Friday, January 28, 2005

Leaders: Blogger and Bloglines

There have been recent studies of some of the markets for blog-related tools. Elise Bauer computed a usage index for blog publishing tools, and estimated that Blogger leads, with 30% of the market. Richard McManus, using data from his own blog and from Feedburner, looked at the market for aggregators, and identifies Bloglines as the leader, with 33% (Feedburner stats, or 51% using his own stats). While the authors are quick to add caveats to their numbers, the studies are interesting, and probably accurate in their identification of the leaders in the publisher and aggregator markets.

So I thought it would be interesting to identify similarities between Blogger and Bloglines, the leaders in their respective markets. Each is:
  • Free of charge (although neither is "free software" - see the last bullet of this list.
  • Web-based, not requiring any software to be installed, or data maintained, on the client side.
  • Simple to use.
  • Apparently reaping an early-mover advantage. According to Rebecca Blood's history of blogging, Blogger was launched in 1999, the year that blogging exploded. However, it was not the first or only blogging tool released that year. Bloglines "debuted the world's first free online service for tracking and reading websites and weblogs" on July 1, 2003 (press release), and so had a first-mover advantage, rather than "only" an early-mover advantage.
  • Proprietary software, rather than free/open source software. However, the Bloglines FAQ proclaims that the firm proudly uses and supports Linux, Apache, and other free/open source software.
So it seems that what you have to do to lead your segment of the blog software market is to take the risk of developing and releasing early, make your product free of charge (throwing in hosting as well if your product is a publishing tool), and emphasize ease of use. Now, how can you make money from that? One answer is that you might be bought by Google (as Blogger was). More answers, and a lot more questions, in future posts...

By the way, I currently use both Blogger (obviously!) and Bloglines, for reasons explained by the first three points on the above list. I've used a few other tools to see what they offer. I suspect that I will have a harder look at some of the less simple blog publishing tools at some point soonish.