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Ready to move to the Open Web?

Despite the desire for connection, misinformation and human nature have combined to produce some of the most frustrating online experiences for people. Even the President of the United States has gotten involved after expressing frustration for having one of his tweets annotated against his wishes.

If you are fed up with how messy social media has become, maybe it’s time to make your move to the Open Web.

What is the Open Web?

In short, it’s running your own website on a product that you are licensed to own, not rent.

As 90’s web users may remember, the Open Web is still, in some ways, a “wild west”. For example, you can still get hacked if you aren’t careful with what you’re doing, but you will also find some of the most original, creative content out there.

The Open Web has come a long way with the help of affordable systems called Content Management Systems (aka “CMSes”). Some popular ones include:

  • WordPress – my personal recommendation, has great blogger and small business templates out of the box, has powerful developer options and a lot of plug-ins
  • Drupal – more flexible data out of the box, has very powerful options for developers too
  • Hugo – Has amazing content flexibility and the fastest file save times. There are even free hosting options using this static site generator. However, it requires the ability to code.

I am going to focus the rest of this article on the advantages of using WordPress for the Open Web, but the other options are well worth a look.

Why WordPress?

While I do not subscribe to “meditation” in the Eastern Mystical sense of the term, this comparison of social media platforms as noisy and artificial to WordPress being interconnected and yet independent and diverse is an accurate comparison of the Web’s ecosystem.

What about my photos?

Worried about formats for posting? WordPress has the flexibility for posting pictures (including memes), videos, short statements, and book-length articles.

Picture I took of Manhattan in September 2019

In fact, WordPress has a user-friendly “block editor”, which means you don’t have to know code or be a nerd to create pages of any reasonable layout!

What about my friends?

Moderated comments using WordPress’ built-in comments or embedding a commenting system such as Disqus can enable as much or as little site interactivity as you want, with you at the wheel. This link will take you to an example where some friends and acquaintances of mine engaged with my post.

What about hackers?

Depending on the method of measuring, WordPress accounts for roughly 30-something% of the Web as of 2020! As such, a product with a large market share is a prime target. Thankfully, this is manageable by following some common sense rules like encrypting the website connection, using a strong password, not allowing strangers into the site, not allowing un-moderated comments to post without your review first, and keeping the system and plugins updated. As of WordPress 5.5 you can set the system to self-update the plugins.

What should I expect?

In short, expect to pay a little so that the site is ad-free. If you want comments, expect to spend time moderating them and deleting spam. Even if you get a spam filter, expect a few clever ones to get through the cracks.

Where do I start?

I recommend managed hosting (such as Flywheel or the paid options for WordPress Dot Com) or else getting someone you know to host and administrate WordPress for you. Shameless plug: I currently do so for people I know, including initial setup, daily backups, & security scans. Contact me if you want details.

What Next?

That depends on what you desire to accomplish! Just realize that traffic is driven by what people want, which is sometimes not what you want. If this is your place to unwind and get creative, have fun with it! If this is your place to sell a product or influence people, I recommend starting your research with the book Platform by Michael Hyatt.

Happy building!

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