Mastering One’s Own Domain, and No, This is Not a Seinfeld Reference

I was asked by an aspiring writer whether at this point it’s still worth it as a writer to own one’s own domain, i.e., in the age of everyone being on Facebook, setting up one’s online shingle elsewhere is like opening a business on a dusty street a mile away from Main Street.

My thought on this: Hey, remember when everyone was on America Online? And then everyone was on Friendster? And then everyone was on MySpace? And now everyone’s on Facebook? Yeah, you’ll notice a pattern here, perhaps.

Yes, but Facebook is huge, you say, with unspeakably large numbers of users worldwide and a valuation of $70 billion.

Wow, I say, just like America Online was huge, with an unspeakably large number of users online and a valuation of over $100 billion.

Yes, but everyone knows that AOL was wildly over-valuated, you say.

Really, I say. And then I let that just hang there as long as it needs to until you get my point.

Popular sites come and go. One day MySpace is so popular that Weird Al snarks about it on a Top Ten hit, the next it’s being sold for parts for a sliver of its previous valuation. Friendster topped off at over 100 million users; now it’s got less than 10 million, most of them in Asia, and the Onion smacks them around. AOL, well. AOL, man. And don’t even make me haul out GeoCities or Angelfire, the latter of which, incredibly, is still around in some strange form, along with Lycos, which bought them in the 90s. Knowing that Angelfire and Lycos still exist in some form is like hearing that somewhere out there Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow are still putting on new “episodes” of Friends for anniversary parties and bar mitzvahs.

So, let’s go back to 1998. You’re a new writer and you want to establish a permanent residency online. Which would be wiser: Having your own site at your own domain, or putting up a site at GeoCities?

It’s 2001, same drill: Which is wiser: Having your own domain, or creating a site on AOL servers?

2003: Your own domain, or a Friendster page?

2007: Your own domain, or a MySpace page?

(Hindsight is a useful thing.)

And now it’s 2011 and the choice is one’s own domain or a page on Facebook. Guess which I think you should do.

Which is not to say I don’t think you shouldn’t have a Facebook page. You should, if you like, just like I had a MySpace page, and a Friendster page and even a Web site on AOL’s servers (no GeoCities page, alas). There’s nothing wrong with having an outpost where people are, wherever they are. But if you’re going to be online, it’s best to have a site that isn’t at the whims of stock evaluation, or a corporate merger, or an ambitious executive’s “content strategy,” or whatever. Ultimately, your online home should be something you control, and something you can point the people at Facebook (or MySpace, or Friendster, etc) to.

Having one’s own domain isn’t always simple and has its own share of headaches (as you will find if you ever have the need to change your ISP), but at the end of the day what it has is stability. I’ve had Scalzi.com since March of 1998, which has been enough time for at least four generations of online social networking sites. They come and go; my site remains. And it will remain when the hip kids roll their eyes at whatever pathetic dinosaurs still remain on Facebook (hint: that’s already happening). Online, that’s as good as permanence gets.

80 thoughts on “Mastering One’s Own Domain, and No, This is Not a Seinfeld Reference

  1. Unfortunately, my last name is Miller, and some horrible beer company got my domain name before I could register it….

  2. To state this obvious, this is good advice even if you are not a writer. Even you have a normal job that doesn’t allow you to hang out with the cats most days, having control of your domain only costs about $10 a year. If nothing else, just being able to maintain a consistent email address over the years is valuable.

  3. Amen. Along with the consistent email address, I have a place for my online “stuff” that’s generally not subject to the whims of a faceess corporation.

  4. I’m not convinced as to why a permanent presence is so necessary on the web anymore. It’s rare that people actually use web addresses any more, so it doesn’t really mean you lose out if you move around since people will likely still be finding you with the same key words. I think that having something that looks unique (even if it’s just a template) is important, to make an impression on the viewer, but even if that site is only going to last for 2 years or so you’ve only got the small cost of migrating compared to the complexities of setting up your own domain and losing out on the connectedness of social networks.

