The bulleted version with instructions:
- This post is directed primarily at people who have a Facebook account but don’t have a real Web site of their own. It may be useful to other people too.
- Facebook owes its highly dubious success to three basic things: 1) it’s free of charge, 2) it requires no technical knowledge, and 3) it allows you to connect to other people. What Facebook doesn’t advertise is that it makes its many billions by tracking everything its users post on it, and all their relationships, and selling that information to anyone who wants to pay for it. If you know anything about what the Web was supposed to be, that should infuriate you.
- I built this Web site in about five minutes, completely free of charge, using no technical know-how, to demonstrate that WordPress.com is a good alternative to Facebook. It offers an excellent editor, great typography, a free library of stock photos, and an overall ease-of-use that’s taken years of work (much of it by a worldwide network of unpaid volunteers) to achieve.
- Unlike a Facebook account, a WordPress site is a real “Web presence”; it’s part of the Open Web, and is fully searchable. A WordPress.com site can interact with other sites located here–and elsewhere, but for right now I’m focused on WordPress.com. For example, you can follow and be followed; you can comment on other people’s posts; you can search for other sites by name or even keyword, have posts from other sites compiled for you on a review page, and even have your blog posts automatically posted to social media sites you use.
- To get your own site, go to WordPress.com, click “Get Started,” and answer a few basic questions. Select the free plan (it comes with 3GB of storage) and choose a good password. For now, don’t change anything else; just accept the default site and write a couple of brief blog entries. There are plenty of modifications you can do later on, also for free. And if you want your own “domain name” (yourname.com), a custom template, or more storage, you can get all that by upgrading to paid service.
- Talk your best friends into creating a WordPress.com site too. Follow them and have them follow you. (It’s easy to see who’s following you.) Then you take it from there.
- You won’t be ready to leave Facebook immediately. That’s OK. Enjoy your free site. Free as in beer and as in freedom.
The prose version:
People want an easy and free way to publish writing, images and video online, reach an audience, and get reactions. This is what the Web was invented for. But even a simple Web site is too difficult, technically, for most people, and the fault is not with them. Ordinary people who want to share human experiences shouldn’t need to become familiar with computer code to do so–never mind the endless number of frameworks and “libraries” that coders rely upon to build Web sites.
Those technical difficulties are what made Facebook possible. It’s a big proposition to offer free “pages” on the Internet that connect to other user’s pages. And Facebook is a big company, with huge operating capital and many wealthy investors. A Facebook “page” is “free” as in “free beer,” but it’s not free as in “freedom.” Facebook tracks everything you do, builds a “social graph” of you and everyone you know, and sells this information to the highest bidder. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg is so filthy rich. His attempt to subvert the Web is reminiscent of “America Online” before there was a Web.
I’ve built this Web site, at zero cost, to demonstrate that sites hosted by WordPress.com are a good alternative to Facebook. Not perfect, not exactly the same features, but good enough. WordPress has been around for a long time, but in recent years the sites hosted by their company (as opposed to WordPress sites you build and host yourself) are easy enough for everyone. WordPress.com offers a curated set of tools that make it almost automatic to get a personal site up and running. And they handle a lot of the connectivity to other sites automatically as well.
Free WordPress.com sites come with 3GB of storage, which should last most people a while. Your Web address will be “yourname.wordpress.com.” If you were fine with “yourname.facebook.com,” you should be fine with that. If you want your own “domain name” (yourname.com), you can buy an upgraded plan from WordPress. (Nobody offers Web sites with your own domain name for free.) If you later find that you need to buy a plan, remember that “free as in freedom” is worth a small annual cost.
To get your own site, go to WordPress.com, click “Get Started,” and answer a few basic questions. Select the free plan and remember to choose a good password. For now, don’t change a thing; just write a couple of short blog entries. Then talk your best friends into creating a WordPress.com site too. Follow them and have them follow you. (It’s easy to see who’s following you.)
If you want to follow me, I’ll follow you in return, and we’ll be “friends,” just like on Facebook. Except we’ll be free.