2008 could easily be seen as the year in which Google’s influence became truly apparent for the Blogger platform. In these past twelve months we have seen Google features become well integrated into this free blogging platform, making it a true “Google” product and incorporating features which both new and seasoned bloggers alike have found both useful and functional for their daily posting needs.
In this post, I’ll offer an overview of this year’s most prolific features and changes to the Blogger platform, and offer some insight into the developments anticipated in 2009.
Blogger in Draft came to life
Blogger’s “sandbox” for experimental bloggers was introduced back in June of 2007 as a means of testing new features before they are rolled out into the “main” Blogger interface. In 2008 we really began to feel the benefit of Blogger in Draft as many useful and creative features were introduced in beta and finally published.
The Blogger team began to encourage Blogger users to offer their feedback of developing features by leaving comments on the appropriate posts on the Blogger in Draft blog, and also to report bugs: features we have not experienced before. Furthermore, the Blogger team seem to respond to encouragement and demand for new features and the further development of old ones.
For many years, WordPress users have benefitted from the ability to schedule posts to be published at a future time or date. Blogger seemed to lag behind in this functionality until February 2008 when this feature was introduced to those logging in through Blogger in Draft. Now we are able to choose our publishing date weeks (or even months) in advance, making it easy to update our blogs while on holiday or otherwise engaged, and enabling time sensitive posts to be published at the exact time we choose.
Although there were a few bug reports soon after the beta release, this feature was quickly rolled out into the main Blogger interface on May the 1st.
Blog List Widget
This new feature was among the first features in which integration with Google’s other features became apparant. On the most basic level, the Blog List widget displays a list of links to your favorite blogs. However, with the integration of Google Reader, we can transform the Blog List widget into a fully functional RSS reader to display recent posts and even snippets of posts from our favorite blogs in the sidebar of our blogs.
Reading List in Blogger Dashboard
Google Reader has also been integrated into the Blogger dashboard, allowing you to keep up with your favorite blogs all in one place. We can import subscriptions from Google Reader to save time or add these manually through the Blogger dashboard itself.
New Posts Editor
Back in June, Blogger introduced a new improved version of the post editor which offers increased functionality for uploading images, handling HTML tags and previewing posts before they are published.
While buggy at first, this new system for editing posts has become the favored choice for many seasoned bloggers due to the increased functions available when creating and editing articles.
There are still a few missing features which I suspect the Blogger team will complete in early 2009 (such as the missing Video Upload button), though overall this proves a more reliable system than that which is currently in use for mainstream Blogger.
Complete “Gadget” Directory
This took the Widget installation page from a handful of regular widgets to a comprehensive directory of thousands with new gadgets being added almost daily.
Take a look at the official Google Gadget page to learn more about how gadgets work and for information on creating your own.
Embedded Comment Form
One of the most requested features for Blogger was the inclusion of an embedded comment form (rather than a pop-up dialog or new page). This was realized back in June when Blogger added support for this comment form to Blogger in Draft. Now we are able to leave comments on Blogger posts without having to leave the page, and more recently the option to subscribe to post comments has been added with a “Subscribe” link below the comment form.
Import/Export Blogger Blogs
The ability to export and import Blogger blogs was a welcome addition to Blogger’s arsenal of new features. By “exporting” our blogs, we are able to save a “back-up” of our entire blog (including comments, layout and all posts) which can then be imported to a new Blogger blog or domain. This also allows us to integrate two or more blogs into one larger blog which is useful for those who have different blogs scattered across various accounts.
At present, it is not possible to import a WordPress or other blog into Blogger using Blogger’s import feature, though we hope this may become possible in the future .
Blogger is becoming a social platform…
Several features have been added to Blogger this year which contribute towards the social aspect of blogging, and assist networking across different platforms and media outlets. These include:
- Followers: we can now choose to visibly “follow” Blogger powered blogs, and also display a “Followers” widget to display profile icons of those who follow our blogs. Learn more about Blogger’s followers features on this page.
- Reactions: this feature adds a widget beneath blog posts where readers can choose their reaction to your articles. Learn how to add this feature to your blog.
- Star ratings: Another feature added to Blogger posts which enables readers to give their rating to your articles on a scale of 1-5. At the time of writing this feature is still only available for Blogger in Draft (possibly awaiting further development before being rolled out to the main Blogger interface).
- Profile URLs added to Atom feeds: now a link to your Blogger profile is automatically added to the Atom feed of your Blogger blogs. This adds a greater degree of ownership and may well be enhanced in future months by the integration of all blogs and social profiles with Google Friend Connect…
Predictions for Blogger in 2009?
Although it is difficult to acquire any hints of Blogger developments before they are announced on one of the Blogger blogs, I would like to guess at some features which I anticipate will be added over the next year:
Google Friend Connect widgets for Blogger
After the success of Google Friend Connect since it’s release earlier this month, it seems very likely that the Blogger team would implement this into Blogger blogs as a one click widget/installation from the Blogger dashboard making Blogger a truly sociable platform.
Google Analytics integration
I am personally surprised that this feature has not already been drafted in to Blogger since we heard hints about the integration back in May…
Analytics for Blogger has been in private beta since April 2008 and should eventually be released as an optimal reporting interface for mainstream Blogger users. For many this will be a hugely welcomed addition to the array of features available using Blogger. Let’s hope that enough of the bugs have been ironed out to release this in draft early in 2009…
A popular posts widget…?
When Blogger introduced the “Star Ratings” widget, my first thought was that this would eventually lead to a popular posts widget for the sidebar where we could list our most popular posts based on reader reactions.
As yet this feature has not been realized (or even hinted at), though as Star Ratings is still in draft, I expect we will see at least improvements before this feature is rolled out to the main Blogger interface.
Where do you think Blogger will lead us next?
Do you have any ideas of Blogger developments for 2009? If so, please feel free to leave your comments and opinions below.