And now, the world's longest blog post.....
Blogspot/Blogger: Probably the most popular blogging platform. Almost everyone uses it at some point (I did for the better part of three years, happily).
Why it's great: It's great because it's easy. It's caveman easy. My four year old could probably manage a blogspot blog. All you need to know is how to type and slide boxes around a screen, so her posts would probably all just say "mom sucks", but still. Plus, Google owns it, and google pays attention to that which it owns.
With Blogger, you can com-plete-ly customize your design. You can ad shit-tons of functionality, and you don't have to mess with FTP's and plugins...you just add a widget. There are about 80 million widgets you can add to your Blogger blog with one click, to do anything from adding a picture slideshow to sharing videos to adding music to your blog. If you add music to your blog, I will hunt you down and beat you with a herring. Just sayin'. Blogger hosts its own photos, so you don't have to use Flickr or Photobucket or any similar site to prevent exceeding your allotted server space, which is a nice little touch for a free blogging platform.
And that is the best part of all...it's completely free. Which leads us to....
Why It Sucks: You get what you pay for. There is a lot you cannot do with blogger, mostly because people have some snobbish idea that it isn't professional and if you're using it, you don't need professional tools, but mostly because Google owns it and will do exactly what is good for Google, and not much more.
One major drawback is their no-follow comment system. That means that if you leave a comment on a Blogger blog, your link will not count as an incoming link to your blog, which is precisely how Google ranks websites. I think they do this to limit the amount of stats they have to calculate and ease their business a little, but it's pretty messed up. No other blogging platform does this. You can get around it as a blog owner, but you have to know enough HTML to figure out how, which totally defeats the purpose of Blogger...it's ease.
Another big issue I have with Blogger is their push to monetize your blog. This seems fine, but you have to remember that if you add the one-click ads they push you to, Google Ad Sense, you're making more money for them than you'll ever see yourself. Google wants you to monetize your blogger blog because it's good for them. It's okay for you, too; you may make toilet paper money or even shoe money if you're lucky (I've made $0.35 totally from adsense ever) but ultimately, you ARE paying them.
And all those amazingly easy widgets? They're all owned by google. You add google followers, and you're essentially adding a secondary RSS to your blog, and increasing Google's ability to go to investors and say, "Look, we're going to overtake Twitter! Give us more money." Their photos push you to Picassa, but Flickr is vastly better. Their videos bump you to YouTube, though Blip and Vimeo are highly superior. Sure, you can use all those instead, but your ease of use vanishes if you do.
I love Google, I really do. All of my emails are Gmail. I use many of their services, but I am wary of any company as hell bent on taking over the world, especially those who do so on the back of unsuspecting bloggers. Plus, you most likely will outgrow it at some point, and that leads me to Wordpress.
Wordpress.com, the free WP: Another very popular platform. I use it for my review blog and my homepage (under construction).
Why it's great: It's professional on the inside. You get every tool you need to really write a good blog, and none of the clutter you don't. Wordpress offers the same "Slide to use" widget system, but the widgets are based on what's good (Flickr, twitter, vimeo, gravatar), not what's Google (youtube, follow, picassa). Plus, Wordpress has a great stat-counter built into it, and they are great at highlighting "up and coming" blogs daily. Wordpress is exactly as easy to use at blogspot, but has a little more power behind the machine. And they really do keep up with all the latest tech. Example: There is a Wordpress iPhone app so you can easily post from your phone. I don't think ANYONE else offers that. Plus it's free to use, but still, you get what you pay for.
Basically, there are more hoops to jump through, but they're less in-bred hoops. And honestly, wordpress carries a little more credibility than blogspot. Sucks, but it's true.
I don't know a whole lot about Typepad. What I do know is that all of the group blogs (except Blog Nosh) that I write for use it, and it seems to really kick ass as far as group-blogging goes. It's got excellent moderation setting for the group blog moderator to use. Typepad also makes good use of SEO tools for you, like encouraging you to use pings and keywords, and spliting them up between WHERE you want what keywords for. (There is a difference between a Technorati keyword and a Google keyword) However, I personally find it confusing as all get-out and totally outdated. And you have to pay to use the service. If you're going to pay, I'd look more at Wordpress or Squarespace.
