Is your identity worth $10 a year?

Disclaimer: Most people who would bother to read this blog might get this and most who don’t read this won’t.

Purchasing your domain name will be, and is becoming a big deal. Even if you don’t blog or wiki or whatever. If you exist, you should be claiming your identity. Whether google is making us more stupid or not, it is almost the de facto standard for finding out about someone.

Google yourself. Do it now. What comes up? Nothing? Good stuff? Somebody with the same or similar name? If someone else is googling you, would they know the difference? For those that answered nothing, you might be safe for now. But as google becomes better and better at indexing, even the smallest digital footprint will appear. That small footprint might be a forum posting from 3 years ago. It might be a newspaper article. It might be something that really doesn’t reflect who you are.
Following the lead of Ewan and Will, I went out and looked for and was already taken by a company that buys domains and sells them at inflated prices. Most domain registrars charge between $7 and $20 a year for a domain name. This site is asking $1300 for The only reason I can fathom is that my blog generates a bit of traffic. I did manage to buy and it now points to this site. I’m fortunate in that my name is not found much on the internet save for a few long lost relatives, it’s mostly me you’ll find on a typical name search. As stated by Robert Jones on Ewan’s post, if you’re name is John Smith, it’s not that easy to secure your name. However, it may not be that hard to establish your digital footprint. You may have to be a bit creative, find some other keywords, tags to bring with you but it can be done.

A mother on Will’s blog, stated that she purchased a domain for her young daughter. So when you google Sarah Wynne, this is what you get: a teenager taking control of her digital footprint. When any university, employer, friend or relative searches her name, they see the stuff that she intentionally posts as a reflection of her life. Smart parent, smart kid.

Kern Kelley and his high school bought all the graduates their domain name and left them with this powerful video.

So is $10 too much to claim your identity? The video demonstrates that the ridiculously easy tools that are available to create even a simple webpage can pay huge dividends. This is just another great opportunity to discuss digital citizenship and internet safety in positive terms. In the book Naked Conversations, they discuss the importance of companies to take control of the media and in fact be their own media but engaging their customers via blogs. In the same way, individuals need to be taking control of their identity and having a little understanding of google, rankings and metadata, they can.

As Stephen Downes commented,

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.

What are you waiting for?

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  • Interestingly, I did a quick price check for Australian prices and they are a little dearer – certainly enough to make buying all of the most obvious domain combinations a bit pricey. A domain is a bout A$28 per year and the the version is a A$69 bargain for two years. So, if I were to take your advice, I need to decide which is the best domain possibility because an annual fee to cover all of .com, .org, .net, plus,, etc might be a bit much just to ensure no-one else gets it first! Interestingly, is unavailable as is so anything I want might have to embed my first name as well.

    Graham Wegners last blog post..Classrooms – Teach Fresh

  • Dave

    I agree somewhat. I work in web, so when I was looking for a job, I needed a site to host some portfolio work. Since then, it’s been rather pointless…I post about myself on Facebook, I post pictures there or on flickr, I post videos on youtube, I read blogs through my aggregator so I don’t really have the faintest idea what each blog’s domain name might be. I live on other sites now.

  • Graham,

    Not sure how/why domain costs vary so much but sites like godaddy and are usually reasonable and I think can offer anyone domains. I’m also not sure which level is most appropriate. I know Stephen Downes mentions he preferred not to have a .com name since it evokes ideas of commerce.

    While you may feel a domain has little value, it may be a way to simply be a portal for all your other activity. I think being able to control what others see and read about you is the main point. Even if it’s not to gain employment. It’s a pretty cheap way to be able to gain a greater degree of control over your identity.

    Dean Shareskis last blog post..Is your identity worth $10 a year?

  • So, will you be offering subdomains on * for all of your Canadian Shareski relatives, or are they left to fight over 😉

    I made the jump to my own domain for much the same reasons as Stephen. I was uncomfortable having my online identity owned by someone else.

    D’Arcy Normans last blog post..Morning Commute BikeCam

  • @D’Arcy…..hmm, selling subdomains? So now all shareski’s must come through me. I like that. I’ll be like those big domain resellers and sell them for big bucks. I’ll have to since it would not be a volume business model.

  • This is actually a great idea. I just checked my name and all domains are available (which is cool). Bit of a bummer for people who share their names with famous people though.

  • Hey Dean, thanks for the mention. I’m sure like most things new, there will be discussion over whether this was worth the effort (and money) but I think it was very worthwhile for a few reasons:

    First, most of our students already have digital identities albeit MySpace, FaceBook, etc. This domain was meant to hopefully guide them toward crafting a more professional online presence, even if it’s only the equivalent of a 21st Century business card. There was discussions about using .com vs .name or whatever, and we opted with .coms and .infos for 2 reasons, the .com because if they every wanted to use it to help start a business or some professional venture, and .info because the .com of the name was taken and they were having a $0.99 special on domains 🙂

    Second, the reality that ‘cyber-squatting’ occurs and why not own your own domain rather than have it go to God know what site that you have no control over. For the $7.00s most people spend for a coffee and donut they can say what appears when ‘Googled’ even if it’s blank.