  5. Pretty good advice all around for anyone interested in maintaining a consistent presence on the net.

    My wife & I have has our own domain for almost 12 years now. In that time, we’ve been through 4 different service providers as ISPs have been merged, folded, spindled and mutilated. Having our own domain has kept things steady. While *we* know that our email is now going through FooComISP and our web site is hosted at BlargleNET… as far as the rest of the world is concerned, the way to connect with us has remained constant.

  6. Yeah, I very much wanted my own name as a domain name but there seems to be a lot of people out there with the name Matt Hughes. Including one Sci-Fi/Fantasy author which really confuses things. So I had to go with something else.

    Of course, if you can’t get your name as a domain name, go with something easy to remember.

    My first domain name was something I enjoyed. It came from a project I was working on and greatly enjoyed. However, I discovered it wasn’t easy to remember. When I was being introduced on a podcast, the host stumbled a few times and ended up having to spell it.

    What I have now works and is much easier to remember.

  7. The nice thing about Facebook, Twitter and these newer sites is that you can transfer your blog or news into a feed onto that site. So whenever something bigger and newer comes out, you can just take the same old website feed you have and send it to yet another sharing page.

  8. It’s not just web services (Geocities, etc) that come and go… the same thing happens to publications. I’ve been writing – primarily about technology – since 1991. By the late 1990’s, much of what I wrote appeared online as well as in print. But then, many of the publications I’d written for went belly-up… and in each case, their URL was taken over by a porn site, so that not only did my articles disappear, but anyone returning to a link to them was served random porn.

    My last name isn’t something like ‘miller’, but ‘zisman.com’ and ‘zisman.net’ had both already been registered… so I’m online with the Canadian ‘zisman.ca’ domain… giving me a way to ensure that my published content remains online and under my control.

    (I provide print publications I write for with ‘first-publication’ rights to my content, but then retain copyright and subsequent electronic publication rights).

  9. I would suggest, for #1 and #10, that adding a middle initial, or your entire middle name, to a prospective domain might work. There may be zillions of Matt Hughes’ running around, but how many will *also* be Matt Alvin Hughes, Matt Bruce Hughes, Matt Charles Hughes, etc?

  10. While in working on my Masters I got the Freestone.us domain so I could have a good email address on my resume.

    I now have it linked up with gmail so I can send/receive as name @ freestone.us or name @ gmail.com, gmail has a much better spam filter then my email host provides.

  11. Tom:

    “It’s rare that people actually use web addresses any more, so it doesn’t really mean you lose out if you move around since people will likely still be finding you with the same key words.”

    Well, no. What they will be seeing when they search for you is a grab bag of sites, many of which will no longer be current or relevant. If one has one’s own site, then that has a tendency to migrate to the top of searches regardless, so the first link is almost always the best one.

    There are side benefits to permanence as well; if you’d like to see one, type the word “whatever” into Google.

  12. The consistent email address is one reason why owning a domain should appeal to nearly everyone.

    But another reason – especially for creators – is that your private domain builds up a certain amount of credit with the search engines, just by being “permanent”, and the gazillion inbound links you may (or may not) accumulate are actually your own. They’ll continue to point to your domain years later – once again, making the search engines believe in your importance – and this benefits you even though your use of the site might have changed over the years.

    If you’d built up a presence on a series of services as John describes, then all of that incoming linkage wouldn’t benefit you at all. It’d just be pointing at a spot on the web that no one cares about any more.

  13. Great advice. I like to use Facebook and the like simply to point people to my website. All the important stuff goes up on my website, and any posts on Facebook or Twitter are simply road signs.

  14. Tom – aside from what John captured in his reply, saying “It’s rare that people actually use web addresses any more, so it doesn’t really mean you lose out if you move around since people will likely still be finding you with the same key words.” begs the question of what it is that they will find. John can write what he wants here and post what he wants and the content stays. WHat happens to your content on FB, etc if they shut down? Twitter’s great – for 140 character offhand comments. But your tweets older than a few weeks? Not available. Having control of your content is important.

