Guest Post: The “Independent Web”: The only place where YOU control your online presence
This is a guest post from GoDaddy.com. The company has generously supported the Ronald McDonald House. I am hoping to raise $10,000 for RMH in 2012, and I invite you to contribute to help. It’s a great organization!
In 1991, when the Web went public, it was remarkable because it was the first time in the history of the Earth that you could create a presence anyone else in the world could find, see and interact with instantly. Best of all, you had 100 percent control over the content of the site and therefore over the experience of each visitor, as well as the data from it. Now, two decades later, a massive sea change has seen the addition of pages on Facebook®, Twitter®, Google+® and other similar sites. The problem is, unlike traditional websites, some of the content and all of the data created by interactions on those sites are not yours to use and to control . . . it is theirs.
To be clear, a presence, for instance, on Facebook can be a good thing; it is the “water cooler” where 900 million people gather (that’s more than 12 percent of the planet’s population). Even Go Daddy, a company founded on the concept that every individual can have and control his or her own Web presence, has a Facebook page. What is important to realize is the difference between building your presence on what has been dubbed the Dependent Web versus the Independent Web: both have value, but you only fully control one.
Apparently it was John Battelle, co-founder of Wired Magazine and news website The Industry Standard, who coined the terms in his 21 October 2010 blog entry on BattelleMedia.com. He explained that in the Dependent Web, host companies deliver content, advertising and services based on what or who it thinks the visitor is. Therefore, the content presented is actually dependent upon past and present actions such as webpages visited and mouse-clicks. In contrast, in the Independent Web (with some exceptions) host companies do not change content according to their perception of visitors’ wants/needs.
Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, compared the two in a recent GigaOM blog by making the analogy that now “. . . more people want to own their own space on the Web – they want to own a house instead of rent an apartment.” In a posting early this year Battelle added, “Companies that have planted their presence too deeply into the soils of Facebook are going to realize they need to control their own destiny and move their focus and their core presence back into the independent waters of the open Internet.”
To demonstrate the difference, (and while preparing this blog post) a visit to GoDaddy.com presented all the products and services the company offers, as well as links to various company news, facts and commercials. In contrast, on the Facebook.com/GoDaddy page mentions of the same products and services were presented (albeit in different format). In place of the supplemental information, “another chance at love,” taking away from the overall company message. In addition there was a column listing text posts from Facebook friends around the country. Is this good or bad? Well, neither; they are simply different experiences companies can offer by building Dependent Web-based pages or not. So, at the surface, this is fine; below that, maybe not.
Battelle went further saying “I’m a fan of integrating Facebook into your brand efforts . . . but the point is simple: If you are a brand, publisher or independent voice, don’t put your taproot into the soils of Facebook. Plant it in the Independent Web.” Therefore, if your promotions and the results of SEO drive visitors to www.Facebook.com/YourCompany; that would mean that ALL of the data is Facebook’s to exploit. Instead, if you drive people to www.YourCompany.com/Facebook, you at least “own” the data that led them to your Facebook account.
So consider that, when registering an Internet domain name and signing up for a hosting account, you end up with a blank canvas on a wall anyone in the world can see. What you put on that canvas is entirely up to you and what data you gain is yours. That’s the real value of the Independent Web and why Go Daddy has supported it from the start. Oh, and be sure to remember that if you build a website – but choose to use a free hosting service or free email address – you are giving the host company free reign to place their ads on your site and subsequently harvest your data from it. And remember, obtaining a good domain and driving lots of the world’s population to your site on the Independent Web means you have created a real value in the virtual world.
So what does this mean to you? If at some point you find you no longer need it, check out how Elliot Silver and his blog (ElliotsBlog.com) followers have turned domain names into re-sellable properties worth from hundreds to millions of dollars; just try to do that with a Facebook page!
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