July 12, 2011

I Gave Away My Web Identity. All I Got Was a T-Shirt.

With so many places to position your identity on the Web these days, from social networks to blogs, personal profiles, custom pages like About.me, resumes and so on, presenting one's central presence with a domain that bears your own name is increasingly valuable. While at times, I'd considered renaming this blog to not be so eponymous, it's served me well. Having louisgray.com for more than 10 years, and having registered it through the end of this decade, at least, means that when people put my name on the Web, they'll find content that I have created, in the way that I want it presented and ordered. And thanks to it being hosted on Blogger, backed by Google's strong "Takeout" project, which lets me easily export it and move it elsewhere if I need to, I am not bound to a third party network representing who I am. My domain is owned by me, and will be here for years to come.

The recent trend of some high profile folks, who have earned serious respect for their own entrepreneurial efforts already, to point their eponymous domains to Google+ or other networks seems short-sighted to me. While I am obviously a big supporter of Google+ and am voting with my own activity there, at the expense of other networks that are less engaged and rewarding, I do not have any plans to move my domain to redirect to that page, and suggest others don't as well.

If Google+ (or other networks like it) present an engaged audience with high quality content, and so far it does, the best way to reflect that on your own domain is to bring it to your domain, where you control it. With FriendFeed, Facebook, Google Reader, Twitter and even Google Buzz before it, tools have existed to help you share your feeds, your most recent items, and highlights on your own blog. As Google+ matures and tools emerge from the Mountain View mother ship or from the developer community, I will be bringing more than a "Follow Me" button to my site - hopefully my most recent posts and statistics will make it here as well. But when you look for "Louis Gray" on the Web, it should be my own domain that returns - not About.me, Google Profiles, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or anybody else.

When FriendFeed catapulted on to the scene in late 2007 and early 2008, we heard some of the same rumblings of people saying they were going to stop blogging outright in exchange of using the network. Others found Twitter's 140 character style made the best sense for their output, and their blogging decreased or stopped. While I don't really mind people being comfortable with different styles and migrating to what seems fit, I am hesitant to endorse forwarding your identity to a third party domain you do not control. Of course, with Google being Google, Google+ is much more likely to be around and supported strongly in the long haul than was FriendFeed, which was essentially abandoned by Facebook to wither away like a rumpled jacket left on an elementary schoolyard playground.

Kevin Rose is a smart guy and has done some good for the Web and I expect this will continue. So too has Bill Gross. Tom Anderson has catapulted in visibility on Google+ from having almost disappeared after MySpace's fade, and that's fun to see. Google+ has captured the imagination of these top guys and many more who see it as a vibrant alternative to the boring status quo that we've been shovel-fed for the last few years. But I don't think they should give their identities and domains away to the service. Because in 10 years, 20 years, 30... you'll still be you, but services and companies evolve.

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