    ” I think that having something that looks unique (even if it’s just a template) is important, to make an impression on the viewer…”

    My FB wall looks just like yours.

    “…even if that site is only going to last for 2 years or so you’ve only got the small cost of migrating compared to the complexities of setting up your own domain and losing out on the connectedness of social networks.”

    1) presuming you can, in fact, export all of your content at full fidelity and maintain the links somehow.
    2) complexity of setting up a domain? Seriously? Registering a domain is easy. If you want, you can host your own WordPress site or you can point the domain at a Tumblr, wordpress.com or other site (keep in mind the issue of exporting data though).
    3) Why would you lose out on the connectedness of social networks just because you center your content around your own site? Scalzi is active on Twitter. Others are active on Facebook. You can be connected AND have your site be the center of your content universe.

  15. At the moment, my WordPress blog seems pretty good, and I just recently joined up with Twitter (for better networking, which is already starting to work), and have considered re-joining Facebook. Again, not in the “all-in” way that most do, but to have another place that points To My Blog.

    I obviously agree with you (and with Tony, #18). I definitely should consider moving to a permanent address (and yes, I know WordPress will let me have one), but for now I am fine.

  16. Yes, yes, yes! And there are many variations on a theme, if you do really want your own name in the domain name.

    Initially, there was lastname.com. Then firstname.lastname.com. Then firstnamelastname.com. There are also all sorts of other top level domains with .org .net .name .cc .info .us being some of the more well known ones. Then some delightfully quirky use of country codes give you other options (hello, my name!), but I’m thinking more .st .as .is – get the full list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains

    Needless to say, you can have an awesome domain. Own your own data is definitely a mantra gaining support these days! I’m all for it!

  17. Pretty much my plan was once I had a book deal/knew I was going to be published, I would setup my own domain. Up to that point, my online presence has been mainly my blog, Facebook, and now Twitter. I figure that once I do setup my own domain I can roll the existing blog into it or at the very least put a link between it and my new site. As it stands right now, blogspot is free and I can’t argue with the price. Once I have specific “writing” income I can charge the maintenance of a domain against, then it makes sense to me to obtain one.

  18. Thank you, John! People keep telling me I HAVE to be on Facebook, and when I point out that’s what they said about all the previous Hot New Things, I’m told that this time it’s different. I see no reason to assume that Facebook will be any more long-lived than the others. I have a website, and that’s more than enough.

  19. @K.W.Ramsey don’t think this! You can establish an online presence with your own domain for less than $20 a month. The longer you wait, the longer it’ll take you to gather all of your data as your own. You can get a domain for less than $10 a year and start publishing to it or point other sites to your domain like Tony in #18. Do it! Dooooo eeeeeet! Dooooooooooo eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet! Don’t wait! I’m with Scalzi on this one.

  20. It’s also not as though you have to *do* tons of stuff with a domain once you get it. I have probably have a dozen registered domains that I don’t use for much, but on the other hand I don’t have to worry that someday, a fan of my best-selling giant space opera epic will type http://www.mythago.com and end up at a hentai site.

  21. I’ve had my own name as a domain for about ten years now. This is good for all the reasons John states, as well as a bunch of others I can think of (not tying your online identity to someone else’s terms of use, for example). But for me, it proved *enormously* beneficial when a couple of years later a model *with my exact name* started posing for Playboy.

    Through the entirety of her short career, she never, ever came up first on a Google search. For irrational reasons, I am very proud of this.

  22. So what’s the best place to set up a domain name etc? I pretty much know nothing about this.

  23. I am not a writer, and don’t even have any career that requires me to publicize myself. Still, I have such a common ‘real name’ that no one will ever find me in google. I once searched for myself and went through, well, more ‘page forwards’ than any sane human being would, without finding me.

    So, I adapted a nickname I had at work some years ago, and got my own domain. That way, when my friends want to find me, I can tell them how. Search for my web identity, and it’s me, every time.

  24. I was never on AOL. I was on CompuServe. And didn’t like it. I could never get anyone to hellp me terminate it so I closed the checking acount. And that…was that. CompuClosed.

