There was a time when online community in Bangladesh was synonymous with Bangla blogs. Started by Somewherein..Blog and later picked up by many other community blogging platforms, these sites gave writers a place to practice their writing. But it wasn’t only limited to literature practice. People from all walks of life joined in and started writing their everyday activities, thoughts on current affairs and so on. Bloggers even took initiative to help those in need, too, at widespread occurrences such as flood victims and the likes. Bangla blogs once had a good thing going on.
People made friends, and enemies alike, on Bangla blogs. They would write about all topics imaginable and a discussion would take place. Sometimes these led to nasty environment, but most of the time, the situation was friendly and nice.
But that all has been slowly changing. Bangla blogs are active these days, you will find new posts every few minutes, but if you spend some time looking through them, you will see they no longer attract a meaningful discussion. A peek through the front-page of Somewherein..Blog today reveals the biting truth that people are no longer as active on blogosphere as they used to be some six/seven years ago.
So what caused the blog’s popularity to go down?
The answer is simple, social media. And in Bangladesh, I can be more precise, Facebook.
The situation in Bangla blogosphere is so bad that Prothom Alo Blog, a community blogging platform obviously inspired by the insane popularity of Somewherein…Blog, is closing down. The blog is maintained by the country’s largest and most circulated newspaper, Prothom Alo, as the name suggests. Even so, they decided to shut it off. The blog moderator writes that because popularity has shifted to social media and online newspapers where people can participate in a discussion, the popularity and effectiveness of Bangla blog has decreased. Under the circumstances, the authority has decided to shut the blog on 15th September 2014.
Facebook launched quite some time ago. But it took a few years to pick up the people’s interest in this part of the world. And now that Facebook is usable at zero cost, the popularity of Facebook has risen above any other online community the country has ever seen. There are Facebook pages that write pieces on current affairs, share stories and photos which are sometime funny and relatable.
People who are good at something – be it writing a story, commenting on current affairs, photography, videography, etc – have already picked up a good number of ‘Followers’ on their personal profile or Facebook page. So they no longer have to go through the ‘burden’ of logging into another blogging site, write their post, and wait for others to see the story and comment. Because Facebook does that instantly and people can see that stuff instantly, at zero cost. Plus most people today are always active on Facebook, so they get instant notification of any interaction — likes or comments — on their posts.
Why would you go through another platform when you can do all these at the comfort of Facebook, ensuring maximum exposure to the people who follow you?
The talented people have developed a following on Facebook. And for others, there are hundreds of highly active Facebook pages. Come to think of it, it’s not that hard to see why the popularity, and more importantly user engagement on Bangla blogs has dropped significantly over the past years.
The discussion has moved to the social media platforms. And there’s no telling if it will ever roll back to those community platforms elsewhere on the web.
Regular bloggers on Prothom Alo Blog are frustrated by the shutdown decision and are preparing to hold petition to prevent that from happening. But it’s highly likely that the platform will not sustain. Social media has taken over the once crowded and cheerful, though often uncomfortable, Bangla blogosphere. There are still Bangla blogs operating with some active bloggers, such as Somewherein..Blog, but the crowd or the engagement like the past just isn’t there.
What do you think? Will the Bangla community blogging platforms ever be able to restore its popularity and user engagement?
Later published on CNN iReport.