Online Business, where Do I Start?
BUSINESS. A big word. A big commitment. A big step. Very quickly, we can round everything up about staring an online business in four very simple steps. Understand. Prepare. Do it. Sell it. There are no short cuts to working at home, let''s put it this way. If you''re looking for a short cut that you can use to start a work at home business.The blogging platform wars are getting really interesting and much of the discussion I find myself in lately revolves around what is happening with various CMS systems. The market can essentially be defined into 3 major camps: remotely hosted, self hosted, and community based systems. I have used pretty much every blogging platform available and each of them has its ups and downs. In this article I will cover the best options for each area taking into account price, usability, market share and of course SEO potential.
All of these products are either open source, completely free or have a functional free version.
Remotely Hosted Blogging Software (Note: I cannot really recommend any of these from an SEO stand point since optimizing a domain you do not own or control is obviously not a good marketing plan.)
Blogger is completely free and currently owns the majority ofthe remotely hosted user base, but not by a landslide. Bought out by Google in 1999, blogger essentially fired up the blogging trend we see today. It is by far the easiest overall solution to use and, if you are a novice user looking to throw up some recipes or poetry, this is for you. Blogger is completely free and includes some great features like comments, photo blogging, and a basic community feel with user profiles. Because it is so dumbed down there are some features you may not find with Blogger that are only available through 3rd party add-ons. As a side note Blogger weblogs do quite well in the search engines and this was recently exploited with it being the first choice for spam blogs or splogs. A splog is a weblog used for the sole purpose of gaining inbound links or generating thousands of keyword stuffed pages with Adsense and the like. The recent Google Jagger update cleared a large portion of this up. Free.
Released in 2003, Typepad is a product of Sixapart, the makers of Movable Type. It is largely based on MT but there are some major enhancements and differences. Your blog can accomodate one or more photo albums with auto thumbnail generation. You can easily add music, books, and other media to Typelists, which grab a thumbnail from Amazon and other retailers for easy displaying in your sidebar. Typepad is also a great deal more technical than Blogger so a bit of HTML know-how is recommended. On that note, editing your blog to look the way you want is also quite easy and Typepad blogs are known for being very eye-pleasing, intuitive and easy to navigate. In Sixapart''s business model, Typepad is aimed at regular home and small business users while Movable Type is targeted at larger businesses or for internal intranets. Price: Basic, $4.95 a month; Premium, $8.95 to $14.95
These guys originated back in 1999 as a site for sharing book, music and movie reviews. Although it quickly morphed into a full blown blogging tool, Xanga still maintains the ability to run a powerful review site. Xanga pulls data from several retailers like Amazon.com including thumbnails, pricing and a cover. The software also is very usable by novices with a powerful WYSIWYG editor allowing for easy HTML editing, adding smilies, links, and other symbols. By using Blog rings it is also easy to interface with Xanga''s other 3 million users to share interests, ideas, and of course traffic. Xanga comes in a free and $25 flavor.
Mentions: Blogsome, Blogster, MindSay, Multiply
Self Hosted Blogging Software
WordPress originally began as a mod of an older open source package known as B2. WP is MT''s biggest competition and is often the bain of endless Wordpress vs Movabletype style threads around the internet. Although launched just over a year or so ago WP has really taken the blogosphere by storm. And with good reason - Wordpress is completely free under GNU licensing and is packed with many features you will not find anywhere else. It is also much easier to install and get blogging for novice users and has a very large and helpful community. WP runs on PHP/mySQL and is quite scalable judging from some of the very large and trafficked sites I see using it. It also sports utilities to import files from Movable Type, Textpattern, Greymatter, Blogger, and B2. Wordpress recently upped the ante when Yahoo recently included them on their hosting packages, in addition to MT. I have to admit I am finding myself more and more digging WP and will likely convert Profitpapers to WP as I get time (it can be a biznitch). Wordpress is free.
Aside from maybe Greymatter (the original open source blogging tool), Movabletype dominated the blogging market share in 2002-2004. Released in late 2001, Perl based Movable Type by Sixapart has maintained a large portion of the blogging market share, due mainly to the fact that there is a free version (supporting up to 3 weblogs) and that it is incredibly powerful, intuitive and easy to customize.
Template driven Movable Type also sports one of the largest communities of developers and blogging enthusiasts around, meaning lots of support, idea sharing, and of course plugins. Movable Type can be configured to dynamically generate HTML, PHP or any other kind of pages you like, meaning it is incredibly scalable, fast, and loved by spiders. It is perhaps the most well known blogging software for SEO purposes and it is what currently powers Profitpapers and several of my other projects. Moveabletype is either Free with 3 authors, 1 weblog, and no support or $69.95 with unlimited weblogs, authors and full support.
Textpattern is the brainchild of Dean Allen and was written to ease publishing of content for those not inclined to learn HTML. Like WP and MT, Textpattern runs on PHP and mySQL for easy administration, backups, and power. What really sets textpattern apart from the others is the integration of Textile. Textile is a tool for easily formatting content for those who do not know HTML. WP & MT have modules for textile as well but it is native to the Textpattern system. Another bonus of the app is its superior handling of comment spam due to its smaller market share. On the blogs I maintain running WP and MT, I often find myself clearing out spam every day, whereas on some very busy textpattern sites I receive only manual comment spam (not bot driven). TP is open source.
Mentions: Blosxom, LifeType, Serendipity.
Community Based Blogging Software
Waaaaay back in 1997, Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda launched a website known as Chips & Dips, supplied via his student account at Hope College in Michigan. In 1999 Andover.net acquired Slashdot. Shortly after, the underlying code was released as open source software called Slash. Like Movable Type and Greymatter, Slash runs on Perl, but it also has established hooks into MySQL and a very strong track record of scaling to enormous traffic levels. To give you an idea, the term ''slashdotted'' originated from acquiring a link on this now infamous and very popular tech news website - and consequently watching your servers melt. If you have never messed around with Slash, you really should as it is quite a powerful platform. Slash is open source.
Another well known Perl based community blogging software is Scoop. Scoop is the software that powers Kuro5shin, DailyKos and many other busy community weblogs. Scoop took the Slashdot idea and expanded on it, making the discussion rather than the news the focus of the application. Where Slashdot entries tend to have a link with added commentary pointing readers off the site, Scoop points to stories written by members of the community keeping the reader within your own weblog. Scoop is also well known for handling large volumes of traffic and a large very technical community. Scoop is free.
Drupal is a well known open source community blogging platform with a very large community of users and developers. Not only is Drupal free but it is damn powerful. Instead of Perl, which is quite hard to decode at times, even if you are a fluent coder, Drupal uses a PHP/mySQL platform. Drupal is also a very community focused application with a built-in forum, download area, and hundreds of other home brewed mods and hacks. If you are looking for a lot of functionality, give Drupal a check - the project has become quite mature. It is also much easier to use and customize than either Scoop or Slash. Drupal is also another open source project.
Mentions: LiveJournal , PHP Nuke.
Here is a handy blog software comparison chart courtesy of Online Journalism Review. Here is another from Weblog Industry Report which is much more thorough and nostalgic yet a tad dated.
If you are into following the devlopment of open source CMS, portal, blog and related systems you should check out opensourcecms.