Starting a blog can be very easy, considering all of the free blogging sites out there. However, choosing between all of the best blogging sites can seem a bit confusing, especially if you are a first time blogger. That is why I have taken the time, after much research and digging, to compile a list of the top 10 best blogging sites.
As far as theme and plugin selection, flexibility and support goes — WordPress trumps all. Not only does the free, open-source blogging software allow you to blog for free on WordPress.com but you can also download a copy of WordPress (from WordPress.org) and install it on your own website using your own domain (like this website). WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform and one of the first to be completely user friendly — you do not need any coding experience to operate a WordPress blog. From optimizing your blog’s pages for search engines (for more traffic) to automatically creating share buttons at the bottom of each of your posts: WordPress plugins can do it all. Designing your own WordPress theme is simple and easy and you do not need to be experienced with PHP, although it is recommended that you have a basic understanding of HTML and CSS if you want to alter your templates. Premium themes (paid for) make it possible for you to create entirely custom themes without even knowing one line of HTML/CSS code. You cannot place advertisements for your blog on free blogs hosted at WordPress.com but you can easily place advertisements on blogs that are self-hosted. Support for WordPress at the forums are above par as you will usually get a response for a question within minutes. WordPress is used by top bloggers like Perez Hilton, Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan and Michelle Malkin.
#2 Google Blogger
Now owned by Google and formerly known as Blogspot, Blogger is probably the most user friendly blogging platform out there. You can set up as many free blogs as you would like from your Google account. Traffic that you get from other blogs at Blogger.com through the next blog button at the top of every Blogger.com blog can sometimes be substantial. You can even monetize your blog with Google AdSense. All you need is an AdSense account (from Google) and you can start earning money from people who click on your ads. Unfortunately there is only 16 templates to choose from (the we-know-better Google likes to keep things simple) but blogger does allow you to edit individual elements on your blog like the header, post section and gadget bar (sidebar) in your admin control panel. Popular blogs hosted at Blogger.com include PostSecret and The Sartorialist.
TypePad is another blogging site that has gained a reputation through its user friendly interface and ease of use. TypePad gives your blog search engine friendly URLs and will automatically optimize your site for better search engine rankings. You can map your own domain to your TypePad blog or you can host your blog through a sub-domain at TypePad.com. The TypePad software also has very good anti-comment spam features. Unfortunately you must pay a fee of $8.95 per month to use TypePad and, even at that price, you are only allowed three blogs. You can have unlimited blogs by purchasing an unlimited or business class account. Popular blogs that use TypePad include: Seth’s blog, Wired Science and The Daily Dish.
#4 Movable Type
MovableType, written in PERL, is another open source blogging platform developed by the company Six Apart (the former owner of LiveJournal). Similar to WordPress, Movable Type offers a free self-hosted package (MovableType.org) as well as a service for non-developers who would like to host their blog for free (MovableType.com). MovableType users can publish as many blogs as they would like and can even publish standalone content pages (something unique to blog platforms). Like WordPress, you can have multiple user accounts on your MovableType blog. Prominent blogs that use MovableType include: The Huffington Post, Power Line Blog and Boing Boing.
LiveJournal, formerly owned by Six Apart and written in PERL, differs from other major blog platforms because of its unique community feel and social networking features. The “friends list” provides a way for people who have LiveJournal accounts to connect with each other and a friends page displays a feed of LiveJournal posts (or “entries”) made by friends. One bad thing about LiveJournal is the fact that you must display advertisements (from LiveJournal) even if you upgrade to a Plus account. Plus users are able to change the display option for the advertisements as well as store and manage photos (not an available option in the free version) and create post polls and surveys. If you would like to go advertisement-free, you need to upgrade to a Paid account ($20 per year) which gives you many more features like creating new syndication accounts and creating a custom journal design with advanced options.
Although Drupal is more a general purpose content management system, people often use it for blogs. The CMS is free and open source but you will need to host the blog on your own website. Drupal has a very large open source community so there are many templates available from contributors and the Drupal development team. Installing Drupal is easy and as simple as downloading the core files, uploading them to your host, creating a MySQL database and then running the install script (similar to WordPress). Drupal also has a wide variety of modules (the equivalent of plugins for WordPress) that allow you to add and alter functionalities on your site such as image galleries, WYSWIG (what you see is what you get) editors and private messaging. The White House NewsBusters and Doose all use the Drupal content management software.
Xanga started as a site for sharing book, music and movie review but has since evolved into a full-force blogging platform. Xanga is free but with the premium/plus versions you are given more publishing and design options, bandwidth and storage space. You can use Xanga on your own domain (as opposed to using a sub-domain of Xanga) and, because Xanga uses domain mapping, your domain will have free WHOIS protection, which means people cannot learn your contact information by doing a WHOIS search on your domain (a service that usually costs $10 per year). As far as user-friendliness goes, creating an Xanga blog is as easy as creating a Facebook or MySpace page — there’s nothing to it!
Textpattern is another free, easy to use CMS that is relatively little-known. Similar to WordPress and Movable Type, Textpattern is built with PHP and MySQL. A wide variety of plugins and templates are available through the open source community. One unique feature of the Textpattern CMS is the textile tool which, dubbed the “human Web text generator,” converts text input into valid XHTML. Textpattern was designed specifically for people who do not have a strong knowledge of HTML.
Tripod, created by the underdog search engine Lycos, is a web hosting service and content management system for blogs and websites that operate under free, plus or pro accounts. The software is not open source but incredibly stream-lined and easy to use with a wide variety of professionally designed templates to choose from for your blog or website. The free account is only allowed 20GB of disk space, 1GB of monthly bandwidth and you must run ads by Tripod unless you upgrade to a Plus account.
Similar to Tripod, Squarespace is a hosting service that comes with an easy to use, closed-source content management system for blogs and websites. Despite being at the bottom of my list, Squarespace offers some promising features, including an iphone app to view and edit your site, dozens of professionally designed templates, social media integration and an importation tool if you would like to move your blog from WordPress, TypePad or Blogger. The trial version of SquareSpace lasts 14 days and the basic package costs $8 per month. More expensive packages (like the $50 community package) allow more bandwidth usage, disk space, custom URLs and other functionalities.