Earlier this week Blogger unveiled its new Beta version. I have been playing with this service and am extremely happy with the new features Blogger is unveiling. Blogger, originally created by Pyra Labs was one of the pivotal fores n the explosion of the blogosphere over the last several years. Originally a tiered service with free and paid versions, Blogger was acquired by Google in 2004. Since its acquisition the feature set of Blogger has languished while new offerings such as WordPress.com have entered the scene.
Blogger and WordPress are both attractive options for those looking to set up a blog. These services eliminate the need to find a host and install blogging software. Because these are hosted services, you have less control than if you host your own blog. Both services differ in what they limit and to what degree.
WordPress.com is the free, hosted version of the popular content management system WordPress.org. WordPress is an excellent, feature-rich blogging platform. The full feature set of WordPress is only available if you install it with your own web host (the software itself is free). Many (if not most) professional blogs use Wordress as their content management system.
Both Blogger.com and WordPress.com are extremely straightforward to set-up and use. I think that Blogger is slightly more user-friendly than WordPress.com for the novice blogger, but 15-30 minutes of reading and tinkering with WordPress is all that is really needed to get going. Blogger.com is also a little more easily integrated into cell phone, camera phone, e-mail blogging, and the like, and is probably a slightly better choice for personal bogs and total beginners.
WordPress features include static pages, categories, an extremely powerful editor, and many other features. Pages are a way of keeping static HTML pages within the dynamic blogging interface. This can also be accomplished with Blogger, but it is a hack and not as useful. What I do in Blogger to create a page is make a post or (cannibalize an old post from months ago), and link to that post from a static part of my blog. Look at my age here for an example. The links in the navigation bar are all links to old bog posts which I then use as content management pages. This works, but it is a hack and not nearly as slick as WordPress’ built-in pages feature.
Blogger is more useful than WordPress.com if you like to tinker. WordPress.com limits the number of templates you can use and has a somewhat (but not fully) customizable sidebar. Blogger gives you complete control over your template. You have total access to the HTML and can basically do whatever you want. Any sort of add-on, template sidebar structure, navigation and the like are yours to tinker with. This is also possible if you use install WordPress on your own server, but the freely hosted WordPress.com currently does not allow access to the HTML.
The non-techie (or at least non-tinkerer) will not really care about this feature. WordPress.com’s templates are really superb, and I think that they tend to look much better out of the box than Blogger templates. You can however, tweak Blogger templates to look pretty much like WordPress templates–it just requires some technical knowledge.
The new Beta Blogger really changes things up. Blogger has lifted many features from WordPress.com while still allowing access to the HTML (coming soon). It is unclear right now whether the new Blogger will support multiple pages like WordPress, but the sidebar is now widgetized like WordPress and categories are supported (Blogger is calling them “labels”). You can drag and drop sidebar widgets quite easily (a huge improvement over the old Blogger). The publishing scheme has been reworked and changes/new posts appear instantaneously (no more spinning triangle of death). Here are some more features according to the Blogger team:
A lot of folks have been wanting to use new features like Labels but with their existing template. Or there are folks who are looking for more fine-grained control than offered with the new Layouts system.
Fortunately, it’s always been part of our plan to introduce a new Edit HTML system for Blogger in beta. This system will not only let folks have the degree of customizability they desire, but it will let you create templates that are customizable with the Layouts system. Right now we are finishing the first version of this system and will be introducing in the “days not weeks” timeframe.
I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to move my blog over. Hopefully this will fix the rendering problems that my blog (and tons of other Blogger blogs) has in Internet Explorer and Firefox.