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Why I have my own web site

Brett recently laid out his reasons for keeping his own web site in the age of powerful, easy-to-use alternatives like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter. He does it to have a home, express himself, and be a citizen of the Internet. He not-so-subtly inspired me to describe my reasons too, in my own words, so here goes.

The main reason I have my own web site and domain is control.

First, as Brett describes, they’re a home that I control, so I can keep them in the same place, no matter what else changes. If my web site ever moves, or my email address changes, some people I’ve drifted away from but still care about may never find the new one. Owning a domain lets me keep them the same for as long as I want, hopefully forever, so I never have to lose those people. “Leased” homes like Facebook or GMail may last a long time, but even they may eventually move, or die.

Second, my own web site lets me control my stuff. Brett calls this “have keepsakes in the future” and “don’t lose your data.” In the past, my stuff was physical. Now, my pictures, writing, code, documents, address book, music, love letters, and all sorts of other stuff live on computers like this web site. It’s actually a better place than my laptop, or Facebook. It won’t get stolen, I won’t spill coffee on it, and because I control it, it won’t change my privacy settings and expose drunken pictures to my boss, or get acquired, pivot, and dump my blog posts overboard.

I also want to express myself and be an Internet citizen. I think of my posts here as a diary, a scrapbook I can easily share with others and reminisce over in the future. I also enjoy writing, and the discipline of doing it in public makes me take it more seriously. Finally, I love the information utility of the Internet, and I try to do my part and give back, even if the result is often mind-numbingly boring.

However, as quadhome describes, none of those things really require my own web site. Tumblr or Facebook would be fine.

I empathize with the yoke-chafing that the Indie Web people feel, but not the heavy-handed comparisons to slave labor. I just can’t get myself worked up about someone monetizing a tweet about what I ate for breakfast. If you make a living by creating content online, in public, great! You’re in the minority, though, and I’m not sure the Indie Web is really about you. For the rest of us, populism and anti-capitalism are always safe bets, so the shrill chorus of “Facebook is evil! Don’t let them use you!” may work, but personally, it’s not my bag.

So. Why do I own my own web site and domain? Not monetizing my content. Not politics, web or otherwise. I do want to express myself and be a citizen of the Internet, but those aren’t enough on their own. My reason is control, control over where people find me and where I keep my stuff.

How about you? Nelson, Maulik, Jon, Chris, Evan, Nathan, Walter, Hal, Mike…tag! Why do you have your own web sites and domains?

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5 thoughts on “Why I have my own web site

  1. hmm. there’s actually a decent, if obvious, software engineering analogy between “having a home” and API compatibility. every time you “move” a widely used API and break backward compatibility, you lose some people who never update their code. this is why microsoft’s windows group has lived under the tyranny of Win32 for decades.

    domains are similar, except their feature set is so static and modular that they’ve never had to break compatibility, even when competing with alternatives like AOL keywords, or embracing them, like navigational web searches.

    you can even follow it to wrappers that many engineers write in their own projects “just in case we want to switch later.” in that case, you usually know all the users, and there’s often just one – yourself – so there isn’t much risk of losing them if you break compatibility. one corollary here might be webapps that you use in private, like GMail. if their address changes, no big deal, you just start using the new one.

  2. I have mine because it

    • gives me full control over what to host
    • can create arbitrary subdomains and map them to whatever I want
    • full control of email routing/hosting/administration

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