June 09, 2008

Buy your domain name: you're not so vain

Domain_name Have you bought your own name dot com? It's not a question of vanity, but a fundamental issue about owning your online identity, and potentially grabbing that of your children's, now.

This weekend I made a tentative start at creating a website for potential clients and those wanting to get just a few free highlights from this 4000 post behemoth of a blog. It's under ewanmcintosh.com and isn't quite finished.

But buying your own domain name is what most educators, with our non-business heads on, would frown upon, or at least look incredulously upon as something only the self-obsessed and ego-centric would do. Wrong. Your dot com is you in the 21st century, and there are two tales to make you think seriously about this.

First, the case of Shel Israel, a dear friend and someone who has helped in his own way to expand the eduBuzz ethos in East Lothian along with the inimitable Rick Segal when they visited us 18 months or so back now. Shel has had his name stolen. Imagine that you arrive at school and, after a few years there, someone comes in wearing a pastiche of you and what you believe in, but their passport says... yup, they are definitely you. YOU don't exist any more. Shel made a big mistake, but one which I was making for two years until I bought my own domain (www.ewanmcintosh.com and .co.uk) in 2006. The difference is, his reputation on being an expert on the web has been dented. Even Robert Scoble's not bought his.

Now, though, comes the other phenomenon of the social web. When you see one of those increasingly annoying posts about the latest app that you must have or your life will be meaningless, what do you do? Ignore it? Sign up? Use it? Well, you'd be well advised to sign up, get your username and then, if you wish, ignore to your heart's content. Loic Le Meur, another leader in the social media domain, has been caught out not because of any obvious errors but due to something a little more suspect. When a new web service was launched it didn't grab him straight away. But it did grab an anonymous net user who, through a grudge to Loic or "just to have a bit of fun" started to slander his reputation virtually by sending inappropriate material to 117 of his contacts who had already 'befriended' their pal Loic. Thankfully, the company in question resolved this, Loic being a headfigure of the new web probably helping a tad. I doubt I would have that priviledge should the same happen to me.

So the lesson, people: buy it now. I use LCN.com, just because I do. Buy your name with dot com, dot co uk (and maybe dot org) from any company you feel is worthwhile, and feel free to say where you think works best in the comments.


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Not sure than John Smith and his children Mary and Peter are going to have much luck following your advice ;-) Even back in 2005 when you registered ewanmcintosh.com many common names had been registered already.

I agree that having a definitive url which represents you is a good thing. I've tentatively gone for robert.jones.name which suits me better. Your readers could try to get hold of their name at the .name TLD if their .com is already taken.

What about other people with the same name as you? When I first started teaching I snapped up http://www.mrfield.com - but there is even another Mr Field at my school and I was surely a bit cheeky to grab that.

First come, first served I guess - hence why andrewfield.com, andrewfield.net and andrewfield.co.uk are all owned by different people.

I agree entirely with the sentiment of this post, but it is a tricky one - who does really own the right to a domain name? Surely we should all own http://www.me.com rather than Apple with their new service?

Clearly an important issue for our time. However it is not accurate to say that "Shel had his name stolen" which would be identity theft. In addition the comparision with a real person (and a passport) is ludicrious. I can understand the desire to defend a friend, but this doesn't actually do that, rather it muddies the water for people who don't realize how important it is to brand an identity across the various social media, with a consistent username, domain name, and email address. If you look at the blogroll on http://www.shelisrael.com/ it is obvious that the puppet has registered a lot more than just the domain name, including myspace, pownce, and tumblr.

Timely post Ewan, and something I have been meaning to get round to for yonks, and of course, being Theo Kuechel, I don't have the 'John Smith' syndrome. Decided to go for the .com .net and .org suffixes which should cover most online scenarios - total cost $29.85 (£15.07) with Verio.

I've had downes.ca for many years - I was never comfortable with the idea of a commercial domain name, so the .ca extension is perfect for me.

And I have a domain for a very simple reason - I didn't want my website address to change every time I got a new job. This was especially relevant when I had three jobs within a coupe, of years. Less so now, but it's still good to have a personal permanent URL.

Everyone should, have one, and eventually, everyone will.

Unfortunately, I share a name with a burlesque dancer/teacher in Denver, CO. I'm afraid I would get blog seekers who would be sorely disappointed in my ed tech rants. :-)

I do have a custom domain name for my edublog that I will use once they have that feature enabled... but it doesn't include my actual name.

I have meldrum.org.uk which my whole family use for their email addresses (though I'm a little uncomfortable labelling ourselves as an organisation - sounds a little mafioso), stuartmeldrum.co.uk for most of my online activity, and recently bought mrmeldrum.co.uk which I'm planning to use with my classes next year.

That's three different domains with three different uses: one for personal use; one for my professional work; and one for my professional work but aimed at only a certain group of people. It's not just as simple as having an online presence, I am being different things to different people.

On top of that I also have another domain which doesn't include my name and is currently just a redirect until I think of a good use for it.

I can completely empathise with the case of Mr Smith outlined above by Robert, as having an incredibly common name made it impossible for me to by my '.com' came when I was buying a domain.

Is it really relevant though? Type my name into a search engine and you'll find me owing to how people link - surely in the 21C its the links that are more important than the domain? How much more valuable collectively would 'andrewbrown.com' be to me and all the other AB's if the domain served as an aggregator/gateway to all of us?

Andrew - I think all that matters is to have a definitive url that represents you. This will be particularly useful if you can make that url your OpenID. It's not so important what the url is, but firstname.surname.name or .com are more sensible than purplebananafish.com :-)


In fact, among the urls that had not been purchased by their owners was LorenFeldman.tv, which has now been purchased by a friend of mine as has Michael Arrington.net

purplebananafish is still available Robert, tempting.

I'd suggest getting all your domains through the one source, I have quite a few with a variety companies and it creates a certain amount of confusion keeping them up to date.

Why should anyone have to buy/rent their domain name at all?

If you are an individual, shouldn't you just get it allocated at birth, like a national insurance number? Then get an additional/new one if you change your name through adoption, marriage or divorce. A formula could then be worked out that accomodates the duplicate names, much in the same way as people have done it for thmeselves when choosing email addresses etc.

Otherwise it's just a land-grab - the better informed, the rich and the profiteers get there first and the poor and ill-educated end up with nothing or just the dregs.

And it's not that cheap - isn't is about £50 to register each domain name and that's only for a certain period of time? In effect you are only renting your domain.

And what ending is appropriate? .co.uk doesn't seem right. Maybe .com is ok but still it tends to be associated with commercial companies, which is fine if you're intending to set up a registered company based on your name but for individuals I think a new ending is required.

Though I currently have no bright ideas on what that could be!

Shel - I suspect that there is a fair range of availability in the colour-fruit-animal.com range. You could snap up redappletoad.com and blueberrykestrel.com while you are about it ;-)

John - Estonia is giving every citizen an OpenID url for free https://openid.ee/about/english

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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