What is the best free blogging site?
January 28, 2010 5:20 PM   Subscribe

What is the best free blogging site?

I'm familiar with typepad, wordpress, blogger, etc., but I'm not sure which one to choose to host my blog. Has anyone done a comparison of features, drawbacks and the like? Is there one I haven't heard of? Can you tell me which one you like, and why?
posted by wwartorff to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
It depends. If you're just looking to publish content quickly without regard to how it all looks, Blogger. If you want to spend time designing your blog (or using one of the millions of templates) and installing plugins and whatnot, Wordpress.
posted by nitsuj at 5:26 PM on January 28, 2010

I looked around and went with "bribing a pal to host WordPress for me," which only really works if you have a pal who is a sysadmin and whom you trust implicitly to handle site security and uptime.

I would have gone with WordPress's hosted solution, but I wanted Twitter integration, the WPTouch mobile site system from Brave New Code, and the potential for eventually adding a simple ad space if I wanted to. WordPress hosting doesn't permit ads or plugins, so if you want anything like that and you're set on WordPress as your CMS, you either need to start from zero with a WordPress install that isn't on wordpress.com, or start with wordpress.com and then migrate to a standalone install elsewhere when you need plugins and advertising.

WordPress has one-click updating, which I like in terms of reducing workload on my enslaved sysadmin pal. I've also liked the high quality and nice production values of the video tutorials I've seen, both from WordPress and from third-party development teams. When I have to actually sit and watch some damn thing to learn something (I'm a verbal learner, thanks much), it helps if it's easy to watch and engaging.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:34 PM on January 28, 2010

Yeah, Blogger is pretty much my general recommendation, but as nitsuj said earlier, it really depends on what you're planning on using it for.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:36 PM on January 28, 2010

If you want to spend time designing your blog (or using one of the millions of templates) and installing plugins and whatnot, Wordpress.

Only if you're hosting your own WordPress install, as they illuminate here. Wordpress.com doesn't let you have plugins.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:38 PM on January 28, 2010

One of the most important things to me is that my blog stay around for as long as possible, including after I'm done updating it. If I died tomorrow, I'd want my blog to stay around. Now, people will say: "There's no way to have that, because any site could go down at any time." True, it's always a gamble, but you want to make the best gamble you can. Blogger is the site that gives me the most confidence that its blogs are going to stay around for the long term. It's backed by an enormous corporation (Google) and seems to be very successful. It's completely free and self-contained.

I would not find it acceptable to use a site that required paying a regular fee to host my blog. This is true even if I'm not bothered by spending the money. I'm bothered by the idea that if I stop paying someday, my blog would disappear.

Admittedly, I don't know much about this. But I've never heard anyone who has more expertise than me even address this issue. I'm not confident that people have thought about the long-term future sufficiently.

People tout this or that site because it looks really cool right now. But I feel the most secure with Blogger even if the look is a bit clunky.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2010

You listed three, and then etc.'d, so it's hard to know which ones you "haven't heard of". I love Tumblr, and getting set up is so painfully easy, you owe it to yourself to just create a throwaway account and try it out.

That being said, if you know you want the plugins and other gizmos that a WordPress blog will give you, I'd suggest setting up an account at DreamHost. They have one-click WordPress installations, and it's only $10 a month, and I believe that also includes a free domain registration. You can then add whatever WordPress plugins and add-ons you want. I've been really happy with DreamHost.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:45 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can probably get away with a pretty decent blog using just Tumblr.com. It's extremely basic, easy to set up and there are hundreds and hundreds of themes.

Drawbacks: can't run ads, no commenting system (although you can integrate comments via DISQUS)

If it doesn't meet your needs, you can always move your posts to a Wordpress blog later on.

I recommend Wordpress, otherwise. But I'd recommend hosting it yourself instead of going with a wordpress.com account. It's just too restrictive if you're going with an "industrial strength" blog platform.
posted by plasticbugs at 5:46 PM on January 28, 2010

Sorry. I missed the "free" part of your request.

So, yeah: Tumblr.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:47 PM on January 28, 2010

I started with Livejournal. Too basic, clunky and primitive interface. I tried hosting my own with WordPress which was nice but didn't suit my style of quick, rapid fire updates. It was/is shaped around blogging as a personal journal, with mostly paragraphs of text. Vox.com was supposed to be the new web 2.0 Livejournal, but it was just too many bells and whistles and an inefficient interface.

I settled on tumblr because it's very slick. It's equally usable for posting a quick YouTube video, funny picture from the internet, or a regular blogging entry. The layouts they provide are very browsable for blogs consisting of just streams of images or text. The interface is extremely clean, and at the moment there aren't ads. I'm doing a terrible job of describing it, really, just check out some of their blogs.
posted by mnemonic at 5:54 PM on January 28, 2010

I've become a HUGE fan of Posterous. If you don't need much customization, it's sublime. (I'm saying this after I've used Moveable Type, Blogger, Wordpress and Typepad. I've been blogging since 2003.)

