Creating and maintaining an online journal is as technically simple or complex as you care to make it. Someone with the technical background or desire to learn can purchase their own domain name, find a host or host it themselves, and write or personally configure blogging software themselves. For the rest of us, setting up an online journal is as easy as setting up and using a web-based e-mail account.
Two of the most popular and well-established pieces of online journaling software are Blogger (affiliated with Google) and LiveJournal (a leading open-source journaling service). There are countless others, but these two are a representative sample.
The most important difference between keeping a private journal and keeping an online journal is that other people can and do read the journal. Part of the interesting phenomenon is that instead of a lone voice in the darkness, online journalists form communities, and refer to, read, and comment on each other's material. It can be likened to sending a news letter out to friends, family (and complete strangers), or to writing a small newspaper column. Even people who may not keep a blog of their own have been turning to blogs like "Dear Raed" (an account of contemporary life in Iraq) for on-the-spot news rather than relying on traditional mass media. Interesting items are noticed, then picked up by other bloggers and passed around the internet at slightly below the speed of thought. Firm online friendships form, similar to the friendships formed between regular letter correspondants who may have never met face-to-face.
With all this online exposure comes some issues that may be familiar to newspaper reporters and celebrities. If real names are used, first, the very people you are writing about may find your journal! This may or may not be a good thing. They may not wish to have that degree of public exposure. Second, if what is written is inaccurate, one could be liable for libel, the publication of damaging lies. Even if one uses nicknames, the potential for high-school style gossip and backstabbing can be immense. Some people have collected online stalkers.
Do not let the potential drawbacks of keeping an online journal dissuade you. By knowing about them beforehand, you can avoid the pitfalls that new journalists would be unaware of. Blogger TheFerrett has a list of guidelines
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