    I liked BBSs better.

  25. Jeez and here I was just about to hand everything over to Tumblr!!! As usual I pretty much agree with you. A URL just makes sense for lack of a better argument. It’s easier to remember than anything else especially with the junkyard full of empty, dinosaured social networking sites as you mentioned.

    And WordPress has been around through all this time just getting better and better.

  26. Having had my own domain since I first got online in 1996, I chose that option largely because it stays the same if and when I change ISPs, which I have done a few times.

    I don’t see the down side of at least trying it if you can afford to register it and at least park it. If you find you have no use for it, don’t renew. I don’t currently have a Web site, but I’ve had the same set of e-mail addresses using my domain name since 1996, through three changes of ISP (with no glitches or hassles whatsoever in moving the domain), and if and when I need a Web site, I can set one up with this domain name very quickly. Meanwhile, I have been able to use it for my business e-mail address for all those years, and it’s more distinctive than a generic gmail address (which didn’t exist in 1996, and I don’t trust Google enough to use gmail for business e-mail anyway) and easier to remember than most e-mail address domains.

    I’m not on Facebook, but from what I gather from friends, it’s got its own purposes, and you might not want all the cruft on your personal or business Web site. You can have what you want on your own site and set it up to appeal to your target audience, if any. It doesn’t have to be one or the other–though you may have to factor in the time you would spend keeping both updated.

  27. @ Sean (#28): I went with Network Solutions in years past, so when I wanted to set up a domain for my future writing endeavors, I went back to them… Mostly for the dedicated email address, and eventually to tie to my blog… and even if I port out and switch platforms (like I’m experimenting with at the moment – switching from Blogger to WordPress), then redirect the forwarding and I’m still able to be found.

  28. Chang – you can point your own domain at tumblr. WordPress.com blogs too. So for people who don’t want to host their own sites, they can still have their own content under their own domain name. As I said above, if you do this, just make sure you can export the content so that if Tumblr goes away or wordpress.com shuts down (or if they just piss you off), you can get your content out in a form that can be imported elsewhere. WordPress exports an XML file that can be imported into another WordPress instance. Tumblr offers a Mac program that backs up Tumblr data and the Tumblr community has created tools to do that on the web too.

    KW – don’t be suckered by free. If your online presence is at all important to you, register a domain name and put up some basic information at the very least. I’ve not used blogspot, but it seems to offer the ability to map a domain of your own to blogger blogs. See http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=12451

  29. I’ve had my own domain name now for about six years. I also have one for my small art business. Of course, I also have numerous accounts, including the usual social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. Heck, I even have a LinkedIn profile, tho, I never use it (hate LinkedIN). I’ve also got a multitude of abandoned or forgotten profiles/accounts (LJ, Blogger, etc.).

    But as others have noted, I like the permanence of having my own domain name/site, where I control the content. Master of my own little world.

    OTOH, I rarely use the email accounts associated w/my domain name. Instead, I’ve had the same old Yahoo account forever.

  30. @Carrie V (#27) For years I kept my site number 1 on Google, ahead of the actor I share a name with. These days, as long as I stay on the first page I’m content. Last time I checked my domain was #3 or #4, and the other 19 of the top 20 on Google search for my name were sites loaded up with pictures of the actor.

  31. So just curious: what’s the best way to own your own doman name. Is GoDaddy sufficient for most people?

  32. godaddy will let you purchase the url.
    I dont know if they do hosting.
    you need to host the URL if you want a websit attached to it or an email address that works.
    some hosts are definitely better than others.
    if you arent a web designer, then the next level down will be a host that has one-click installs for wordpress or whatever software you want to run on your site.

    i have one site thats wordpress blog ( was fairly eady to install, use the defaults and it pretty much worked) and I have another site that is a wiki (oh my god was that a pain to get working).

    the next level below that would be some kind of host that has some kind of website ‘template’ and you just fill in the blanks. its ok for a static page and email. you could move hosting to some other company later.

    the level below that is just buy the domain and dont host it anywhere. you wont have a website and you wont have email but you will have reserved the URL for later use.

