Cyber Outrage Over Closed Blogs

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Dave Winer, a pioneer of an online journal format known as Web logs, thought he was doing people a favor by hosting 3,000 of such blogs for free.

So he was taken aback this week when he endured a barrage of criticism for deciding to stop the free service — an episode that reveals deep passions about blogging. Winer launched his first Web log in 1997 and began hosting other people's blogs in 2000, when he headed UserLand Software, a Web publishing company.

After UserLand dropped the service to focus on selling blogging-related tools, Winer bought some servers and offered free hosting on Weblogs.com, a site that also tracks blogs hosted elsewhere, making it an important blogging hub.

Eventually Winer, now a research fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, found that running the free service took too much time and energy, especially because he has health problems that he declined to discuss. He closed the free blogs Sunday.

"I can't have 3,000 people who depend on me for free stuff yelling and screaming at me, saying, `I need this now,"' he said Wednesday. "I gave and I gave, and I paid a great price."

Winer says bloggers who want their archived material can have it in a few weeks. He also hopes to connect them with other volunteers who will host blogs for free.

Still, bloggers who relied on Weblogs.com were furious, saying they should have been warned about the cutoff. Their anger spread to other bloggers, too, including Elisabeth Riba of Melrose, Mass., who called Winer "an egomaniacal blowhard with his head in the clouds. So much for his vision of blogtopia."

Such slams had Winer shaking his head. "This thing has been blown so far out of proportion," he said. "It's just unbelievable to me."

Brian Bergstein
  • Raksha Shetty

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