I’ve been sitting on this domain (zachmaas.com) for a while now, but I’ve struggled to figure out exactly what to do with it. It’s tough to figure out how to present yourself online without it looking like shameless self-promotion. In that spirit, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how and why owning a personal domain is useful.
First, the most important thing — owing a domain that you alone own gives you a lot of power in today’s world of social media. Owning your own website means that you get to decide what goes on it and what level of information you share. On your own website you don’t have companies analyzing everything you do to get more advertising money out of you.
Next, there are a lot of ways to use a personal domain. The most obvious use for a personal website is as a personal landing page or blog, but there are some pretty clever things that you can use a personal domain for on top of that:
Some Straightforward Ideas
- Storing a knowledge base. I tend to take lots of small notes that accumulate in folders over time, but usually they’re too small for a full writeup. Having a page on your site filled with these is an easy way to share them.
- Having a backup of important (but not confidential) documents. You could add your CV and have a simple link to give to people to share it. Alternatively, if you’re giving a presentation, it’s incredibly easy to add a PDF of your slides as a static asset on your site. Then, if there are technical difficulties you can download your slides on someone else’s machine. This also works for easily distributing small files to others.
- Providing a canonical source of usernames that you’re associated with. Paired with something like keybase, this is a great way to help friends find you on the web, especially if you try to avoid normal social media.
- Hosting your PGP key. This is a straightforward way to share your key without having to rely directly on key servers. The normal warnings for PGP about verifying identities and trust apply here.
Some More Technical Ideas
- Hosting DNS entries for private addresses inside your own personal mesh network (using a VPN or something like zerotier). Then, instead of having to use something like 10.215.15.5 for a service inside your mesh, you can just use service.mysite.com
- Providing a frontend to network services like iodine or v2ray to bypass network restrictions.
- Vanity email addresses, like
email@example.com. If you use something like mailgun or google domains it’s super easy to set up forwarding to your main address with many vanity addresses.
The Real Reason to Own a Site
Regardless of what you use your site for, I think the most important reason to have a website is data ownership. After all, if you have the ability to control your identity on the internet, why wouldn’t you?