It's been a good year for Bloggers: after "new Blogger" came out of beta, a great many new features have been added over the past twelve months. So as the year comes to a close, here is my own review of a year with Blogger, including some predictions for the year ahead.
Back in the later part of 2006, Blogger had released the new layouts templates out of beta, which meant many bloggers were enjoying the flexibility and ease of widgets, easy customization and better publishing. Though the changeover may have been somewhat difficult for some, many new blogs had sprung up offering their insights and experience of this new system, including Testing Blogger Beta and Blogger University, paving the way for many "new Blogger" hacks to be developed, and helping other Blogger users to realize the full potential of this excellent new feature.
Another great new feature released in January was that Blogger began to support the "Custom Domains" service which enabled users of the new Layouts templates to link top level domains to their blogs. This excellent feature bode great promise for search engine status with many Blogger hosted blogs; furthermore, it is a cheap and effective way of establishing integrity and brand recognition, since Blogger still hosts the blog for free (you only need to pay for the domain name itself)!
In March, Blogger released two new widgets for use with layouts blogs: Newsreel and Video Bar. The Newsreel adds a stream of headlines from Google News to your widget based on keywords you choose when installing the widget in your blog. These headlines constantly update, so you can be sure relevant and up-to-date content is displayed in your blog. The Video Bar uses your chosen keywords to find suitable videos from YouTube and Google's Video Search which are displayed as small icons in the sidebar. When a visitor clicks on a thumbnail, the whole video expands into the main posts column. A pretty cool development for Bloggers who want to keep their blog fresh with dynamic content!
Also in March, Blogger and Picasa joined forces; all of the photos you upload to Blogger are now also contained in your own Picasa web albums, for easier access, sharing and viewing.
French Toast Girl became Blogger's 100th Blog of Note (for those of you unfamiliar with the blogs of note, these are part of an ongoing list of blogs which the Blogger team have found to be interesting and somehow notable).
April was also the month of languages for Blogger: Hindi transliteration was introduced, and also Blogger was translated into Nederlands, Türkçe, Dansk, Norsk, Svenska, suomi, Русский, and ภาษาไทย (bringing the total number of languages to 19), assisting even more international bloggers in the creation of new weblogs.
Now May was a rather significant month for Blogger: this was the month in which the "old" blogger interface was 'dismantled' to pave the way for New Blogger (layouts and all) to reign supreme. From May 4th onwards, all Blogger users were required to use the new system. Although bloggers are still allowed to maintain their classic templates, the login and dashboard are now of the new Blogger format, and new members are required to create a Google account in order to use Blogger's service.
Auto-saving of blog posts was another very useful feature which was made available in May. No more worries about power cuts deleting the post you've been working on four hours anymore!
June was an important month for Blogger Buster. In fact, this was the month in which this blog was first created, albeit in a far different form to what you see today...
For bloggers interested in testing out new features before they are publicly released, Blogger introduced "Blogger in Draft", where you can use and review features unavailable in the regular Blogger dashboard. In draft, many of the new features are still buggy and not quite so well-featured as we would expect of a public release, though I still consider it honorable of Blogger to allow us the use of beta functions in order to help develop an altogether better format for the community.
Seventeen new languages were added to Blogger's list of translated formats, bringing the grand total to a whopping thirty six!
All in all, the halfway mark of the year proved to be a rather productive month for the Blogger community as a whole!
For me, the most important feature added to Blogger in July was the redirection of blog feeds to your specified URL. A great many bloggers used Feedburner to syndicate their feeds, but were unable to get any accurate details of their subscriber list which was generally torn between Feedburner and Blogger URLs. With this new feature included in the options page of our dashboards, we could all be certain that our Blogger feeds were being redirected to a central place, and that all of our subscribers could be accounted for.
Blogger celebrated it's eighth birthday on the 23rd of August. Just look how much the format has changed since the old days! It's quite an achievement to know that Blogger has been around so long, especially considering that with it's thousands of international users, Blogger is probably the biggest blogging community in the world!
Propelling the eight year old service into the future of blogging was the addition of video uploads, allowing vloggers (video bloggers) to upload their latest installments with ease, right into the body of their blog posts!
In the month leading up to my birthday (!), Blogger uploaded Blogger Play for public use. Using this nifty little feature, you can view an endless stream of the latest photos which Bloggers have uploaded, making interesting viewing for those times when you suffer a but of writer's block. While not one of the most useful features currently available to Blogger, it certainly makes a change from watching a blank space in the edit posts section of our dashboard!
From October onwards, we were able to subscribe to a Blogger post's comments by email, a feature welcomed by most as a much easier way of keeping track of the conversation which often follows a really great blog post. Currently this feature is only available to those who have a Google account, though it's certainly proved useful for the times I've needed to keep abreast of further comments after leaving a question on another blogger's blog.
It was no surprise that in November, Blogger won an award for being the best blogging host in the 2007 Blogger's Choice Awards: an admirable achievement which surprisingly didn't get a mention in the Blogger Buzz Blog!
November's latest Blogger widget was the Slideshow, which allows you to create a dynamic show of your favorite photos from Flickr, Picasa or any other service which supports media RSS.
2007 is now drawing to a close, and overall I can honestly say that it's been a greatly productive year for Blogger, albeit with a few hiccups regarding how comments can be posted in these past couple of weeks.
Blogger did publish their own round-up of the best developments for the year, though I do think they missed rather a lot of important and noticeable points! The Buzz post did however mention that the Blogger team do have lots of new and exciting features planned for 2008, which neatly brings me to my next point...
Blogger in 2008?
So what developments will happen with Blogger in 2008? Well, I think that the Blogger team will focus less on developing new widgets and more on the functionality of the blogs themselves. In recent months, many popular Blogger bloggers have moved their blogs over to Wordpress after feeling discontented with the features currently on offer. Jackbook (who is famed for generating Blogger templates from Wordpress themes) moved over in September, while Blog Bloke is about to move his blog from Blogger on New Year's day. If Blogger can ensure blog authors are more content with how they are able to publish their blogs, I'm sure there would be far fewer 'defectors' in the future!
Many bloggers would love the ability to summarize posts on the front page without having to extensively hack their templates to do so. Blog pages would also make a wonderful addition to the Blogger system; this popular feature of the Wordpress platform would make a welcome change to the current Blogger platform and enable us to do even more with out blogs.
Although many of you would like to see trackbacks enabled, I sincerely doubt that this feature will be added. And being completely honest, the "links to this post" feature seems to work just as well for Blogger powered blogs, especially as we have the ability to delete the links displayed if they come from a questionable source (something which is more difficult to achieve with Wordpress generated trackbacks).
Despite my doubts that Blogger will produce an ever increasing list of widgets, the one thing I sincerely hope Blogger will produce is a Popular Posts widget, so readers can easily see which blog articles attract the most attention at a glance. The one I use in my sidebar was developed by AffiliateBrand, though I really think Blogger should produce their own.
Perhaps Blogger will finally release some new generic templates, including different styles and perhaps three columns, in order to follow the recent trends contemporary web design. Of one thing I am certain though: Blogger will continue to develop new features and attract more users to this free and easy blogging platform throughout the year ahead. And somehow I suspect that Blogger has a surprise for us all: a major change in the system which is going to take us all by storm.
Happy New Year to all Bloggers
Wishing you all an excellent start to 2008 and the best of luck for your blogs.
Do you agree with my predictions for 2008, or do you think other changes may happen in the Blogger platform which I have not detailed here? Please do let me know your opinions on this post by leaving your comments below.
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