This post rambles wayyy too much, as Dave points out in the comments. Skip it, and read the next one instead. --Mike--
The history of the internet is rich in details and many examples of technologies that have come and gone. The overall pattern is one of new systems solving the problems of older technologies, then winning popularity. Sometimes the advantages of the new system are readily apparent, and at other times the differences weren't so easy to spot.
I'm writing this in an attempt to highlight what I think are the reasons for the popularity of blogging up to this point, and to help provide a wider foundation for discussion about future directions it might take.
Blogging is a relatively new form of social networking to appear on the internet. The owner of a blog makes a series of posts about topics they find interesting, on a regular basis. The entries are usually titled and dated, and presented in reverse chronological order. The entries are usually in the form of commentary on other blogs, web content, news of the day, person observations, or centered on some theme.
There is a subtle yet profound difference between blogs and previous methods of communicating on the net. Blogs are anchored to a location, which requires ownership. This difference is the major factor which lead to it's current popularity.
Now... you might just think I'm full of shit, but consider this:
When you read a blog for the first time, you're deciding if you like the author or not. This is a personal relationship based on ownership and content of the blog. It grows over time. You'll develop a set of favorites that you read over time.
When someone makes their list of favorites available, it's a blogroll. When you put someone on your blogroll, it's more than just a person reference, it becomes an endorsement. This means that people think twice before adding someone to a blogroll... which helps keep the quality up.
Blogrolls and easier tools made blogging popular. This lead to the current rush of traffic. All because of the ownership and identity and relationships inherent in the simple fact of a URL anchor.
The tools make it dead easy to link to other blogs, and build the live web. This means that the sheer amount of stuff to discover will probably continue to grow for quite some time.
When we were strictly manually building blogrolls, any spam blogs (splogs) that arose would quickly be discounted, and just not added to the growing web of links. This is the only form of spam defense which isn't likely to be overwhelmed in the near future. It's pretty much 100% effective.
Now that the search engine tools are arriving, we're starting to hear about splogs. This is due to the fact that the seach engines lack the reputation metadata that is inherent in blogrolls and the personal discernment of content quality. We need to find a way to supply this metadata, or create a suitable replacement.
That is the challenge we face, to build search engines that can use reputation to moderate out spam before it gets a chance to grow. It has to be based on relationships, and identity. If there's any way that it can get gamed, it will, so we need to be very careful.
At this point, I bow to the collective wisdom of you, gentle reader, and the rest of the community. I'm open for any and all suggestings that don't spam me. 8)
I thank you for your time, and I hope you found some new thoughts to consider.