Flickr, a photography-sharing web site that caters to bloggers, was the first web site to use something called a tag cloud. However, tag clouds really have their roots in the blogging community. Bloggers have a need to organize the large amounts of material they constantly churn out, and an excellent communications medium to propagate new and interesting methods.
Flickr's tag cloud idea was likely inspired (directly or indirectly) from an older blog plugin called Zeitgeist (Figure 8), by Jim Flanagan.
Jim provided this story when I asked him about it:
In 1997, when I was working at Brookhaven National Lab in Long Island NY, the Web was becoming popular enough so that everybody had to have a web page, and I wanted somehow to rebel against the canonical, hierarchical bulleted list of links. So I wrote a Perl CGI that would take a small database of links and present them on the page in varying colors and sizes. The color and size were selected randomly so different things would cycle into your attention each time you loaded the page.
Much later, when I got into blogging, I fell into the narcissistic practice of checking my blog referral logs to see what was linking to me. I developed several personal "narcissurfing" tools, and noticed that the Google and Yahoo searches that led to my site were often very amusing. In an attempt to build a page to share the search information with my readers, I fell back to the random-colored links approach, except that this time, ...