Trapped in the Walled Garden

This evening I have been quietly working out what it would cost to leave the WordPress walled garden, and go it alone – host my own instance on some webspace somewhere else.

The attraction of a hosted blog is of course that everything is done for you – the domain name, the storage, the web server configuration, the certificate signing (https), and so on. You don’t have to look after any of it yourself – hell, I don’t think most people posting to blogs at wordpress.com even realise there’s a webserver, a database, and a (heavily modified) installation of WordPress behind their words.

There’s the whole “community” aspect to consider too. By living within the WordPress garden, my posts are discoverable by everybody else in the garden through the native “Reader” interface. If I leave, I lose that entirely.

Despite the obvious costs of walking away, I have to admit I’m still tempted. Even though the cheapest hosting services are more expensive than the native WordPress options, it’s still tempting – because of one word – ownership.

As we have seen in recent days with Tumblr, a shoe could come down one day, and change the rules that govern the existence of our words on the internet. If I choose to walk away from a hosted blogging service, am I really taking ownership though? I still won’t own or control the hardware – I still won’t own or control the connection between the hardware and the wider internet. I’ll just have moved the goal-posts a little closer to me – I won’t own them, or the ground they are planted in.

Now it sounds like I’m talking myself back out of it – and maybe I am. I suppose in many ways I’m highlighting the problem – although we may rail against “the man” on the internet from time to time, if we want to share our stories with the wider world, we’re always going to have to agree to a certain number of terms and conditions – to take advantage of the many and various platforms that connect us, we will always have to play by somebody else’s rules, and we will never have that much influence over them.

Maybe I just need to stop thinking so much.

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