Silicon Insider: A Billion Bloggers?

If you can believe it, there are 57 million blogs out there.

Four times each year, Technorati, the blog search engine, produces what it calls its "State of the Blogosphere" report.

Technorati has been putting out these reports for several years now, and every one has been a mind-boggler. Indeed, to my mind, it is the single most important index of the sheer cultural power of the Internet in our time.

If will indulge me, here's the link to the Technorati's latest report, through October 2006 and published on Monday:

The data are so stunning that even the people at Technorati seem a little dazed. Put simply, the growth of the blogosphere since March 2001 is the upward trajectory of a sine wave, from zero "weblogs" then to 57 million blogs today. And the number continues to grow by 3 million blogs per month, or 100,000 per day.

Think about that: Every single day, 100,000 people out there in the world download the proper software and begin keeping a record of their lives, spouting their opinions, posting photographs of their pets, listing their favorite new movie or book or song, telling their secret dreams and fears, publishing their poetry, writing paeans to their heroes, memorializing lost parents and friends, and on and on.

A total of 1.3 million posts per day.

I once called this the Great Conversation of our time, but I was mistaken … or more likely, premature.

Because so few of these millions of bloggers ever hear more than an occasional reply back to their missives, these are really tens of millions of monologues, shouted out into cyberspace, in hopes of even the tiniest echo.

There is something very poignant, but also quite magnificent, about all of this.

It is the heroic individual still trying to make himself or herself heard above the cacophony of modern life.

Language of Blogging Is Diverse

Fifty-seven million bloggers -- and, at this rate, 100 million by next summer. And look at the breakdown of languages that make up those millions.

Forty percent of blogs are written in English. Next, at 33 percent, is Japanese. Would you have guessed that? Chinese, at 10 percent, and Spanish, at 3 percent, are the third and fourth most common.

The fastest-growing new language? Farsi (interesting, eh?), at 1 percent, knocking Dutch out of the Top 10.

Technorati also notes that while English and Spanish blogs tend to be global postings, the Chinese and Japanese are more likely to be local -- draw from that what you will.

One of Malone's Laws is that tech revolutions come slower than we expect and quicker than we are prepared for.

Now that's proving true for the blogosphere. A couple years ago, about the time the big-name bloggers were impacting the presidential elections, everyone was talking about how blogs were about to be the Next Big Thing, and how they, along with online news services and aggregator sites, would spell the death knell for traditional mainstream media.

It sounded good, and the scenario was easy to extrapolate, but it was still almost impossible to imagine that it would be true by the time the next election cycle came around.

And yet, here we are. And it has happened. Basically, every major newspaper in the industrial world is dying, some slowly, but most with shocking alacrity -- and many have speeded up their death throes by abandoning all pretenses of objectivity and hanging on to their core readership by reading back to them their own prejudices.

Television news is dying, too. Why else would CBS News throw the Hail Mary Pass of putting Katie Couric in the Walter Cronkite seat?

And with no one out there to make the catch, all that the most legendary of network news operations has managed to do is humiliate itself while accelerating its race to oblivion.

On the Way to a Billion?

The result is that whether we are prepared for it or not, the Web is now our primary medium not just for obtaining, but for creating, news and opinion. … And its presence literally grows by the day.

And you don't have to be a mathematician to appreciate that this presence is going to grow geometrically in the years ahead. Picture 1 billion bloggers by the end of this decade.

Sound crazy? Yeah, well so did 50 million bloggers back in 2001. And why should we be surprised? After all, the electronics revolution, especially Moore's Law of semiconductors, but also the pace of innovation in everything from memory to bioinformatics, has shown us the jaw-dropping power of systematically doubling a number every year.

Already, without our really noticing it, the blogosphere has become perhaps the greatest efflorescence of creative writing in human history.

Remember when the written word was supposed to be dead; when we were supposed to be entering into a postliterate world? Kids are writing more now in blogs and in their analogs, such as MySpace entries and Instant Messages, than their antecedents did a generation, or even five generations, ago.

Improbable as it may sound, history may see our time, not the Enlightenment, as the great epistolary age.

Sure there are millions of pages of dross out there -- endless chatter about what somebody had for dinner last night or crying about breaking up with her boyfriend.

But $20 says that somewhere out there in those 57 million blogs is our Samuel Pepys. And I'll even wager there is a Jane Austen.

And just imagine what a bonanza this will be for future historians. These days, the rediscovery of some lost diary from the Revolutionary War is treated as a historical bonanza, a glimpse into the quotidian world of early America.

Imagine what insights into you and me await some future researcher in those billions of lines of daily blogs.

But can it really keep going like this? The answer, I think, is yes and no.

The Law of the Blogosphere: Stay Tuned

I'm not trying to be equivocal, but realistic, based on past experience with technology revolutions.

And that brings me to another Malone Law. This one says: Every true tech revolution has its own unique governing law.

So, is there a Law of the Blogosphere? I believe there is.

My gut tells me that the total number of blogs will slow to an equilibrium -- those arriving matched by those departing -- at somewhere around a billion blogs.

But the content of those billion blogs -- that is, the total number of bits generated by the world's blogs in a given month -- will continue to increase at the current prodigious pace (that is, doubling about every nine months) almost forever.

How? You can see it already. The plain vanilla blog -- monochromatic graphics, mostly text -- of a couple years ago has evolved into an increasingly multimedia experience with colorful graphics, digital photos, and increasingly, video.

Stuff is going on all over even basic blogs these days. And at the cutting edge, blogs are developing a whole new visual grammar combining fonts, prose, images, streaming video, podcasts and YouTube windows.

This week, in what may prove to be a landmark in the story of the blogosphere, the blog aggregator Pajamas Media handed out a pile of inexpensive digital cameras to its contributors and asked them to document their experiences on Election Day.

It was a glimpse of the future. And if I was Sony or Canon or Nikon, I'd be looking at that 57 million number and planning a whole marketing campaign around my new Budget Blog camera line.

Tad's Tab: The latest from the teen tech trenches, by Malone's 15-year-old son, Tad Malone.

There is a very popular flash game on called Line Rider. It is a simple premise with a fun physics twist. You construct a track, and hit the play button. A little man on a sled appears and races down your track. Try it: It's harder than it looks. I had trouble just getting the little guy past the first jump.

Now, one of the great things about the Web (and one of the scary things about my generation) is that every new game manages to find a small group of fanatics who take it to the point of mania.

If you want to see just how far you can go constructing Line Rider if you have no other life, go to YouTube and look up "Line Rider." It will boggle your mind.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michael S. Malone, once called the Boswell of Silicon Valley, is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News, as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is best-known as the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.