A recent article by Rachel Kaiser on TNW asked if it’s time to kill the personal website, and made a case for its demise.
Is it? In a word:
Why? Consider this simple fact: as long as we pay our bills, our website operates under our control.
Kaiser makes the point that sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Medium are where the people are. From her perspective, a personal website “is a way of presenting that information in a way that seems a bit archaic.”
As has been the case for over a decade, we do not own our social properties:
- If LinkedIn vanished tomorrow, I would keep none of my network or my profile data.
- If Facebook chose to suspend my account, I would lose access to my profile URL.
- If Medium runs out of money, all my content will vanish into the ether.
We don’t own these properties, and they are not public utilities subject to regulation or supervision. They are private enterprises, private businesses attempting to make money – and when they fail to make money, they vanish. Just ask anyone with a MySpace page.
- As long as I pay my bills, my website sticks around.
- As long as I pay my bills, my email newsletter remains active.
- As long as I pay my bills, my domain name works.
Should we not participate on properties we don’t own? Of course not – participate and engage where the people are. Share pointers to our owned content, participate in conversations, make friends, be social. Know, however, that in these spaces, these places, we are the product, not the customer. The advertiser is the customer, and thus we have little to no recourse if we lose access to our unpaid profiles.
But at the end of the day, just as in the real world, we can’t and shouldn’t hang our hats in public spaces we don’t own. We should hang our hats and rest our feet in the places we pay for.
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Great points and I agree with all of them. I will add that for the influencers I value, I prefer to follow them on their own sites minus the noise. Too much is said on Twitter and Facebook, less on Linkedin, to keep up with those you want to learn from and not get distracted.
I would disagree with Kaiser saying that personal websites are archaic. But there’s on other thing to consider: people die; people lose interest in maintaining a site or continuing a topic.
So, there’s a question about the public and should good content go away because some person is no longer paying their $11/month bill?
As the internet gets older, more and more dead links are showing up in places for the very reason that they were links to personal websites that no longer exist for whatever reason. Whereas, content on sites that are owned by large companies (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook) has literally outlived a lot of people.
I think it’s an interesting puzzle. A group of us had a discussion about a year ago, whether to build a forum on someone’s personal domain or on Facebook. The leader’s argument was that FB could end or start charging people and we’d be SOL. I countered that our leader could die and we’d be SOL.
Not such an easy decision if you think about it beyond who owns the content, but consider the public realm and contribution to public knowledge.
That is indeed a fair point and a difficult question. I suppose that to some degree is the purpose of archive.org, no?
Waybackmachine is good “to some degree.”
It’s common to check a web page and waybackmachine says the page was crawled just twice; once 5 years ago and once 6 years ago. And what the saved page might look like is some text, a bunch of holes where images used to be, and broken links. Sometimes it’ll just return a 404 error page.
Yeah. It’s a very complicated topic. Some seemingly reliable major platforms have opted to pull the plug, and lots and lots of bloggers just plain die or quit.
It kinda refocuses the idea that anything on the internet is permanent.