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If you're thinking about starting your own blog, the possibilities are endless.

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The idea of starting a blog can be at once both tantalizing and intimidating. Cyberspace is chock-full of interesting, smart, funny and quirky blogs that make it look so easy. They might even inspire you to try your hand at it. Many dream of reaching Internet stardom with a blog that rocks the cyberworld. But compared to the many successful blogs out there in the crowded blogosphere, you may question whether you have what it takes to stand out. It's also disheartening to survey the vast graveyard of abandoned and forgotten blogs on the Internet. You may know several people who have started one or even multiple blogs, only to lose interest or find that they don't have the time to keep them up.

First, let's be clear about what a blog is. The name comes from the term "web log," and like a written log, a blog consists of a series of entries. These entries are traditionally short -- usually a few paragraphs long -- and the blogger ideally will update the blog with new entries frequently, such as once a day or more. Blog topics can range anywhere from politics to dating, from technology to knitting. And some blogs don't have a particular focus at all. The simplest blogs are run and written by one author, like Heather Armstrong's blog, Dooce, while others are collaborative blogs like TechCrunch.

Several free platforms make it easy to start a blog, such as WordPress.com or Google Blogs (formerly Blogger). These programs offer simple design templates and walk you through the process, so they're perfect for users who aren't particularly Web- or design-savvy.

The other option is to set up a self-hosted platform, which you can get from a Web hosting company like HostGator.com or Lunarpages for a monthly or annual fee. The free platforms will keep your blog under their domain name, whereas self-hosting will allow you to have your own domain. Self-hosting gives you more control over your site, and so is best for those who aim to make money from their blog.

This brings us to the all-important question of what your goals are in creating a blog. On the next page, read about what to aim for when starting a blog.