Google buys Pyra!

Whoa. Google is buying Pyra, the company responsible for making Blogger — and helping to set of a worldwide movement of self-publishing. Dan Gillmor broke the news yesterday:

“I couldn’t be more excited about this,” said Evan Williams, founder of Pyra, a company that has had its share of struggles. He wouldn’t discuss terms of the deal when we spoke Saturday, but he said it gives Pyra the “resources to build on the vision I’ve been working on for years.”

Part of that vision, shared by other blogging pioneers, has been to help democratize the creation and flow of news in a world where giant companies control so much of what most people see, hear and read. Weblogs are also becoming a valuable communication tool for groups of people, and have begun to infiltrate the corporate, university and government spheres.

What Gillmor doesn’t mention is the other well-known synergy here (and please kill me if I ever use the word “synergy” again): That Google essentially created the mass popularity of blogs. Google ranks things partly based on their popularity, measured by how many people link to a certain page; if there are tons of links to it, that site is considered popular and becomes a top-ranked search result. It is, as many have noted, a social definition of popularity.

And blogs are all about linking — promiscuous, fascinated, I-hate-this I-love-this linking. As a result, blogs frequently have many, many links to them, and thus crop up very high on Google results. Since people so frequently find the big blogs via Google searches, that means they tend to link to them, too, and the virtuous cycle begins. Moreover, since blogs point people — in droves — to fresh pieces of interest online, those pieces of news also become highly-linked-to … and they join the blogging cycle. This phenomenon was first noted last year in a great piece by John Hiler, entitled “Google Loves Blogs: How Weblogs Influence a Billion Google Searches a Week”:

A match made in heaven! Google loves links, and weblogs are all about links. Every time a blogger links to a website, its Google rank rachets up ever so slightly. If enough bloggers pile onto that link, it can start to have a significant impact on a sites’ Google rank …

So even if you never visit a blog, you’re being influenced by them. The collective votes of the weblog community are determing what sites you see on Google, the world’s largest search engine.

Don’t believe it? Here’s an interesting data point that is so weird I’ll devote an entire, new item to it …

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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