iBlog aims at SA bloggers

By Warwick Ashford, ITWeb London correspondent
Johannesburg, 16 Mar 2006

Capetonians Mark Garbers and Tim Price have created a Web site they say is aimed at introducing more South Africans to blogging (Web logging).

"Blogging is relatively unknown in SA, which is about four years behind the UK, US and Europe, where blogging is already extremely common and popular," says Garbers, who is based in the UK.

The new iBlog Web site offers a template-based free blogging service in English, Afrikaans and shortly in Zulu and Xhosa. The developers plan to add the seven other official languages in the next six to 12 months.

In addition to adding administrative and writing interfaces in local languages, iBlog`s creators say they focused on creating a site that is easy to use by stripping out all the complexity associated with many existing US-developed blogging sites.

"Current Internet trends in the UK are probably a good indication of future trends in SA and therefore we believe blogging will become increasingly popular as more South Africans are exposed to it as an easy way to establish a Web presence or set up a personal Web site to share thoughts, experiences and photographs," says Garbers.

In development since November last year, iBlog has attracted over 150 registrations since opening up to the wider Web community on 23 February.

"What really started out as an experiment in PHP, has taken off much faster than we expected, with around 250 active bloggers and an average of 1 500 pages viewed each day so far this month," says Garbers.

Asked about the choice of the PHP server-side HTML embedded scripting language for the project, Garbers says the initial choice was based on being familiar with PHP. "I later considered switching to using Microsoft`s Active Server Pages, but found laptop development easier using PHP and Apache server."

Admitting that the project has been much more work than expected, Garbers says he and Price have funded the project so far themselves because it is relatively inexpensive to host the service in the US at current user levels. However, with running costs expected to increase as iBlog grows, the developers plan to cover future costs with advertising revenue.

"We hope to attract South African advertisers targeting Internet users between the ages of 20 and 30 that make up the biggest portion of iBlog`s members," explains Garbers.

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