A blogroll is the list of links to other weblogs which you typically find down the side of a blog. The idea is that these are the blogger’s friends and influencers, so the topics discussed on those blogs are relevant to the central blog’s theme. You can reasonably expect a blogger to read the blogs in his or her blogroll. If you want to know what’s on a blogger’s mind – just read what’s being said in the linked blogs too.
For the newcomer, blogrolls are a good way to get to grips with the ecosystem discussing a particular topic and to find new blogs.
Except that’s not really the case anymore. I’d be surprised if bloggers restrict their consumption to just those sources listed on their blogroll. Blogroll maintenance is often sporadic and doesn’t keep pace with the creation of new relevant information sources. As a result, blogrolls are now being merged with RSS aggregators to provide a more accurate view of what a blogger is reading (using a format called OPML). Some bloggers make their RSS aggregator OPML file public for just this reason.
And for the newcomer, there’s really no need to read through blogrolls to find relevant information. Blog search engines like Ice Rocket, and the system of tagging posts has made it much easier to find information about a particular topic. In fact, there’s too much information rather than too little.
In the world of bloggers, the blogroll used to be a way of giving some link love to each other. And that’s still true to an extent. But it’s far more common now for bloggers to link to a particular post if they like it, rather than generically link to an entire weblog. To give more Google juice, you just link to more posts. It’s also more useful for the reader if a blogger links to a specific post than to say – there’s some good stuff ‘over there somewhere’.
So will we see the end of blogrolls? Are they now a dated practice from the early days of blogging? Is it rude to delete your blogroll? Should we publish what’s in our RSS aggregators instead? Is there even much point in that given search technologies and the massive proliferation of info sources anyway?
As with any social medium the norms are changing. Blogrolls are probably a throwback now and taking up space which can be used more valuably. We’ll probably see them relegated to the bottom of sidebars, and then gently shuffled off into the ether as they get out of date. RIP Blogroll – and thanks for all the links.