users can also choose various templates, which are easy to select and customize.
There you have it – six of the most popular blogging services available. Each has its own pros and cons, so read the sites carefully before deciding which platform you want to use. If you know other bloggers, look at their sites and see what platform they use. Then ask them, based on your level of knowledge, how easy it is to set up and use. With the free services, though, it’s easy to give them a trial run and see if you like it. We’ll have more in-depth articles about the platforms and offer more alternatives at a later date.
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