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What is Guestbook Hosting?
A guest book is one of the oldest and simplest means of getting feedback on your website. It is a centralized place to invite comments, asking visitors to your site to say hello and leave their name and contact information. Where did this idea come from anyway?
Metaphors are a funny thing. The internet isn’t really very much like anything else we have in “real” life, and so the way we talk about it and think about it has had to develop.
When the internet was first invented, the primary action of “browsing” the internet involved requesting and viewing documents. The documents were stored on other people’s computers, and the ability to access them from a distance was quite a breakthrough.
At first, the documents tended to be whatever they had before the internet. Reports, files, magazine articles. Same old content, but with a new way to access it.
Pretty soon, though, people started creating documents specifically for the internet. They started to call these things “web pages.” It’s still a document, but with content, formatting, and tone specifically geared toward public viewers.
At first, these pages and documents were just put in a single directory — the
/www/ (world wide web) directory. Someone who wanted to see what you had in your publicly accessible
/www/ folder would call it up on their computer, and view a directory file listing. Just a list of file names, nothing more.
Then someone started to created index pages. This was a single, custom-made page that told other people what was in that directory. But it was more than just a list of files — you could put whatever content you wanted into it.
And people did.
These index pages turned into “Home Pages,” and our modern metaphor for the internet was born.
Websites and Home Pages
At first, “Home” in “Home Page” meant the home document for the directory — an index or listing that provides information about the contents. But it wasn’t long before people started thinking about it as “the online home of my organization.”
This is a metaphor. No one actually lives there. We just imagine that the website is the place where the business or school or club “lives” online.
“Website” is another metaphor that came out of this period. As users of the internet got conceptually further and further away from the notion that they were viewing documents on another computer, the metaphor of physical location completely took over. You didn’t make documents public; you “built” a “home” on a “site.”
Interestingly, the metaphors remained mixed: People still talk about “pages of a website.” As social media and web apps take over the internet, it will be interesting to see how these metaphors change.
Visitors and Guestbooks
One of the consequences of thinking about a website as a physical location is that we also tend to think of people who view our web pages as “visitors.” We say they “came to my sight.” We talk about how long they stayed.
It would be just as natural to talk about these people as viewers, or readers, or browsers. But we call them “visitors.”
This metaphor is perfectly reasonable, although it is sort of amusing when a website has a prominent “Welcome to the Online Home of XYZ Organization, We hope you enjoy your stay” message on their home page.
Because we started thinking about website viewers as “visitors,” many people started to try to treat them as guests.
And thus, the guest book was born.
What is a guestbook?
A guest book is simply an online version of the guest books commonly found at weddings and parties. Some stores and restaurants have them too. They are are a way to leave your name and contact information, and a brief message for the host.
On websites, they aren’t literally a book (there’s another one of those metaphors!). They usually are just a page with a form and a listing of other people’s comments. In fact, if you can’t see other people’s entries, it isn’t really a guest book at all. The whole fun of a guest book is seeing what other people wrote. (Website guest books are the precursor to the Facebook wall.)
Pros and Cons of Guestbooks
Guestbooks are fun, and they provide a way for visitors to your site to leave feedback and contact information. They also let people see what others have to say about you.
The big problem with guest books is that the concept can seem very dated, especially if your site caters to a younger demographic.
Under What Circumstances Would You Consider Using A Guestbook?
Guestbooks aren’t exactly the most in-demand features on today’s websites, but that doesn’t mean there is no purpose for them. If you are building a website for a population of retirees, catering the user experience to something they have been familiar with the last 20 years may be a benefit. Therefore, including a guestbook in your architecture may be a good idea.
Before deciding to deploy or avoid using a guestbook on your website, make sure you consider your audience. Taking a look at some websites similar to the one you are trying to create may be a good idea as well.
What Are Some Reasons I Should Avoid Using A Self-Hosted Guestbook?
The biggest reason not to use guestbooks is due to the evolution of web technology. Let’s face it - there are a lot of methods today to connect online with your customers and fans. While guestbooks can still one of the most effective ways to do it, hosting your own guestbook with social networking, blogging, and message boards freely available list seems unnecessary and ‘old-fashioned’, by Internet use standards.
Does WordPress Offer Any Plugins For Guestbooks?
Perhaps surprisingly to most WordPress users, yes! Depending on where you search for your plugins, you can find as many as 20 plugins designed to build a guestbook on a website. Below is a recap of three of the most popular options that are supported by the most recent versions of the content management system.
Gwolle-GB: self-described as “the WordPress guestbook you've just been looking for” - Gwolle-GB provides a very easy plugin for integrating into your WordPress website. It has been downloaded over 10,000 times over its lifetime. Unlike some of the other guestbook plugins available from WordPress, Gwolle does not utilize the comments functions to populate its guestbooks with content.
WP-ViperGB: a replacement for another discontinued guestbook plugin, WP-ViperGB is another easy to install. stylish, user-friendly solution for WordPress. No coding necessary! In contrast to Gwolle, ViperGB uses the commenting engine inside WordPress to power the guestbook. Using comments to power the guestbook makes moderation easy with no additional database tables. For website owners, ViperGB includes an admin panel and shows the country, browser, and operating system of each guestbook contributor.
Comment Guestbook: In direct contrast to the plugin mentioned above, ‘Comment Guestbook’ uses the built-in functions of comments on WordPress to populate the information in the Guestbook. According to the plugin manufacturer, there are benefits to this, including the ability for your visitors to receive email notifications of new visitors signing the guestbook. Additionally, styling will be more consistent across every theme you use and any additional plugins you use will that modify comments will work with the guestbook.
Several web hosting companies provide easy-to-use guestbook software which can be installed from your hosting control panel. This will set up a guest book for you.
Another option, if you are running your site on a content management system like WordPress or Drupal, is to use a guest book plugin. You can also simply use the built-in commenting feature, and designate a single page as “the guestbook.”