With all the noise about social networking sites in the last several years, it's easy to forget that if you've got more to say than what can be expressed in 140 characters, or want to do more than post brief updates, your best bet is a blog.
There are a wealth of blogging services and software out there -- so which should you use? If you're a business or other professional organization, you probably want to use full-bore website building software that includes a blogging component. However, that type of software requires experience with server setups, HTML code and site management.
If you don't have that expertise, or want to spend your valuable time on creating content rather than wrangling with technical issues, you can opt for a service that hosts your blog for you -- for free. These hosted blogging services take care of all the nitty-gritty backend work, and allow you to focus on what's most important to you: The content of your blog.
They offer pre-built content management systems that make it easy to write, edit and manage blog posts, letting you decide whether to write using WYSIWIG editors or instead insert the code yourself. They also let you switch back and forth between the two when you want.
That's just the basics, though. Using a hosted service doesn't mean giving up power and features. They let you easily create polls and customized forms and integrate with social networking sites, and they offer considerable site management features, including tools for handling comments and automatically killing blog spam. They use sophisticated tools for tracking traffic, and let you dig deeply to find underlying patterns that may help you draw more visitors. And they have plenty of online help and community-based support when you run into problems, or need advice from others who have had the same issues that you have.
(For a review of microblogging sites that offer quick-and-dirty blogging tools with a strong social networking component, see our microblogger shootout.)
In this article, I examine two of the best-known hosted blogging services: Blogger and WordPress.
Blogger was one of the first blogging tools available. Launched back in 1999 by Pyra Labs, it was bought by Google in 2003 and has been considerably redesigned since.
More site-building and blogging tools
For more reviews of applications for building blogs and websites, check out these articles:
-- Need to build a high-end website? We test three of the top free site-building applications: Site builder shootout: Drupal vs. Joomla vs. WordPress
-- A new wave of free sites encourages fast blogging, multimedia entries and social networking: Microblogger shootout: Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr
WordPress is based on the popular WordPress open source server-based blogging software first released in 2003 that underlies many sites on the Web -- Wordpress.org claimed in August of 2011 that its server software powered nearly 15% of the top million web sites in the world.
(Note: Confusingly, both the hosting service and the blogging software are called WordPress; the former, which is being reviewed here, is found at WordPress.com while the latter can be downloaded at WordPress.org and was reviewed as part of our site builder shootout.)
You won't go wrong choosing either. But as you'll see, they're very different services, aimed at different users. Check out our head-to-head review to see which is right for you.
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