Wordpress.org, not to be confused with .com:
Wordpress.org is the self-hosted, not free wordpress. Which means exactly that; you have to self-host it. What does "self-hosted" mean? It means that I have a server (a big online bucket) where all of my information is stored (design, posts, media, all of it). Every time you open this blog, the server has to pull what you're looking out of that bucket for and send it to your computer. It puts the lotion in the bucket....And that is a service that a blogger has to pay for. It's not expensive, but it's not free, either, maybe $25 a month, depending on where you go for server space. All the other blogging platforms host your stuff for you; Wordpress makes you do it elsewhere. The actual Wordpress tools are free to use anywhere you like (the corporate blog I write is Wordpress, so is this blog, and we don't pay a dime for the platform, just our server space).
Why it's great: You can do anything to a Wordpress.org blog. Daily, new plugins are being developed. Plugins are functions you ask your blog to perform, like that Comment Luv thing or those Sociable buttons at the bottoms of posts, or stat-tracking, or database backups, or sooped up SEO tools, or sending a post to Twitter automatically on publishing. If you dream it, you can be it. Wordpress overs you a slew of pre-made basic templates that you can tweet the holy fuck out of (mine is a heavily modified version of Seashore). With Wordpress, you get a really good, solid blogging platform with the ability to make it do anything you want it to.
Why it sucks: You can do anything to a Wordpress.org blog. And you will. And you will break your blog doing it. A LOT. The biggest drawback of being able to add plugin after plugin is that plugins run off php. Php is like the synapses in your brain that tell your leg to walk. Comment php tells your brains blog to execute X, Y and Z to make your comments do what you want them to do, and so on. Your template is broken down to Header php, Footer php, sidebar php, single page php, and so on. So, every time you add a plugin, your WP brain has to work that much harder every time your blog loads anywhere. If you tell your blog to run, jump, walk, pick it's nose, eat and tweet all at the same time, it will, and it will slow your blog down. Because php takes bandwidth to execute, and bandwidth is what you pay your server for. Bandwidth is the signal that broadcasts your blog, and if you exceed your signal, your blog will shut the fuck down. Then you have to add more plugins to supercache your blog and more plugins to make supercache more effective and before you know it, you have more php code than content.
Its's a slippery slope, that's all I'm saying. If you want the good tools, and want the advanced publishing technology, and don't do well with temptation, I'd be looking as Squarespace.
SquareSpace, Blogging Evolved:
If I had my way, I'd use Squarespace for everything. I don't have my way because it's kind of hard to bang Wordpress posts into a Squarespace blog. And that's Squarespace's major drawback, or was until I just now looked and sure as hell is hot, they've upgraded. You CAN import to Squarespace from Wordpress now. Hmmm....
Why it's awesome: It's a paid service, which means you have totally creative control. It's typically cheaper than WP (at, about $18 a month, I think we pay for Kid Test Labs with multiple authors). Squarespace hosts your blog, so you don't have to worry about servers and FTP and all of that jazz you need for Wordpress, but it's arguably easier than free WP or Blogger. Why is it easier? Because Squarespace isn't so worried about bells and whistles. What it is worried about is getting you good SEO. Of all the platforms, SS is most gear towards the "professional" side of blogging, the SEO (search engine optimization) (getting your blog see best in search engines) (helping you get more than your mother in law reading your blog). It's still got that whole "slide to use" ease and a bunch of built in widgets, but it's clean. It's concise. There's nothing you don't need and everything you do. It totally kicks so much ass, you don't even know.
Why it sucks: It's stat-tracking isn't nearly as detailed as Wordpress'. I think you can add the html to use StatCounter or Woopra, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Also, it's a little complicated to start. You HAVE to read the manual when you start up on Squarespace, mostly because it's so technically designed for good publishing. It's focus isn't functioning BIGGER and BETTER, it's functioning EFFECTIVELY and WELL. Which, after a few years on Blogger, and then a few on Wordpress, you kind of have to change your mindset to get into.