Google’s Blogger.com, one of the trailblazers of the whole medium, is about to undergo a substantial upgrade that will improve its usability and help it catch up to the state of the art. You can preview the beta version at beta.blogger.com, but in my experience the beta system isn’t stable enough to use yet. You can check it out now though. Blogger users will be notified when they are invited to switch over to the beta version. Thanks to Ionut Alex Chitu of Google Operating System for posting on this.
Blogger was built by San Francisco based Pyra Labs in 1999; that company was then acquired by Google in 2003. Not a lot has changed sine 2003. None the less, Blogger is the fastest, easiest way to quickly throw up a free blog and be able work with the template code.
There is a long list of new and updated features, but in the long run I’m guessing that integration of Blogger with Google Accounts may make the biggest difference. Through this integration, there’s no shortage of things that may become possible and more elements from the Google Empire beyond Adsenes may begin appearing easily on non-technical users’ blogs.
But for now there are other features already being discussed. The big picture is privacy, tags, drag and drop layout and easier inclusion of non-textual elements.
Blogger.com will now publish individual posts to the Blogspot servers, instead of republishing the entire blog after each post. Besides making the system easier to use, perhaps this will also solve the problem of Blogger blogs republishing their entire feeds and appearing as unread in feed readers.
Privacy settings will be enabled. Blogs can be public, private or read only by invitation. Many people say that private blogs are counter intuitive and that anything you post online should be understood as being for public consumption – but the blogging software providers are betting otherwise. The privacy feature is either not turned on yet, or is not working, and RSS privacy appears to be undetermined yet. It would be interesting to see Blogger support the RSS privacy standard that Bloglines recently proposed. One thing that’s clear so far is that Google appears to intend that only readers with Google Accounts logins will be allowed to accept permission to read private blogs. That’s a cheap move.
Posts can now be tagged; no more workarounds for Blogger posts to appear in tag search engines. This will also change the composition of tag search results, as there are a huge number of Blogger blogs written by less technical users and robot sploggers.
Drag and drop layout. Both building your blog’s template and changing the position of elements later will be possible with a drag and drop interface. That’s the kind of thing that could help Blogger reclaim its position as the preeminent hosted system in terms of usability. The default template options are also more varied.
Feeds. Feeds for all comments and individual feeds for comments on each post. Support for RSS 2.0 in addition to Atom.
Perhaps the upgrade will also bring new stability to the service, as it goes down all the time. I imagine that only publishing new articles instead of republishing entire blogs will help with this.