WWW FAQs: Can I make a private blog?

2007-07-25: "Is a blog 'out there' for anyone to find and read or is it possible to create a blog that is just for family and friends?"

Yes, it is possible to create a private blog that is solely for your family and friends. The major blogging services provide good ways to do this. In every case, your family and friends must have an account with the same service— but they don't have to actually use it to post their own entries. They just need to log in to verify their identity before they can see your postings.

If you are using Google's blogger.com service, see their FAQ entry how do I control who can view my blog?

But blogger.com is far from the only service that addresses the privacy issue. LiveJournal users get especially subtle control over who can read what:

1. You can "friendslock" some or all of your journal entries so that only people on your LiveJournal friendslist can read them. When posting to your LiveJournal, just pick "Friends:" from the "Show this entry to:" menu just to the left of the "Post" button.

2. You can lock your posts to a particular group of friends. This is especially useful when some of the journals you like to read conveniently on your so-called "friends page" are not those of actual personal friends. See LiveJournal's FAQ entry what are custom friends groups? How do I set them up?

Other blogging services offer similar features.

"I'm webmastering my own blog, can I still protect it?"

Yes, it's possible. The simplest way is to protect it via "basic authentication," which displays a username and password prompt before a page can be accessed. This is not hard to set up with most web server software. See my article how do I password-protect a web page?

Of course, you will have to share the username and password you configure with your friends and relatives.

"What if I just want to keep my blog out of Google?"

It is possible to keep a blog, or any web page, out of Google and other well-behaved search engines with a special meta element inside the head element of each page:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow"/>

This element does two things:

1. noindex prevents Google from indexing the content of the page. So searches for text found in that page will not lead users to it, at least not via Google and other well-behaved search engines that honor this standard.

2. nofollow means that Google should not follow any links found in the page to discover new pages.

"But I'm using LiveJournal, I can't control the head element..."

That's OK— LiveJournal provides a built-in way for you to keep your journal out of Google. Follow these steps after logging into LiveJournal:

1. Click "Manage Account"

2. Click "Viewing Options"

3. Scroll down to "Additional privacy options"

4. Check "Minimize your journal's inclusion in search engine results"

Important: nofollow and noindex would not prevent a determined person from finding your blog— by guessing your user name, or by following links innocently included in pages written by other bloggers, or by using a search engine that doesn't correctly respect nofollow and noindex. If you are seriously concerned about privacy, use the techniques described earlier in this article instead.

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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