    Finally, another aspect of this that wasn’t shown clearly in the video was how a closed social network was also created with the accounts of the students for them to keep in contact. Again, I know students are already doing this themselves, this just gives one place were classmates can be reached if they want to keep in touch.

    Kern Kelleys last blog post..1

  • Dean:
    Back on February 18, I registered and it was my first attempt at claiming my online identity. Oro is “gold” in Spanish, but surprisingly is registered in Japan through 2013.

    I probably should have thought more about the domain name when I registered it, but variations can add up quickly – especially year over year. I thought about and, too. When I first started communicating online with teachers, I was testing the waters. I wasn’t really prepared to put my name out there and came up with njtechteacher. I’ve given thought to having an and .org but have not as of now. As others have mentioned, .com is more reflective of commerce. It is also the id most people think of when they type a URL.

    At the very least, I’ve changed the landscape of a look up of my name in Google searches over the past year. There used to be one reference that really related to me on an old letter I wrote to the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). Now a lookup reveals a different picture. Most every reference is what I’d like to see reflected about me.

    It’s a nice little video and well worth sharing with students, as well.


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  • Dean,

    Good post and a fine reminder. I’ve purchased my name and a variety of domains for my family each and every year that I’ve been online. My children’s domains, at this point, are easy ways to redirect family to photos, and, overtime, will become the public footprints of my kids – their work, their passions, etc. My wife’s domains sit empty – for now. But they’ll be there when SHE and not someone else, needs them.

    Luckily – lapsed in ownership from its previous owner – a “marketing expert.” I snapped it up and am very pleased that I did so – I think there’d be lots of confusion between our digital footprints.

    Thinking there’s a podcast in telling the story of my family domains. Thanks.

    Bud Hunts last blog post..1

  • Like you, Dean, I have a fairly unusual last name in North American circles, so I was able to get, while was owned by a realtor in New Jersey. Hope they’re nice people.

    But I’ve never gone the next — and I think important — step of using the name to build a launching pad for my web presence(s). Right now it points to photos of our 2003 sabbatical in Australia.

    You’ve added to my summer to-do list. Thanks, I think. 🙂

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  • Kate

    Do you have any advice for someone who does share a name with a public figure? She’s not exactly famous, but she writes spiritual self help books and has apparently bought up all permutations of our name.

  • Kate,

    Certainly that makes it more difficult and I think requires you to be a bit more diligent in establishing identity. Likely using metadata/keywords and simply creating a lot of content in your field will at least allow people to add “education” or whatever to your name to move you to the top. If the public figure is a bit obscure, viewers may not know the difference, in which case you would have work harder and moving your name up the rankings.

  • Hi Dean,
    It is good advice. I secured ‘’ nearly ten years ago and then ‘’ when it became available. I now need to ensure that they are both also secured in my will so that the wider family will retain it when I pass on from this existence.
    I did not take up ‘johnlarkin’ as a domain as I am the only john larkin in the extended family at the moment. Who would want it in my family? The term ‘larkin’ could be more easily passed on to other members.
    Why did I choose as opposed to Well, I did not have an ABN (Australian Business Number) at the time and it was actually easier to obtain the domain suffix as I had a registered business name and was a sole proprietor. My work and interest was more related to the ‘net’ and, personally, I felt ‘.net’ was a little more cool than ‘.com’ at the time.
    Purchasing domain names and paying for hosting is exorbitant in Australia. Better to get your hosting elsewhere.
    Are there any reputable domain name resellers in the USA other than Go-Daddy? My sites stats suffered referral spam and all the domains concerned were hosted by or owned by Go-Daddy. I will not support Go-Daddy.
    Cheers, John.

  • John,

    Interesting perspectives on the Australian issues. Hadn’t really considered those aspects. Thanks for sharing.

  • John, I used for all the domains we bought. I’ve used GoDaddy and will not again.

    Kern Kelleys last blog post..1

  • How random! I’ve already come across Sarah Wynne and her online identity on Flickr. She’s in the same Flickr group as I am, Mission 24.
    And I’ve really been considering what you’ve said, Dean about purchasing your online identity. I know you told my ECMP class directy to consider doing this, but it was nice to have another reminder.

  • After this blog i realized its important to have domain with family name. Then you can sell the sub domain to you family members and make big bucks. Lolz thanks for good post and video too…..

    ilyass last blog post..1

  • My domain name has had a squatter sitting on it for the last 4 years. At least I would hope the do something with it eventually.

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