I just read a sharp piece about what's happening on the Web - longtime digeratus Jason Kottke writing, for Nieman Journalism Lab, an in memoriam headlined: "The Blog Is Dead, Long Live the Blog."
Kottke has curated a compendium of thoughtful posts since 1994 - back when the word blogging hadn't yet been coined for the entries people used to write on World Wide Web logs.
Increasingly, he writes, readers are coming upon his blog entries in their social media feeds. Visiting his site? Not so much.
No longer do publicists ask him to write on Kottke.org about whatever idea, person, or product they happen to be pushing. They just ask him to send something out on one of his social streams.
"Today," he writes, "teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD."
I'm not sure whether 2013 is the end date to carve on the blog headstone, but here's another measure. Technorati is to blogs what Google is to the Web. Starting in 2004, it published a yearly look at the state of the art form. It hasn't published its "State of the Blogosphere" since 2011.
Technorati does still rank the most popular blogs. What are the top five at this moment?
The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Business Insider, Mashable!, and the Verge.
Are those blogs or websites? Beats me. I guess it depends on the definition. (By mine, Twitter is a blog - or a microblog.)
I bet you're familiar with these sites; you've likely encountered their pieces in your social media streams.
Then blogs have given way to "the stream," right?
Or so I thought until I read Alexis C. Madrigal's piece in the Atlantic from mid-December.
It seems the stream is over, too.
"2013: The Year 'the Stream' Crested," his piece is called. It begins with some definition. By 2009, an editor of TechCrunch had identified the beginning of a shift, when information began to be sent in real-time streams and not published on Web pages.
The organizing principle was "nowness."
But by 2013, Madrigal argues, readers had become fatigued by the responsibilities of keeping up with the now. "The early indications were when people started tossing around ideas like digital sabbaths, and talking about FOMO (fear of missing out). But it was easy to think this was a niche feeling only for the media class and its associated hipsters across the country," she writes.
Ulysses, he argues, is easier to digest than the Internet.
As someone who watches football games with both a laptop and a smartphone, I can relate. I miss the days when a hot dog and a beer would do.
The stream presents us with this fact: There's too much stuff out there. No one can keep up. All of us drown.
There's a way to make sense of these two seemingly contradictory declarations about the blog and the stream.
Joshua Benton directs the Nieman labs at Harvard University. By e-mail, he described the larger lifeline that encompasses both little deaths this way:
"I think it's just part of the same small-d democratization of media we've seen since the Web arrived. When I started building websites in 1994, it was complicated - you had to know how to operate a server, how to write HTML, how to do lots of things - and that meant not many people published online."
Blogging software made self-publishing a snap, he wrote, "so more voices came online. And platforms like Twitter and Facebook make it even easier, so more people publish."
This might be the most important trend. The blog-is-dead and the-stream-has-crested pieces capture real changes in the way we get our information. But what's undeniable is just how easy it is for all people to get their words into public view.
After reading these sweeping pieces, I called up the Scripting News, a site created way back in 1994 by software developer/pioneer blogger Dave Winer. He titled his Christmas Eve post "Blogging Matters" and celebrated a long, personal, heartfelt piece about what it's like to be a nurse.
It made me miss the old days when everyone, it seemed, was poking around in serendipitous corners of the Web, then sharing them in actual conversation.