How Can You Get on the Indie Web?
The Indie Web is not a place separate from the web that you already know and use. The web that you’re probably reading this article on right now.1 The Indie Web can be almost anywhere on the web.
The first step to getting on the Indie Web is to own your domain. 2
A domain (or sometimes called a “domain name”) is the part of a URL that looks like example.com. On my website, my domain is veganstraightedge.com. It doesn’t have to end in “.com”. It could be .org, .net, .info, .biz, .me or country codes 3 like .io, .it, .co or all kinds of new TLDs4 like .limo, .club, .ninja.
You can buy a domain from any number of registrars. I recommend hover.com if you’re just buying one or a few domains. If you find yourself owning 10 or more, I suggest using dnsimple.com. I implore you to avoid godaddy.com. Even if they’re selling the domain you want for a few dollars cheaper than others. Everyone I’ve ever known that used GoDaddy regretted using them later.
Try to think about the longevity of your the name you choose. Will you still want to use this domain in ten years? In fifty? Always a reliable classic is your name at some TLD. shanebecker.com, shanebecker.me, etc.
Some websites that provide the publishing software (like SqaureSpace or Wordpress) will also sell you a domain directly through your account settings. And when you buy it through them, they also configure it to Just Work™ for your site.
For example, when you sign up with Wordpress.com you choose a subdomain for your Wordpress blog: veganstraightedge.wordpress.com. But when you buy veganstraightedge.com through Wordpress, they set it up so that only veganstraightedge.com is ever shown to the world instead of veganstraightedge.wordpress.com.
It’s critically important that you don’t use a subdomain (like veganstraightedge.wordpress.com or veganstraightedge.tumblr.com) as your primary website. The reason is that you don’t really own any subdomain.5 If you ever decide to move to different publishing software (like from Tumblr to Wordpress) none of your URLs can be moved. And good URLs don’t change.
Once you’ve got a domain, publish something. Publish lots of somethings. Publish to your heart’s content. And then publish some more.
Publish short text notes. Publish longer structured articles with titles and HTML formatting (if you want). Publish bookmarked links, photos and videos. Anything that you currently publish on other sites, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
Later on in the process of expatriation from the corporate silos that currently control what and how we publish to the autonomy of the Indie Web, there’s a process called syndication where a copy of your post is sent to a silo for greater distribution or visibility for people you want to see your post but don’t go to your site. E.g. friends and family on Facebook.
We call this process of syndication POSSE. That stands for Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. I’ll cover POSSE in more depth in a syndication specific post.
Or about you, really.
On your site, there’s probably a header, sidebar or footer place for you to put some information about yourself. Your name, your photo or avatar, some URLs and usernames on other sites. If you feel comfortable doing so, your phone number and/or email address. Maybe even a short paragraph or two bio about you. You can expand this even further by creating a page (typically called “About” at the path of /about). You can also add a resume/cv and/or portfolio. Or you can do something completely different. It’s your site, your identity.
Get a domain. Find some publishing software (or if you’re feeling adventurous, build your own). Publish some posts. Include an about me section. Write an about me page (and for bonus points, a resume).
Now you’re on the Indie Web!
There’s some additional technology under the covers that will improve your experience, but all of that requires that you’ve done these parts first.
1. Unless someone printed this article from a webpage and handed it to you.^
3. Something to consider when buying a country-specific domain is the longevity of that domain. Are there certain rules that apply to who can own a domain in that country? Eg, do you have to be a citizen of that country? Does that country have laws that don’t apply to you as a non-citizen, but would apply to your domain that might cause your domain to get shut down by a foreign government? Some countries have a “morality” clause and if you’re LGBQT, they might shut down your website at anytime. See for example .ly domains, like Violet Blue's short domain, getting shut down by the Libyan government.^
5. Unless, of course, you also own the domain that the subdomain is on. Like if I decided to use blog.veganstraightedge.com instead of veganstraightedge.com. I still own veganstraightedge.com so the blog subdomain is still completely under my control.^