Controlling your own creative content and IndieWeb

IndieWeb icon.I have occasionally pointed out that I believe you are far better off publishing to your own website than using a third party to publish. By ‘third party’ I mean sites like Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook, Medium, Google+ and similar.

The reason I say this is because if you use a third party you’re entirely at their whim. You could get caught up in a change to their terms and conditions or they simply may go out of business or they may delete your account for spurious reasons.

Third parties want your data. The more of your data they have, the more control of the internet at large they have. They can keep more people on their site for longer and reap the financial rewards of advertising to those people. There’s a big battle going on between the large internet corporates to get control of your content and to shape the web in their image. I think it’s an unhealthy thing if just a few big corporates dictate the future of the web.

If you permit third parties to control your content it can all go wrong for you. Just take a look at a few of the following horror stories:

None of this means you can’t use third party sites to promote your content. You can — and probably should if mass exposure is your aim — use these sites to promote your content, but you link back to your own site which you fully control. The dominant third parties will push back against this (eventually, if they’re not already doing so) because they want you to use their platform exclusively, but at least you still have your data and there will always be other ways to promote your content.

It’s not just long-form articles at risk here. Many people use Facebook (for example) as a sort of journal. It tracks the highs and lows of their lives, often with photos and videos. What would those people do if Facebook went out of business — not as daft as it sounds (remember MySpace or all the photo galleries in MobileMe?) — or they fell foul of some spurious term or condition and had their account shut down? Every internet company has its day. Sometimes they have many, many days and appear to be so dominant as to be infallible, but history tells us that things can change considerably and against all expectations.

What the third parties have done well is to remove the technical barriers to getting your content published on the web and that’s one of the main reasons they’ve been so successful. But those technical barriers aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be. Most people can be up and running with their own website — maybe using Wordpress or whatever — within a few days. And most people know someone who can help if there are difficulties. A few days’ of effort is certainly worth to keep control of your own creative work (or journal or photographs etc.)

Anyway, where I’m going with this is to tell you there’s a movement specifically aimed at encouraging people to keep control of their content. It’s called IndieWeb. You might find their Why IndieWeb?, Getting Started and Publish On (your own) Site, Syndicate Elsewhere pages useful to start with.