This paragraph in Marshall Kirkpatrick’s Why I’ll Never Redirect my Personal Blog to Google Plus scared me a bit:
Google Plus doesn’t have RSS feeds, or email subscription options. Both are important to me; I want to speak to my readers however they want to be spoken to. Some day, we’ll be able to write to and read from any platform in any other platform, just like we can call one phone network from inside another phone network now.
I hope he’s being clever here, because we had that. (And I think we still have it.)
It’s interesting that so much online publishing is moving into a small handful of massive, closed, proprietary networks after being so distributed and diverse during the big boom of blogs and RSS almost a decade ago.
In many ways, we’re better off now: publishing online is far easier, less time-consuming, and more accessible than it has ever been, which has brought content, voices, and consumers online that wouldn’t have been otherwise.
But all of these proprietary networks that want to own and hold in your content are reversing much of the web’s progress in some other areas, such as the durability and quality of online identity.
If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.
You might think your
@gmail.com address will be fine indefinitely, but if I used a webmail address from the best webmail provider at the time I broke away from my university address and formed my own identity, it would have ended in
@hotmail.com. And that wasn’t very long ago.
I’ve always built my personal blog’s content and reputation at its own domain, completely under my control, despite being hosted on many different platforms and serving different roles over the years. It has never been a subdomain of any particular publishing platform or host.
Tumblr respects this. From day one, David and I gave it free custom-domain support, full HTML control, and no forced branding or advertising. But Tumblr is a hybrid of a blog-publishing platform and a social network that seems truly unique — the “pure” social networks aren’t nearly as willing to allow you to own your identity there.
Locking your identity in won’t prevent a major social service from succeeding. Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.
But there will always be the open web for the geeks, the misfits, the eccentrics, the control freaks, and any other term we can think of to proudly express our healthy skepticism of giving up too much control over what really should be ours.