The new beta of Blogger, which has been available to some users since August, has been released. The new version offers user-definable templates, multiple authors and tags.
But you can't log into the new service unless you have a Google account. Only a few current users will be invited to switch their accounts over initially. The two account systems will run in parallel for a while, but eventually Google will move everything over to a Google account, much like it did when it reopened Writely.
The reason for the Google Account? One, it makes sense to get everything under one roof. Two, of course, is that a Google Account makes it easier for bloggers to use AdWords.
I've never been a Blogger user, mostly because the features have never been robust enough for me. And I notice that the new features don't even bring Blogger up to par with Six Apart's Vox, which is much more family-friendly.
Plus, I'm not too keen on Google advertising Blogger when you search for anything that contains the word blog. (Google advertises many of its products in this manner--search for spreadsheets, reader, or news and you'll see a Google advertisement for its own services.) While it makes financial sense for Google to do this, the practice also turns Google into less of a search service and more of an advertisement service. This isn't anything new. But in years prior, Google was great at giving objective information, and more and more these days, Google is asking us to look at the world through its subjective lens.