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An online diary is a personal diary or journal that is published on the World Wide Web on a personal website or a diary-hosting website.
Online diaries have existed since at least 1994. As a community formed, these publications came to be almost exclusively known as online journals. Today they are almost exclusively called blogs, though some differentiate by calling them personal blogs. The running updates of online diarists combined with links inspired the term 'weblog' which was eventually contracted to form the word 'blog'.
In online diaries, people write about their day-to-day experiences, social commentary, complaints, poems, prose, illicit thoughts and any content that might be found in a traditional paper diary or journal. They often allow readers to contribute through comments or community posting.
Modern online diary platforms may allow the writer to make entries from a PC, tablet or smartphone. Writers might rate how they feel each day, invite someone to engage in a personal conversation or find counseling.
The first web page in an online-diary format is thought to be Claudio Pinhanez's "Open Diary", which was published at the MIT Media Lab website from 14 November 1994 until 1996. Other early online diarists include Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal online diary-writing in 1994, Carolyn Burke, who started publishing "Carolyn's Diary" on 3 January 1995, Bryon Sutherland, who announced his diary The Semi-Existence of Bryon in a USENET newsgroup on 19 April 1995, David Siegel, who started his journal on 30 August 1995 and Catherine Elizabeth Clay's  'Oneopinionatedbitch.com' started off as a photographic diary in 1995 then added a full written diary 'deardementeddiary.com' currently available in print volumes with Vol. I being Life Cycles.
Online diaries soon caught the attention of the media with the publication of the book 24 Hours in Cyberspace (1996) which captured personal profiles of the people involved in early web pages. The earliest book-length scholarly discussion of online diaries is Philippe Lejeune's Cher écran, ("Dear Screen", not yet translated into English).
The end of 1997 is generally considered the cut-off date for early adopters.
In 1998, Simon Firth described in Salon magazine how many early online diarists were abandoning the form. Yet, he said, "While many of the movement's pioneers may be tired and disillusioned, the genre shows plenty of signs of life – of blossoming, even, into something remarkable: a new literary form that allows writers to connect with readers in an excitingly new way."
As diarists (sometimes called escribitionists) began to learn from each other, several Webrings formed to connect various diaries and journals; the most popular was Open Pages, which started in July 1996 and had 537 members as of 20 October 1998. A community website called Diarist.net was formed and awarded "The Diarist Awards" quarterly from 1999 through 2004. There were a number of lists of diaries and journals by topic, called "'burbs", which allowed people to find sites that had some correlation to each other.
Mailing lists helped solidify the community. "Collabs" were collaborative projects in which people wrote on given topics and subjects.
The launch of Open Diary in October 1998 provided the first website where online diaries could be posted together as a community. Open Diary innovated several features that would become important to online diary communities, including comments, activity feeds, and friends-only content.
Some early diaries and journals showcased different emerging internet technologies, including interactive message formats, online stores, RealAudio, RealVideo as on the early literary blogger's website nakednovelist.com (founded in 1990), live webcams, notify lists, and daily self-photographs.
Today's diaries and journals may feature podcasts, trackbacks, permalinks, blogrolls and a host of other cutting-edge technologies.
The formation of diary hosting websites such as Open Diary, Diary-X, Xanga, Femmunity and LiveJournal caused an explosive proliferation of online diaries and journals. Today, interactive online diaries, online journals, personal blogs and group blogs are integrated into the daily lives of many teenagers and college students, with communications between friends playing out online. Even fights may be posted in the diaries, with not-so-veiled insults of each other easily readable by all their friends, enemies, and complete strangers.
Personal opinions on experiences and hobbies are very common in the blog world. Blogs have given the opportunity for people to express their views to a mass audience. With the rise of modern blogging platforms such as WordPress, blogging has become accessible to the masses.
In October 2006, the History Matters campaign, a 2006 joint project by the major heritage organizations in England and Wales, conducted the One Day in History project, asking residents of the UK to write an online diary of what they did on 17 October 2006. The diaries were stored at the British Library from November.
Online diaries written in Japanese have an alternate history from ones in English world. They were called "Web Nikki" (web diaries) or "Hyper Diary" (diary written in hypertext style).
Publishing personal diaries is firmly embedded in the culture of Japan historically over a Millennium, thus Japanese tend to consider that diaries are important pieces of websites naturally even at the predawn of web history.
The first online web diary in Japanese was "daily life", published on 26 April 1994 by Naozumi Takenaka, who later became a famous computer engineer, at Keio University Media Center. Other early diarist Nozomi Ohmori, a translator and a literary critic, started publishing "Kyoran Nishi-Kasai Nikki" (frenzy Nishi-Kasai diary) at March 1995, and kept writing for 14 years. His diary was thought the longest lasting diary in the world (at the time of 2009) and published also in print.
"Nikki Links", the first public bookmark dedicated for online diaries that was launched in 1995, went a way to increase online diarist and boosted forming diarist community. 600 diaries were registered on it by June 1996.
Afterward, publishing online diaries became a big boom along with the popularization of the Internet in Japan. Professor Kiyomi Yamashita, a psychologist of Senshu University, estimated that 240,000 online diaries written in Japan existed at the time of 2001.
Since around 2001 when blogs came in among the English world, "Web Nikki" in Japanese evolved into blog-style gradually. The study of blogs by Technorati in 2007 showed that 37% of blogs in the world were written in Japanese, and they had the largest share of world's blogs.
Mixi, the most popular and largest SNS in Japan, has 27 million users. It is known for its killer application "mixi diary" from the beginning of 2004. Most users were writing and publishing their own online diaries on mixi during the peak periods of its popularity.