101 Fabulous Freebies

Blogging Tools for Everyone

Illustration: Edwin Fotheringham
Blogging has come a long way since the medium burst on the scene in 1999. Weblogs aren't merely vehicles for personal expression; many of them frequently break news, shape public opinion, and serve as lively channels for discussion.

You don't need to shell out money to start a blog when such outstanding free options abound. These free blog services can get you started, usually in less than 10 minutes.

Blogger's tools for formatting posts are simple, but its ease of use is unmatched.
Blogger's tools for formatting posts are simple, but its ease of use is unmatched.
Our favorite service is Blogger. The first major free blogging tool (launched in 1999), Blogger stays ahead of the game by remaining incredibly convenient to use and by offering a rich complement of features. If you have a Web server, you can use Blogger to publish your Weblog via FTP. But we like the easy way: hosting the blog on Blogspot. In about 5 minutes, we were able to create a blog, pick an appealing design, and start posting. Uploading images is a simple process, and the service supplies a generous 300MB of photo storage.

Blogger is especially friendly to mobile bloggers. Can't get access to a computer easily? Send a picture or a text message from your phone to a special SMS address, and up it goes. Blogger's Audioblogger service even offers voice blogging: Just call a special number, enter a code, and say your piece. Blogger converts the sound of your voice (up to 5 minutes' worth) into an audio file and posts it for all to hear.

Another excellent choice is WordPress.com, a hosted service built on popular open-source blogging tool WordPress. WordPress.com doesn't support remote blogging, but it does have a clean, responsive interface that makes creating and editing posts easy, and it lets you upload 25MB of images. The site offers an appealing array of preformatted templates; but unlike Blogger, Wordpress.com won't let you edit the template code--you're stuck with its options.

The three other blogging services we reviewed are better suited for personal blogs than for professional ones. Aimed at a young audience, LiveJournal, MySpace, and Xanga Classic include features for easily creating lists of friends and then seeing those friends' posts. LiveJournal has plenty of customizable options, and it carries no advertising. MySpace, on the other hand, is rife with ads--but it lets you store an unlimited number of small images, and uploading music and image files is easy. Finally, Xanga Classic has lots of (often garish) blog-formatting templates, but it has advertisements, too, albeit more muted ones than on MySpace. Xanga offers 200MB of image storage and can be a good way to stay in touch with friends--but the smaller community means your friends are more likely to be on LiveJournal or MySpace.

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