The blogosphere may be thinning. Last month, Google searches for “Tumblr” overtook those for “blog”. In fact, the number of searches for “blog” had started going down as far back as May 2009. The traditional blog’s decline has coincided with the rise of Tumblr — in 2009, within two years of its birth, the microblogging site became the third most visited social network. Currently, it has 18 billion page views a month. This growing popularity of the blog’s more impatient nephew signals the age of brevity on the internet. It is the time of the Facebook post, the tweet, the hashtag. The internet seems to be moving towards an increasingly spare, almost telegraphic form of content.
The blog began life as the “web log” in the mid-1990s, a kind of online journal with discrete entries, usually around a single theme. Many used blogs as online personal diaries. Some posted entries that were thoughtfully written, almost essays in themselves. Long stretches of text could be interspersed with pictures and, often, readers could leave comments. Blog writing seemed to aspire to a literary form and it is no coincidence that web publishing grew around the same time that blogs emerged. A typical Tumblr is mostly visual, with the ubiquitous gif or with pictures accompanied by pithy captions. The act of reading becomes secondary. Text and picture combine to signal meaning to the viewer.
Tumblr is only one of the easier options available to average internet users seeking to express themselves. A gif, a status update on Facebook or a link on someone’s wall is quicker and elicits instant reactions. We live in an increasingly fast-paced world, and perhaps these forms of communication are better fitted to keep up with it.