IBM is launching itself into territory popularised by the likes of Google - the Weblog. IBM this week announced two blogging tools, taking advantage of a practice increasingly prevalent in the enterprise.

Weblog Preview, available as a trial download from IBM's AlphaWorks developer site, works with the Workplace collaboration platform, and will ultimately be integrated into the platform as a core component. IBM is also releasing a blog development component with Workplace Designer 2.5 in August.

IBM sees blogging as a key way for companies to promote information sharing. "In an enterprise, corporate knowledge is in employees' heads most of the time. We are providing tools that help to capture that knowledge and share it through the organisation," said Ed Brill, business unit executive for Lotus and Domino sales at IBM. Brill himself is well known as a blogger.

Blogs have certain advantages over e-mail, such as helping employees to find information when they're not quite sure who to ask, Brill said. IBM published a blogging policy for its own employees about eight weeks ago and now has several thousand internal blogs, along with the several hundred existing IBM blogs available on the Internet, he said.

The Weblog Preview test release works with Workplace 2.5 and Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5, and is integrated with other Workplace features, including security, integrated search and presence. The Workplace blog can be administered centrally.

The tool also integrates the usual blogging components found on personal blogs, including a public list of favourite Weblogs linking to internal or external blogs, support for Atom and RSS syndication, commenting, archiving, permalinks, a rich text editor for posts, and full-text search for posts and comments.

Installer scripts are currently only available for Windows, but the tool should support any platform supported by Workplace, IBM said.

IBM has offered blogging capabilities on Domino for several years, but that application was developed externally, Brill said. The new tools are the first time IBM has put blogging into its collaboration portfolio.

"By putting that into Workplace, we are saying that we expect everybody in an organisation to be able to be a publisher, not just a consumer of information," Brill said.

Tools like Google-owned Blogger may be fine for external blogs, but internally the tools need to be integrated with the rest of a company's infrastructure, Brill said. IBM's own employees have taken up the blog idea in large numbers recently, showing that the concept can work, he said. "The inhibitors don't exist as much when you're only talking to colleagues," he said.

Blogs have continued to gain momentum, and indeed are now one of the driving forces of Internet growth, according to analysts. Netcraft, which monitors Internet growth, found that in July there was a gain of 2.76 million hostnames over June, the second-largest monthly increase since Netcraft began the survey. This was partly due to "the explosive growth of weblogs, a growing number of which are purchasing domains for branding purposes," Netcraft said.