  33. I’m sure you have a great point to make here, but I only got as far as “it’s got less then (sic) 10 million” and the The Oatmeal flashbacks starting popping up and I couldn’t make it to the end. A typo Scalzi? Horrors!

  34. I had my own “name.com” domain for a few years. In that time I didn’t do anything with it so I decided not to renew it. Some time later I started having second thoughts about letting the name go. I tried to register the name again and discovered that a South Korean had squatted on it. I decided to see what the guy wanted for the name. Inspired by the people who mess with the Nigerian Scammers my plan was to see how low I could get the price by engaging him in a long drawn out negotiation, and to see what kind of hoops I could get him to jump through to get my money. His first response asked for $1500. Unfortunately, his response also referred to me by my full name. I didn’t realize the hotmail account I used included my full name so I lost all of my anonymity. I had to abort my plan. Two months later the guy sent another response asking for my best offer.

    I just checked again and it looks like my name.com is due to expire in August. I just may get it back. If I do get it back, my first order of business will be to offer the South Korean guy money for it. Maybe I can get him to buy it from me thinking he can turn around and sell it to me for a profit. That almost makes me feel guilty.

  35. I agree with Mr. Scalzi. I still have my domain and website that I started back when Angelfire & Geocities & AOL were the big things. I have had the same e-mail address for over a decade now, something that was not true back when my e-mail was tied to my ISP.

    If you’re looking for a domain name registrar and a hosting service all in one, I’ve been happy with Dreamhost.com for that decade. They run on Linux servers, and provide quite a few open source goodies in the base price if you want them for your website. They also have reasonably competent customer service if you have technical issues, and don’t insist on following a CS script if you indicate that you have a clue in your support e-mails.

  36. It really did remind me of that comic, which prompted me to take a humor break in the middle of a desk-bound work day, providing much catharsis. So thank you!

    I wonder what your thoughts are on the new ICANN plan to allow any word to be used as a primary domain name? Will this be just “whatever.scalzi” soon. The NPR story called it the “.whatever” domain approach, which might also work for you.

  37. @TV #42 – It is always good advice that once you buy a domain name, never let it expire. Even if you don’t use it for a while, just park it and keep up the registration. Once a domain expires it goes on a public list, where squatters will inevitably grab it in no time with the expectation that you or somebody else may want it back for a large fee. And remember to renew your domain!

    Another thing, is when obtaining a domain name, try to own the registration yourself. If you sign up with an all-in-one hosting company, be aware that many of them will by default register the domain for you, but keep it under their ownership … which keeps you beholden to that one company. Read the fine print; or just go to one of the big domain name registrars (like GoDaddy) and buy your domain yourself, then go seek out a hosting site.

  38. John,

    Love the passing hit on FB. I’ve read a single reference that their US growth has stopped and active US users are in decline.

    I can attest that most of my friends no longer visit/post. (Sniff).

    It’s a race to the IPO — can FB clean up before it’s toast?

  39. I’m delighted you have your own site. I do the facebook thang to keep in touch with my kids’ doings, but find it an abysmal way to follow others. Too much drivel to sort through so I miss a lot. On the other hand, Google Reader lets me know whenever you post something new, either here or on delicious. And I’m confident that you will continue to be at whatever.com. I totally agree with you about the way such sites are at the whim of what’s in fashion.

  40. Over 10 years ago I had a lot of time & my own website(s) with servers … total control and a good presentation window. Then my carreer accelerated … no time left … technologies changed … machines outdated and I could not maintain my stuff. The last 1 1/2 started slowly up again. Using a long term personal-informations strategi.
    1. Stop dreaming, you can do it
    2. Always ensure to keep backups
    3. Systemize your data (content, dokuments, emails) for long time usage
    4. Invest in longterm solutions (in my case proven technologies, which are not dictated by a single business entity)

    Since yesterday my personal wiki/blog-system is up and running … still quiet empty but a start.

