In the moment, the services you use online might feel like a solid foundation on which to build a digital presence off. But things have a tendency to change. Since I entered cyberspace, the center force of online communication has been IRC, ICQ, MSN, MySpace, and others.
None of them proved to be that solid over time. Right now, the obvious example is Twitter, where it's hard to predict where things are heading.
I claimed my corner of the Internet on 11th November 1998. On that day, I registered my first domain name, thoresson.net. Since then, I've been receiving mail and hosting personal blogs "there".
The interesting thing is that what "there" is has varied, just like the social platforms found elsewhere on the net. The blogs hosted at thoresson.net as been served from servers in Sweden, Canada, Germany, and back to Sweden again. For mail, thoresson.net has used email services provided by my hosting firms, by Google, and finally Fastmail.
And that's the thing with a personal domain name: It's separate from the technical solution you use. It's more of an identifier, less of a service.
And more importantly, it's a way to avoid lock-in.
In hindsight, it's hard to believe that once upon a time switching mobile carriers also meant switching cellphone numbers. That was before number portability became a thing.
A personal domain name is like number portability, but for online services.
For the past 24 years, my friends have not had to think about how to reach me by mail. My address has stayed the same, even though I have changed the technical platform a couple of times. The same goes for my blogs.
When it became apparent that Fediverse might actually become a thing on a mass scale, I moved my Mastodon account to a self-hosted instance, with a domain name I own. I'm now found on @email@example.com. And on @firstname.lastname@example.org I've started to explore Pixelfed, Fediverse's alternative to Instagram.
But I haven't chosen to use the names of the technical solutions themselves in my identifiers on Fediverse. And that's an intentional decision: Mastodon and Pixelfed are the technical solutions I use today. But there might be others tomorrow. And if so, I can still be found at the same address.
Hosting personal Fediverse servers is not what everyone wants to nerd out about (even though it was much easier to do so than I ever could have imagined, thanks to Cloudron).
But thankfully, hosting a personal blog at http://myblog.firstnamelastname.com is trivial. And from a page like that, it's easy to link to the services and accounts one uses at the moment.
So, with Christmas just around the corner, my suggestion for those of you who need a last-minute gift is this: Consider getting a personal domain name for the ones you love. (As a bonus, there is no delivery time at all, so the domain name can really be a last-minute gift!)