Blogging is as easy as sending an email with attachments, it does all of the work of resizing things and arranging them. So lovely. (If you want to see mine, you can check my profile.)
posted by jeanmari at 5:59 PM on January 28, 2010

posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:17 PM on January 28, 2010

You know, I've tried many, many blogging platforms (really, most the ones mentioned here). The only one I still use on any kind of regular basis? LiveJournal. Yeah, the interface is cheesy as hell and at this point the site is populated mostly by Russians and Harry Potter slash communities (neither of these sets includes me) but I like how finely-grained the access control is. If you're looking for essentially an online journal that you can share with your friends, and set up dozens of overlapping and crazy access groups so that only people who have heard you have a dog get updates on your dog, LJ is still the winner. I've been using it since 2002.

I also occasionally update my Tumblr because I've found an awesome youtube video or picture. Tumblr makes sharing media really, really, really easy. LJ, BTW, doesn't. I hear Tumblr and Posterous are basically at war right now trying to ramp up features...a dear friend of mine works at Posterous and the people who love it really love it. Anyway, I think the competition has been good for both, they are doing some very solid stuff, and if you want a really solid multimedia blog I think either of them are great.

However, it seems like these days most people blog for professional reasons, in which case I'd say go with Blogger for ease of use and maximal recognizability. Or, if you have web hosting someplace already, Wordpress.
posted by crinklebat at 6:42 PM on January 28, 2010

Tumblr, unless you enjoy having your content reliably indexed by search engines.
posted by dhammond at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2010

posted by extrabox at 8:00 PM on January 28, 2010

It really depends on what you need. I use WordPress, not self-hosted, and it's great. That is, it's great for me, because I have zero technical knowledge and zero desire to acquire any; I wanted something that looked nice, was free, and worked right out of the box, and WordPress is that. I do not, for instance, know what a plugin, so if you also don't, WordPress might be for you. (WP also makes it very easy to embed video, images, blog from your iPhone, etc., if these are your bag.)
posted by escabeche at 9:29 PM on January 28, 2010

I like Wordpress. Easy enough for a beginner, but room to grow and get more complex if you eventually choose to do so.
posted by Paris Elk at 10:17 PM on January 28, 2010

one answer only: tumblr.
posted by zenpop at 11:02 PM on January 28, 2010

Seconding (thirding?) Posterous.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 1:31 AM on January 29, 2010

Another vote for Posterous here.

And here's what you can do to help make up your mind -- set up accounts with all the free blogging platforms. Then, set up Posterous to automatically cross-post to each of them. Try this set-up out for some time. If you decide you like a particular service more than another, then you can just continue with that one, and delete the rest, and you've wasted no time since, thanks to Posterous, they will all have the same content.

If you like, keep using Posterous as your funnel -- outputting to your blog, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc.
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:13 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dreamwidth is based on an updated version of the Livejournal code. They don't have adverts, unlike Livejournal; the current Basic Livejournal accounts display banner ads to anyone who isn't a logged-in user, as well as having other accounts with more ads. You will need an invite code to create a Dreamwidth account for free; there's a link on the front page of the site to a place where you can get them.
posted by Lebannen at 7:23 AM on January 29, 2010

It really depends on what you want to do, but I friggin love Tumblr with all my nerdy little heart.
posted by geekchic at 7:59 AM on January 29, 2010

Between the big three, you would do better to start with Blogger or Wordpress. Migrating from Typepad is extremely difficult. It took me two years to figure out how to extricate myself from Typepad without losing my permalinks and search engine traffic.

Both Blogger and Wordpress allow you to move pretty freely in and out. Make sure that whatever free service you use that you use a domain of your own and don't start your weblog on name.blogs.com or name.blogspot.com or name.wordpress.com. Later it's much harder to move your site if it's been on one of these subdomains. If your site does take off, you will want to move it from free.

And sites take off slowly so you will gradually dig yourself a deeper and deeper hole if you don't set the foundations right from the beginning.
posted by uncoy at 9:06 AM on January 30, 2010

Response by poster: Went with Blogger (blogspot.com) for a couple of reasons...

1. Owned by Google, therefore not going anywhere anytime soon
2. Works well with Picasa, which we're using to catalog our digital images at home
3. I'm not trying to make money, so having my own domain wasn't that important, although it does have the option to point to one if you so choose
4. Tumblr looks WAY cool, but I went the "safe" route. Maybe next time!

Thanks to everyone for your input. It is much appreciated!
posted by wwartorff at 7:06 PM on February 4, 2010

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