  41. Folks have mentioned it already, but I’ll reinforce it (I work for a web host).

    Anyone inspired to go get a domain and hosting–don’t do both at the same place. Just don’t. No matter how nice you think the host is. Get your domain yourself at something like dotster or enom or tucows or register.com or whoever. (Although not godaddy–they’re the ones shooting elephants for lulz then being stupid when people call them out on it.) Then go find a hosting company that’s completely different from your domain registrar.

    Why? Because there may come a time where your webhost goes down hard. Like, days. Because cheap “shared” hosting packages are not multiply redundant…you get what you pay for, yadda yadda. When that happens, it means their techs are A) overworked because something exploded, B) stupid, or C) something shady’s going on internally with the company itself (there’s a lot of fly-by-night hosts out there). If you keep your domain registration separate and under your control, and keep regular backups of your site files, you won’t have to wrestle with a hosting company that’s already having demonstrated issues just to get your domain pointed at a new webhost if your hosting goes down. You can grab some new hosting from someone else that’s not having problems and get your domain pointed at it all by yourself. Your old host might be down but you? You’ll be agile enough to recover. And you won’t have to deal with any stupid unlocks or domain transfers with extra fees or any of that. Updating nameservers to look at a new host is free.

    So yeah. Don’t put your eggs in one basket.

  42. A few years back I registered my name, and the names of each member of my family, not for use, but to help guard against potential mis-use by individuals or companies. We obtained the com, net, and org of each. A couple of bucks a year to keep them off the market and out of sight is worth it.

    We have a website for our family business, our e-mails go through it, and we stay well away from Facebook, Google, and their ilk.

  43. I grabbed onto sheilaoshea.com some time ago and sheilawrites.com while I was at it. Currently, they both redirect to my blogspot blog, but that can be changed at any time. That’s the nice thing about a domain name–you can point it wherever you like, whether that’s a site of your own construction or a handy-dandy premade service of some kind.

  44. Permanence is good, so is being able to keep archives and knowing you own all of your content. There is no reason why you cant link from your website to your social networking accounts, I have a website but do my tweeting, blogging and lolcat posting on various sites. They’re built specifically for that, and my site is built to provide certain information-I use each accordingly.

    And don’t even get me started on conventions which only use Facebook… if I have to sign into an account (or worse yet sign up for one) on some service in order to get basic information on your event or product then you’re probably doing it wrong. It also doesn’t inspire much confidence.

  45. Google me, and you get me – the amateur writer, first. The second hit is a sports blogger for the Guardian. I get maybe 30 visitors a day, but I have my own site and I’ve had it longer. Social sites come and go. If you want a permanent web presence, especially for commercial reasons, get your own website.

  46. Speaking of top-level domains and other things that make you go “hm,” thingsthatmakeyougo.hm is still available. For the nonce.

  47. I don’t (yet) have my blogging alias as a domain (although I am thinking about it), but have my real name as a domain to give me a professional email address and somewhere to host my CV along with a twitter feed. Nothing very fancy, it only took a couple of hours to write, most of which were in trying to decide on the design, but it means that if someone searches hard enough for my (very common) name then they well find my website. It also gives me more freedom than LinkedIn does.

  48. I’ve had my own lastname domain for a few years now, mainly for memorable email addresses for myself and my immediate family. My daughter (who was born after I got the domain) has reached the age of swapping email addresses with her friends (eight, for anyone who’s counting) and there’s definitely a cool factor for her :-)

    The Internet isn’t going away any time soon, so I’d definitely recommend grabbing a personal domain before someone else gets it!

    The only downside I’ve experienced is one or two web forms which couldn’t comprehend an email address without a dot before the @, obviously expecting firstname.lastname@domain.com. Fortunately they did allow other TLDs!

    On a random note, I can’t help but be amused by people who have their own domain but still use Hotmail or Yahoo! email addresses, as advertised on their vans! Or is there a good reason by someone with a web site at http://www.bobsdecorating.co.uk would have email sent to bob_decorator123@hotmail.com? (I made those up, but the domain is available if you’re out there Bob :-)

  49. Really, all you need for the future is a good Google+ profile, forget Facebook.
    Talking of that, did you get an invitation for that by any chance? I mean, one that you could pass on to your followers?

