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Friday, June 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Bill Gates could join the ranks of bloggers

By Brier Dudley
Seattle Times technology reporter

Bill Gates
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Bill Gates has a reputation for coming late to the party, then making a big splash when he arrives.

That's what happened after the Microsoft chairman realized the potential of the Internet. And it may happen again if he starts his personal Web log.

Yes, the world's richest man may start his own blog, one of those online diaries that have been the rage among techies for the past three or four years.

Bill's blog won't be all business, either. He's expected to share personal details such as tidbits from recent vacations, according to tech pundit Mary Jo Foley's Microsoft Watch newsletter. Citing unnamed sources, she reported yesterday that Gates is about to start blogging "real soon now."

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray would not confirm the story, but left open the possibility, saying, "Bill would love to do his own blog at some point in the future, time permitting."

Murray noted that Gates talked up blogging at gathering of executives in Redmond last month.

"Bill and the company are very enthusiastic about blogging," he said. "Bill talked a lot about the power and potential of blogging at the CEO Summit and the advantages it gives to communicating and sharing information with a wide range of potential audiences."

Blogs were first produced by techies in the late 1990s using special software that makes it easy to produce and update the personal Web pages.

Now 44 percent of U.S. Internet users contributed content to the Web, and 2 percent maintain their own blogs, according to a February study by the Pew Internet & American Life research project. With about 128 million adult Internet users in the country, that would mean there are more than 2.5 million blogs.

Corporations, especially software companies in the Silicon Valley, embraced blogs as a way to interact with their customers.

One of the early players was Google, which lets people create and maintain blogs free at blogger.com, a business it purchased in 2002.

Some Microsoft employees have been blogging on their own for several years. In January, the company began hosting blogs on its software developer Web site, which as of yesterday listed 709 blogs.

At last month's Microsoft-sponsored CEO Summit, conceived as a forum for chief executives to network and discuss business issues, Gates said blogs are useful for sharing information, particularly because they can notify people when new information is added.

"And so if I do a trip report, say, and put that in a blog format, then all the employees at Microsoft who really want to look at that and who have keywords that connect to it or even people outside, they can find the information," he said, according to a transcript of his talk.

The challenge, especially for busy executives, is keeping blogs up to date.

Eric Rudder, a senior vice president at Microsoft, started a blog in May 2003 but let it lapse for months at a time. Co-workers jokingly suggested they would use his name as a verb, meaning letting one's blog go dormant.

A blog would not be the first time Gates has written for a broad audience. In the early 1990s he wrote a syndicated newspaper column, and he still writes occasional opinion pieces.

Gates has long had his own Web page (www.microsoft.com/billgates) where he posts speeches, and he periodically sends an e-mail newsletter to customers.

Gates also has a stable of writers and communications specialists who help produce material. It's unclear whether they would help keep his blog going.

Barry Mitzman, a former public-television host who helps Gates write materials such as position papers, had not heard that his boss may be blogging.

"That's cool," he said. "If Bill were to do a blog, that would be very interesting. I'd read it."

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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