Are personal websites still relevant?

We live in an age where everyone has a facebook account, twitter, instagram, youtube, possibly even tumblr and google+. There are so many “social networking” sites out there grabbing for attention that it’s almost easy to forget how the internet used to be back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when I really started using it. Back then the closest thing we had to social networks were message forums and chat rooms.

I spent a lot of time on messageboards back then talking to people about indie film. I even ran my own indie film messageboard for several years. But I also spent a lot of time tweaking my own websites; and this site Can’t believe these two sites have been around this long. screenshot from September 4th, 2004 screenshot from September 4th, 2004

Back then a person would tell people on the messageboards about their website, put a link on their profile and in the signature line of their posts. Actually that hasn’t really changed. In fact I still use messageboards to tell people about my websites. The difference now, that’s not the only place to get the word out.

I remember some of my other friends also having their own personal websites. Specifically my friend Steve who maintained a page with a list of concerts he had been to. But at some point social networks began to take hold. For my friends and I it was Livejournal in 2002 followed up about four years later by MySpace and then Facebook where most everyone still hangs their hat. But that’s also diversified a bit with places like Instagram. Yet even the photos that get posted there tend to find their way onto Facebook.

So where does this leave personal websites today? Honestly where they have always been, in a niche zone on the internet that people have to go out of their way to visit. Even getting friends to click on a link from their facebook feed can be like an exercise in marketing. It very much is. With so many services out there, people tend to stick to what they know and what they are most interested in.

All of that said, I’ve been spending more time lately on my own websites. Mostly blogging. Whether there is an audience or not, I find it therapeutic. I’ve also come to realize that over the years my personal websites have stood the greatest test of time. Just look at all the services I mentioned above. Half of which nobody uses anymore. To think of all that time and content I poured into those services that were eventually abandoned. I could have spent that time and content on my own sites where it would still be easily accessible today. It makes me think twice before hitting the submit button on facebook or google+. At the very least I’ve gotten in the habit of copying my longer posts and adding them here as well.

It also helps that software for building personal websites has gotten better over the years. This website is currently powered by WordPress 3.5.2, which makes it super easy to add posts, pages and images. I’ve been using wordpress here for the last eight years. It’s only recently with my renewed interest in personal websites that I’ve begun to really explore and learn all of its bells and whistles. I’m pretty pleased. I also recently discovered and the reader. Both are good ways of subscribing to other blogs and getting a facebook or pinterest styled feed.

Will all my friends follow suit and start their own personal websites? Likely not. I’m tech savvy and many of them are not. Most of them probably don’t see a point in it and wouldn’t want to spend the time doing it. One of my buddies has several sites, but they’re all based around music. His and other bands. Even though he uses wordpress to power some of his sites, he’s not interested in setting one up to blog his personal thoughts. He’ll chime in with status updates on facebook and photos on instagram. That’s just his way. To each their own.

I think most of my friends are like him. They like throwing up a quick thought or commenting on something, but aren’t going to go through the trouble of doing a long blog entry or setting up a personal website to do that. So the services work best for them.

It’s always a hard call to make when you have both. The audience is on the services, but the services don’t offer the same level of control and customization that a personal website gives you. A personal website is your own space. It’s like owning property on the internet versus renting an apartment on facebook. There is a just a different feel to it. It’s yours. I’ll always love that.

Here is to more time spent… here :)

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