Random Thoughts by Fabien Penso

Own your content and your piece of Internet

Like most people who used the Internet for a long time, I tried and used many, many different online services. Over the years, it means I published content on websites like Flickr, Medium, Instagram, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. The list is so long I can’t remember it all. Some are still online, some disappeared with my content, some I lost interest in.

When looking at where I published content, the biggest regret I have is when I published it outside my domain name, preventing me from building a brand over time. It’s even worse when using a tool or service not giving me the freedom to leave with an export feature, including my audience details. They say if something is free you are the product. More than being the product, you’re also investing time and money on a service that will make money on your back and your viewers. And remember when those services close, you have no way to get your content back and your only last hope is in the Wayback machine.

I am as guilty as others. I’ve been online since about 1995, involved in creating Internet projects since 1998, blogged since 2003 and I wish I had spent more time publishing on my platform instead of being lazy. For keeping in touch with readers, I should have left a newsletter option instead of adding a link to a Facebook page, including its useless vanity like button showing off with “11.8k people like this”. Facebook will then make you pay to contact them…

The newsletter box I left at the bottom of my photography website only has a few hundred subscribers, but a friend who also uses heritage for his website has close to 10k. Connecting directly with your audience matters…

A fantastic example is John Gruber who’s publishing regularly on his website for almost 2 decades. You can’t expect to have the same success and consistency, but even if you’re a very irregular writer I highly recommend you invest in buying your Internet domain, and only use tools you can easily move away from including your audience and your social graph. You have plenty of tools to choose from, I use Jekyll but you could use a hosted Wordpress as long as you only communicate on your domain.

  1. Buy your domain name, a few options: AWS, Gandi, Google, OVH. Once it’s registered, you can transfer it to another registrar.
  2. Use your own CMS, a few options: Jekyll, Hugo, Next, Gatsby, WordPress.
  3. Find a host, Netlify or S3.
  4. Always publish content under this domain name.

The unit of Internet space ownership is the domain name.