Tumblr fully introduces Explore

Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Tumblr has now officially introduced and expanded upon a feature which I wrote about a while back. Originally known as curated topics, they’ve renamed the feature as simply “Explore”. Tumblr has appointed many curators for specific tags on the site. Not everything is covered of course, that would be close to impossible, but they have done a good job of selecting many that are likely to be used often.

When they first implemented the system, the replacement of the Tumblr Directory, they were limited to 3 obvious tags considering tumblr’s general audience: these were fashion, news and creative writing. I liked the idea back then as I felt it really made the most of the service’s vibrant and diverse community and really brings people together more in a central point.

I really like it and hope they continue to expand to cover even more tags. But don’t worry, if you want to view posts about Astronomy for example, you can still do that as well as subscribe to that feed. The only drawback is that the content there is completely unfiltered so it may be hit and miss and you could miss the best stuff.

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Tumblr Curated Topics

Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Tumblr recently launched a new feature based on their post tagging. They are experimenting with three topics, news, fashion and long reads. It’s an interesting idea. You essentially end up with a kind of curated blog edited by other bloggers. Tumblr assigns qualified people as editors for a certain tag, and they highlight the best stuff on tumblr.com/tagged/tagname.

Just like individual people and their blogs, you can follow curated tags as well as regular un-edited ones. I’ll be interested to see how Tumblr continues to evolve this into a more prominent part of their service. I think it will help them to further differentiate themselves from other self-publishing platforms as a more community driven site rather than a service that feels much more individual such as WordPress.

Blogger’s New Template Editor, Where Blogging Stands

Blogger was one of the first and biggest services that helped build blogging into the huge thing it is today. Back when it started, most people who were savvy online would have a kind of static web page and not a diary or blog. Blogger allowed people the opportunity to post their thoughts, observations and experiences online in a way that didn’t require any real technical knowledge.

In the probably too social web we have today, practically everyone has a blog of some description. While blogging is technically a website of your own where you post reasonably long articles and other content such as photos and videos, anything from Facebook status updates to tweets are technically a form of blogging, and everyone’s doing it. I don’t think the traditional blog is under threat though by any means, but I’ve written about this topic before so I’ll move on to the main topic of this post.

I mentioned that Blogger helped to ignite the blogging revolution over 10 years ago now. However, I feel it has been partly stagnating for the last several years and I think the design templates were looking very dated when compared to WordPress who have been pushing the envelope of design and features for many years and have surpassed Blogger a long time ago in those areas.

Recently though, Google have been working hard to improve and now have a brand new design tool which allows you to fully customise the templates in a very simple and stylish way. The templates themselves are very stylish to begin with but you can customise every aspect, change the column layout, colour scheme,  width and even apply custom CSS if you’re so inclined in that respect. You can also add custom gadgets and HTML which allows you to add almost anything you want including gadgets from social sites.

It’s a big and very much needed step forward for Blogger and I think it helps them to really close the gap to WordPress. Blogger also have support for advertising through adsense which isn’t offered on WordPress.com as they have a total ban on advertising unless you self-host WordPress. More importantly to me though, they have very affordable domain registrations through GoDaddy which seem to be priced cheaper than going through GoDaddy’s own website. Not only this, but the domain you buy is automatically configured to work with Google Apps such as Mail, Docs, Calendar and more. This is a very nice feature and even though WP do offer this, it takes some manual setting changes to set-up Google Apps using WP.com.

Overall I think the blogging industry is very strong as everyone naturally has things they want to share with friends and the rest of the world, or just document their lives. These updates will get me to recommend Blogger for new people looking to start their own blog now, or even people who have been for a while.

Personally I’m happy with WordPress and Tumblr for my two blogs but Blogger is definitely a more viable option than it has been for a very long time.