  50. Another advantage of your own website (even if it isn’t your own domain) is that it gives adequate room for a bio, a bibliography, and all the other stuff a new reader or someone looking for reference info on you can find. Facebook, almost as much as Twitter, is really intended only as a “push” source of quick updates for people who are already friends or fans. It’s a useful function, but a more limited one.

  51. Finally someone else with the same message I’ve been preaching for ages. What always makes me scratch my head is when dealing with business that don’t have their own domain and they give you a business card with an email address ending in @yahoo.com or @msn.com or any other free email service.

    In my eyes your credibility drops the minute you can’t be bothered to setup your own domain. If you don’t take your business serious enough to at least put up the appearance of trying to being professional why should I take anything else you do as serious.

  52. I agree with setting up your own domain, even if it boils down to just having that email address that’s all yours. I was grumbling the other day about how I’ve come to rely on Gmail so much, and then it happens that someone hacked my account from Germany, and I started asking myself, WHY do I want to use a system that so many people have had hacked frequently?

    RE: Facebook, I made a nasty comment on Twitter once about how annoying it was to click on someone’s link just to find it led to a non-public Facebook page. Several people unfollowed me after that comment. Heh.

  53. I say play it like pokemon, and catch them all. Have your own domain name, and one on Facebook, and diaspora, or the upcoming Google+, and whatever comes down the pipe. Then no matter where the wind blows, there you’ll be ready to serve the masses.

    And hopefully they will do like they do with twitter with facebook and make it so additions can be cross posted without having to spend the time cross posting to each one.

  54. I wanted to have a domain for years, but it’s very hard to decide what domain to use. It’s easy if you can get lastname.com (or lastname.anything at all), but those of us with moderately common last names just won’t find them. So, you do things like firstname-lastname.com, but that makes for a stupid email address like firstname@firstname-lastname.com or, even worse, me@firstname-lastname.com. And, I wanted a domain for my family, so mary@charles… would seem stupid.

    Now, some will say: just pick something. But, this is not like a paint color. Once committed, I will use this for many years, probably until it expires due to non-payment after I die. Also, if you think mypersonalwebsiteisoproudof.com is a good idea, try typing it a few hundred times. So, it’s a big decision. I finally decided an interesting name not related to my name, but in the .us domain so it is short. That’s worked well for me. I did go to godaddy.com, who is so cheap it’s frankly a bit strange.

  55. I bought my domain after I got sick of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies messing with my email addresses and home pages. It’s true that hosting your own provides a semblance of permanency as companies come and go (the Internet is NOT forever), but new technologies will still break your URLs (i.e. WordPress Initial release: 27 May 2003).

    Hosting your own also gives you a hub from which to feed content into other networks, a terminus to translate content between networks and a platform for hosting 3rd-party options. If you want something as simple as a custom Facebook Page, you need to host your own.

    Also: Jason Scott Goat.sx-ed MySpace. Think about it.

  56. I have registered but do not currently use a ‘name’ domain name. Instead, whenever I start a new project I register a domain name for it. Currently I have about a dozen domain names registered (not all active), most for me but a few for friends who aren’t all that tech savvy. It can take a bit of work to come up with a functional domain name that isn’t taken — you aren’t limited to your name, but could also use the title of a book, an imagined world you’ve built or any other reference. The main (non-name) domain name I use has worked very well for one non-fiction project and will segue naturally into the next project, a novel somewhat related to the first book. Different domain names work for me because my projects tend to be varied and benefit from separation. Should it make sense to aggregate them in the future, I’ll activate the ‘name’ domain name I already have registered.

    If you are hoping to get published, it makes sense to establish a web presence (via your own domain name and a content-rich site) as early as possible. In my case, a publisher approached me because of material I’d posted online about a project I was working on. In the case of my second book, material posted online is meant to introduce people to the subject and help market the book well before it comes into print.

