The word "blog" is a portmanteau of "web log". Most blogs today are not in fact logs or reports strictly speaking, rather loose journals written by people with little or no professional writing background beyond that which they publish on their blogs. The availability of blogging software and dedicated blogging websites has brought the realm of publication into the hands of the masses, and the blog has become a new medium of expression, much as art had once been. In fact, some argue that writing a blog is in fact an art, and the various skill levels and attention to detail given to the practice strengthen this argument. However, it remains to be seen whether or not future generations will appreciate the works of bloggers today as we appreciate the works of artists past.
Personal websites have been popular since the beginning of the World Wide Web. Websites such as Geocities have provided free tools for maintaining personal homepages that could easily be updated by users with little or no technical inclination. Thus, these sites can be seen as predecessors of the modern blog. Community websites such as MySpace had largely started to replace homepage sites such as Geocities with their emphasis on user interaction and communication, rather than the creation of new pages. These community sites naturally catalyzed the blog, where the user updates a small comment of his main page rather than creating new pages, and other users are invited to freely comment on the post. With emphasis on small, regular updates rather than on large, new pages, users found blogs easier and more fun to maintain than personal websites.
The blog phenomenon has spurred many alternatives to the traditional text blog. Variations on the written blog are the audio and video blog, the sketchblog, the photoblog, and even the moblog. Audio blogs are spoken or music posts that are available for download or streamed over the Internet. Most audio blogs are delivered in mp3 format, however the open source Ogg Vorbis format is also becoming popular. Also, special audio formats designed to be played on a particular device, such as an iPod, are quite common. The radio blog is a sub-variation of the audio blog. Like audio blogs, video blogs are also made available for download or streamed over a network. Vblogs (as video blogs are known) have more varied file formats, often leading to incompatibility issues and format wars. Sketchblogs and photoblogs are just what their names imply, blogs with sketches or photos instead of, or in addition to, text. The moblog, a portmanteau of "mobile blog", is a relatively new phenomenon. Handheld computers and smartphones have made the writing of text and its publication to the web easy enough that some specialized blogs are completely maintained with these devices. Hence, the popularity of the moblog is dependant entirely upon the availability of these portable devices.