The personal website didn’t really die. It just went into hibernation while people tried out social media sites that eventually screwed them over.

When the World Wide Web first saw the light of day, it was basically just a collection of information that people couldn’t interact with. This gradually changed as colleges, universities, and ISPs began to allow students and customers to have personal web pages on their servers. Some nerds, like myself, took it a step further, and started self-hosted personal websites, not relying on our place of study or ISP. After a while, users running personal webpages added ways for their readers to interact with them. Many of you probably remember the lovely guestbook.

With the launch of YouTube and Facebook came the creation of the Web 2.0, and a torrent of user-generated content. Instead of hosting content they had made themselves, Web 2.0 companies mainly focused on hosting content generated by their users. They also made it so easy for people to upload content that everyone and their granny could create something and put it online. The internet was no longer a place for nerds only, and the web became social.

Downhill From Here.

This worked great for a while until it turned out these social media sites are the work of the devil himself. They sell your personally data to the highest bidder. They are incubators for the anti-science movements. Hate groups are free to spread their vile ideas without being challenged, and terrorist are allowed to live stream their actions.

Social media started as a good idea, but has turned into a cancer that must be removed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of popular social media companies are located in the United States, a country that isn’t big on regulations. This means that Facebook, YouTube, and other similar companies are mostly allowed to go about their business as they please.

It’s time to tell social media companies to stuff it. Let’s go back to the good old days of personal webpages. If you want to have a web presence, you should not rely on traditional social media sites for this. They don’t deserve your business. The ideal solution is to self-host – to store everything on your own server. By using free/libre open source software, the principles of the Fediverse, and by utilizing services that implement ActivityPub, this is possible. But it’s not for the average internet user.

When Self-Hosting Is Not An Option.

A more feasible alternative for most users, is to pay for the online services you want to use. Doing this, you’re no longer the product. Since you pay for access to the service, the company running it doesn’t have to sell you personal data and your content for profit. If you’re not in a position to pay for a service, at least choose a free one that has a paid option. These companies make money from the paid option, and don’t have to sell your data to support their business.

For blogging, you can use a service like WordPress, Ghost, or WriteFreely. Your image sharing needs can be covered by SmugMug or 500px. There are a lot of great alternatives to the traditional social media sites available. You just have to find them, and this is of course something the internet can help you with.

There are entire websites devoted to finding alternatives to something. AlternativeTo will give to crowdsourced recommendations. Search for “Facebook” for instance, and have a look at the results. Switching.social maintain long lists of ethical, easy-to-use and privacy alternatives to everything from Instagram to Patreon. If you want to know more about the suggested alternative, Product Hunt might be a good place to start looking for information.

So get going. The sooner you break free from surveillance capitalism, the better.