I’ve had a personal website for years. Back in college I snagged briankoser.com, put up some short programming articles, and experimented with HTML and CSS.
In 2015 I picked up koser.us as a place to put Melissa’s recipes and our Christmas Letters. I’ve slowly added more and will eventually move all of my online output here.
People assume it’s because I’m a software developer. If you make web sites for a living, you have to have your own website, right? Well, no. Most software developers, even web developers, don’t have their own site. In 2016, most people just use Facebook (along with Twitter, Medium, and some others).
I have a Facebook account myself. Why isn’t that good enough?
Here are all the reasons I have my own website.
To own my content
Hey Facebook, you can use my lawnmower whenever you want.
Posting on Facebook allows Facebook to use your words for free. Some people have handed Facebook multiple novels-worth of work. You still own the content, but Facebook can use it for whatever they want.
“Who cares if Facebook uses the status updates about my cat?” you say. I grant that this is more of a philosophical argument. But just because it’s philosophical doesn’t mean it’s not important. This point leads into:
Facebook isn’t free (as in “free beer”)
Let me get you some free chips and salsa. I will also increase the cost of your entree by 10%.
One of the first principles of economics is: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. When you use a website, someone is paying for it. koser.us is paid for by me, to provide myself a platform. Facebook’s business model is:
- You give personal information to Facebook. Facebook gives you a place to find your friends and share your activities.
- Facebook gives your personal information to advertisers. Advertisers give Facebook lots of money to run the website.
- Advertisers target you with personalized ads based on your information.
If you’re OK with this system, fine. I think there are people that wouldn’t be OK with that trade, but don’t realize they’re making it.
Facebook isn’t free (as in “free speech”)
You cannot say whatever you want on Facebook or Twitter. As private companies, they have every right to delete your account if you say something they don’t like.
This is a good thing. Without any moderation, obnoxious users would drive others off the platform.
However, if you ever disagree with Facebook or Twitter’s standards on what speech is acceptable, you’re out of luck. This is one reason that social media sites are:
Facebook is an unstable platform
Social media sites can delete your account at any time, without explanation. This has happened multiple times on Youtube and Twitter: a user promotes and builds their brand, gains followers, their account gets deleted. Sometimes they violate the Terms of Service; sometimes it’s just a mistake. Either way, people have lost their followers, their content, and even their source of income.
For an easily-searchable archive
Can you find that casserole recipe you posted on Facebook a few years ago?
To own my presentation
Websites like Facebook and Medium put a lot of thought into presentation. They come up with solid defaults that work for what most people want to do. But what if you want to do something unique? I couldn’t do my annual board game reports on Facebook. This New York Times article couldn’t be done on Facebook. With your own website you can present your content however you want.
To avoid lock-in
You buy a service from Company A. Company B starts providing the service better, but you the cost of switching is so high you stay with Company A. This is called vendor lock-in.
If tomorrow someone builds a better Facebook, would you be able to switch? If Twitter changes their Terms of Service to disallow your speech, will you leave? If you do you’ll probably be leaving all your content behind.
For a wider reach
There are over 1 billion people on Facebook. That’s a crazy number. But it also means there are six times that many not on Facebook. Do you want to restrict who has access to your content?
“But my audience is on Facebook, I can’t ask them to move.” A solution is to put your content on your page and link to it from Facebook. This allows you:
To create one canonical source
Where can people find your content online? Facebook? Twitter? Medium? All of the above plus others? Using a personal website is the best way to consolidate your content. To consolidate you will need to:
POSSE is “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere”. With POSSE, you post your cat picture to your site, then your site automatically creates a Facebook post linking to your cat picture. This way your audience on social media will still see your content.
What makes social media “social”? Comments. And if someone comments about your content on Facebook, you want that on your site as well. Right now the best way to do that seems to be Bridgy. I haven’t used it yet but I plan to start in 2017.
You’ve convinced me. But I’m not technical. Can I have my own site?
I haven’t used it, but the best non-technical solution right now seems to be Known. Of course, “build it yourself” will always be the most customizable option, so that’s in the works for koser.us in 2017.