    As others have pointed out, it can cost as little as $10/year to register and maintain a domain name, and it’s easy to point at free sites like WordPress dot com, Blogspot, Tumblr, etc. In this way you get your own site without the trouble of designing it. Over time you can always decide to build your own site for your domain name — simple with plug&play tools like a WordPress download. When you do want to host your own website, though, I recommend paying a bit extra for good quality hosting.

    I’m ambivalent about email addresses linked to domain names. The spam quotient is so high and server crashes so frequent that I’ve found it more reliable to use my institutional email address (the university I’ve been affiliated with for nearly fifteen years) and a Gmail address.

  57. I think tumblr is the next Twitter. I don’t think they’ve come up with the next Facebook yet (or at least, it isn’t all that well-known yet) but I’m sure it’s just around the bend.

  58. A personal domain is great, but if you use it for email please be especially careful not to let your registration expire. If you do, then anyone who purchases it after you will have access to all *future* emails sent to your old domain. They don’t even need to know what your former email address was, as they can simply grab all email to any address at that domain if they wish.

    If you use your you@yourdomain.com address when setting up important accounts on other sites, and don’t change your registered email before letting your domain go, then all someone has to do is use the Forgot Password link on those sites, and they’ll get the email with your password reset link. Bam, now they’re inside your Facebook account, your bank, or wherever.

    Expired domains are a phisher’s paradise. Don’t get burned like I did.

  59. There are hundreds out there with similar name as mine. So me being able to get my own .com or .co.uk domain is far away thing. However, I would still go for my own domain (currently working on the same..) with some tweaks in the name.

    Imagine email is sent around that mentions great work done by you. Good!

    Own domain site is like an email sent around mentioning the great work and your name in bold in entire email. .. Ah!

    @3DeeQuotes

  60. If you use the excellent WordPress platform to run your own personal domain, you can use a plugin like Wordbooker to automatically push your blog posts over to your personal or ‘official’ Facebook page. It can even bring comments from your Facebook page back and combine them with comments on the blog. So its not that hard to run both.

  61. Hmm… What you all seem to be skimming over here is the technical issues around contact management. Sure, having your own domain is the best policy, but it is far easier, both from a technical and user buy in point of view to collect Twitter followers, Facebook likes, WordPress subscribes and so on.

    If you truly want to be free of the tyranny of third parties owning your means of contacting people the ONLY way to do this is to collect email addresses, and to do this you need web forms, which involves building a website yourself. This is quite tricky.

    And make no mistake, its all about traffic, to get traffic you need to keep in touch, to keep in touch you need a contact list. There’s a lot to be said for using Twitter and Facebook for this, its easy. Sure, buy a domain, but if you want to keep the pain minimised then point it to WordPress and hook into the social media de jour.

  62. Isn’t anyone tired of hearing ‘find us on fb’, ‘like us on fb’… Whether it is a toilet paper ad to a diaper ad to a cooking show. No I will not like you on fb, thank you. Has this like button driven me insane? Not a day goes by that I want to cancel my fb page!.
    Get your own URL!!! Fb sucks!

  63. I think it’s very important to have an online home, but the address is not very important.

    The common wisdom among bloggers is to have your own URL (not necessarily your name), but I think this is primarily signalling or SEO.

    If your traffic comes primarily from word-of-mouth, I don’t think even having a site is important; a FB page will do just fine.

  64. “If you truly want to be free of the tyranny of third parties owning your means of contacting people the ONLY way to do this is to collect email addresses, and to do this you need web forms, which involves building a website yourself. This is quite tricky.

    No, it’s not and wish uninformed people would quit saying things like this. You can register a domain, point it at a wordpress.com address and for a very nominal fee associate your domain name with that wordpress.com site. WP has a bunch of nice templates. THere are, I believe, ways to customize those too. And there are several nice plugins that allow for dead easy creation of forms.

    Anyone who cares in the least about how the appear online should have their own site. They can use that to connect on social sites too, but they should own their data. It’s really not hard.

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