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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Domain As Identity

The more I use the internet, the more I’m convinced of the importance of having your own domain name. I’m not just talking about people or companies setting up web sites, I mean putting a domain at the centre of your entire online identity. This internet thing isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s time we started thinking in terms of futureproofing and long-term control.

Here are some of the ways you can use a domain to manage your online identity:

Email
ISPs and email services come and go, but if you use your own domain you can keep the same address indefinitely (had mine for a decade) and freely switch between hosting firms (or opt for something like Google Apps by pointing your domain name at it; your web hosting and email can be in totally different places).
Web site/blog
Even if you want to use a hosted service rather than installing software yourself, you can (and should) still use your own domain. Services such as WordPress.com, TypePad and Ning allow you to pay a small amount to do this and avoid the risks of all the content you create being tied to their URLs.
Social networking
You can’t stick Facebook or MySpace on your domain, but you can ensure that all of your profiles link back to your home page and/or a personal profile page. The aim is to make a web page that you fully control the most authoritative (and findable) page about you (unless you don’t want to be found, of course, in which case you’ll want to steer clear of social networks).
Third-party logins
With OpenID you can log in to an increasing number of sites without creating new passwords, and you probably already have an account that provides OpenID, but you shouldn’t directly use it to identify yourself elsewhere — you’ll just end up tying yourself to something you don’t control. OpenID is still a bit tricky to get your head around, so I’ll do a separate blog post explaining how to set it up.
Instant messaging
Sadly, IM has always been fragmented and still seems a long, long way from interoperability. You can install your own Jabber server (some hosting firms offer it as a one-click option) and it’ll happily talk to other Jabber servers, but most people aren’t on Jabber-based systems.

You might think you’re not sufficiently geeky or internet-obsessed to have your own domain, and it’s true that it’s still impossible to avoid much of the technical jargon, but I reckon it’s worth giving it some thought. Apart from anything else, it can only get harder to find a good domain name that isn’t taken…


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