The easiest way to start blogging is to use an existing software platform. This sounds simple enough but it is possible to construct your own blogging platform if you really feel like doing that. For those of us who are not software developers with loads of time and a strong need for control, there are quite a few customisable options out there. There are two main types of blogging platform; hosted and not hosted. The blogging platforms that I consider hosted are those platforms that are hosted on a website run by a company other than you. Popular examples include Blogger (owned by Google), WordPress.com (owned by Automattic), TypePad, LiveJournal and, more recently, Vox (TypePad, LiveJournal and Vox are owned by Six Apart).
The big advantage of using a hosted platform is that you need not worry about installing the software and paying for bandwidth, hosting charges and your domain registrations. Of these services, you do pay for a TypePad blog (there are three packages) whereas the others are free. With these hosted solutions can literally be blogging in 10 minutes or less. Each platform has its own allure and fanatical fans and it is up to you to decide which platform suits you best. TypePad is pretty popular amongst more serious bloggers, notwithstanding the costs, because it is a pretty stable and solid platform that scales well. It can be really easily customised and has a handy feature that enables users to use their own domain names and map them to a TypePad blog, thus retaining an online identity (for example, instead of having a blog at http://example.typepad.com/example/, you can have your blog at http://www.example.com). On the other hand, if you are looking for something you can use to share holiday photos and day to day news with friends and family, something like LiveJournal or Vox may be right up your alley.
A disadvantage of using a hosted platform is that you don’t always have a say over how your site is run. If you want to be in control of what goes on or want to integrate your blog into your existing web servers, then it may be worth your while installing a blogging engine on your own servers. Two popular blogging engines are WordPress (not to be confused with WordPress.com which is a hosted implementation of WordPress) and Six Apart’s MovableType. WordPress is free whereas you have to pay a licence fee for a commercial implementation of MovableType. TypePad is based, to a degree, on MovableType so you have a pretty solid and industrial strength blog engine in MovableType. On the other hand, WordPress is free and is pretty user-friendly. It has become very popular in recent years and there are some fantastic sites out there running an implementation of WordPress. This blog runs on WordPress whereas another site in our network runs on MovableType. Often it comes down to a matter of personal choice. Each platform has many things going for it and there are many more blogging engines than the ones I have mentioned here.