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.