Was the First Blog a .Plan File?

The 10th birthday of Scripting News April 1 is likely to usher in a bunch of "blogging turns 10" press coverage, since Dave Winer hasn't been shy about staking his claim as an originator of the medium.

Though he didn't call the site a weblog until February 1999, Scripting News employed a link-heavy, short take, reverse chronological style adopted by hundreds of web publishers, especially after UserLand Software began free hosting on EditThisPage.Com later that year.

The first blog I recognized as a different kind of web site was Harold Stusnick's Offhand Remarks. When Stusnick began his blog in September 1997, he credited Winer and Michael Sippey.

While doing some research on the finger protocol for a networking project in Sams' Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days, I found a site that ought to be mentioned among the earliest blogs: Blues News.

Blues News sprang from the PC game programming community, which had a lot of coders spreading news via .plan files read over finger in the mid-'90s. The first posts from the site, which date back to July 1996, follow all of the characteristics of an early blog.

I've never thought of finger as a precursor to blogging, but .plan files share several things in common with early blogs: reverse order, tech-heavy content and an emphasis on personal activities.

For my book, I had trouble finding anyone who's still updating their .plan file. The last active person in the fingosphere may be Id Software programmer Timothee Besset, who posted on Feb. 2 about a new release of Doom 3.


Dave Winer has never been shy about claiming responsibility for any number of web technologies. Personally I'm suprised he hasn't challenged Al Gore for title "inventor of the interwebs".

I always thought .plan files were Twitter. They were like persistent IRC/AIM/ICQ statuses. But then I rarely saw .plan files that went beyond a sentence or two.

Hmmm. .plans in my view were more the predecessor of home pages; you put up your contact info but also your fun quotes, your ascii art, your in-jokes to all your friends. I don't remember a lot of reverse-order stuff at all because if your .plan was more than a screen or so long your friends would make fun of you. In fact there was a name for it, a too long .plan. Or maybe that was a too long .sig. Sorry. old. Memory going.

People stopped using .plans because nearly all the sysadmins turned off finger access after the morris worm. No point in maintaining a plan when no one could see it.

I wonder what I did with my old .plan.

In fact there was a name for it... Warlording. That was the name. It was for sigs. Carry on.

John Carmack had one of the most interesting and technically challenging .plan files up at idsoftware.com while he was developing the Quake-Engine. The guy tested and discarded more ideas for 3d engines (and "blogged" about it) in a day than I could come up with in a week. He also usually found some funny bugs in 3dfx's drivers for the Voodoo chipset (one of the first 3d accelerators).

Still, it wasn't a web page, it didn't have a XML output path and it wasn't exactly written in a post-per-entry, permalink-supported way. So while it was updated chronologically, I guess Dave Winer was the first to put the pieces together.

Blue's News could be a runner up, but the posts from the Blue tower followed games-industry headlines, and didn't contain personal journalism per se, so Blue as a person was the first HTML-based news aggregator, but his site wasn't necessarily a blog ( ;-) ). It might also be worth it to mention Scary's Shugashack, which followed the same format and now lives on as Shacknews (www.shacknews.com)

Thanks for reminding me of those times, though. In a way, through plan files, the games-industry was the first one to open up through direct access to the members of the industry.

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