Why Do you Need a Personal Website?

By: Robert Burke

MySpace. I can't simply say the word, which is bound to be accepted into Webster's dictionary in the next decade as (n.) an online place for teenagers to err their many grievances about Stacy and her new boyfriend. I'm so old.

But in my dictionary, I define MySpace as quintessential Web 2.0, or in other words, what the Web has become and is still becoming. Web 2.0's MySpace, Facebook, Flckr, Wikipedia, all mean to me one thing: community. It seems that adding to a central source website, such as MySpace, is becoming much more popular than going through the "strenuous" work of creating one's own website. So even as the price to make one's own website rapidly falls, free services like MySpace, where control over one's "space" is limited, are still steamrolling in popularity.

I personally hate the term "Web 2.0." The story behind it simple enough: it was brainstormed by a bunch of nerds sitting in a stuffy conference room to give a name to the web after the dot-com collapse. Even though I try to deny the existence of this second wave of internet, I can't deny that the trend is moving away from personal websites. So I'm here to bring them back "in."

If MySpace and Facebook are the athletic, outgoing older brothers, the personal website nowadays seems to be the shy, pale-faced younger brother who likes to draw, far more unique but not as popular as his siblings. But when it comes to their cousins, the dusty scrapbooks and photo albums, the personal website is pretty cool. What scrapbook can interactively zoom, transition, enhance, label, and beautify your images like a Flash presentation on a website can? What scrapbook can be accessible by anyone you want to show it to anywhere in the world. I don't know how many pictures MySpace will let you have but you can put millions on your own website (and seeing the younger generation these days, "millions" is most likely a low estimate.)

Another argument for personal websites that I've heard recently is one that surrounds the future of individuality, personality and distinguishing oneself from the crowd. Like yourself, the domain you choose for a website is completely unique. With MySpace, you have one page, one "space" for you and your "friends" to get to know who you are across the shared domain "www.myspace.com/stacy." Perhaps a website, will limitless potential for pages on any aspect of your life is more reflective of reality. However, roughly 66% percent of internet users in a recent study do not actually own a domain name. Interestingly enough, people who possess a MySpace or a Facebook do claim to have a personal website. No, you have a personal page.

But I recognize there are a number of issues surrounding the possession of one's personal website, questions such as "who has the time?", or "what if I can't make a good looking one?", or "what about my privacy?" I know that some questions that are raised are very valid ones. However, most objections to a personal website are outrageous, simply because "Web 2.0" has created a world of MySpace junkies, satisfied with being members of a crowded community and blissfully unaware of how beneficial a personal website can be even to those who "never" have the time to update it. The MySpace generation likes to type what they want to say into a form and submit it and see it when the page reloads.

Before this situation gets better, it will definitely get worse. The largest issue with a personal website right now, even with our experienced younger generation, is that website creation seems too arduous or too time-consuming. It is believed a good-looking website can't be made without expensive software, going back to the basics to punching in basic HTML code is something now far in the past and design companies are too considered too expensive.

So why do people use personal websites? (Well, you can pick one of these):

-Conduct personal business
-Communicate directly with family and friends
-Showcase children's accomplishments
-Seeking relationships
-Sharing ideas and beliefs
-To be hip

To be brief in my summation, as I know this article has not been the most coherent item that I've ever written, personal websites seem to be on their way out (hmm, maybe the Web 2.0 people had something there.) However, that makes it the perfect time to distinguish yourself from the crowd. If you're like me and have not already pledged my first born child to Tom and the unimaginable wrath of MySpace, start your own website, put some RSS news feeds on it, dress it up, throw some funny pictures on there, put your favorite quote at the top, buy the most random domain name you can think of. So when somebody asks you what your MySpace name is, say proudly "I don't have one, but you can find me at burntpopsicles.com!"

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