Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 25 seconds

I Don’t Own My Domain : I Rent It #DoOO

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 25 seconds

I don’t know why we say “domain of one’s own” and “reclaim your domain”. It’s not very accurate. 

My understanding of ownership is that something belongs to me. That I have already acquired it or been gifted it. And I own it until I die, no additional payment required. If I own it and I die, it passes to my heirs.

That isn’t at all the case with domains.

When I created a domain, it didn’t become mine. Basically 

  1. I don’t own the domain name. I pay for it every year. That looks like rent
  2. I don’t own the actual hosting. I pay Reclaim (whom I love and trust) for shared hosting because I assume they will do a better job of the hardware/backup etc

And here is my question for #DoOO for students. It is great for a university to offer students a domain of their own. But once they graduate… They have to pay for it themselves. In Egypt many young people don’t have access to a credit card (even the ones at my elite institution). They would lose it after the few months grace period. What a shame, right?

Of course if the students kept their blog on WordPress and WordPress closed down they would lose it, also. So there’s that.

And they regularly lose the work they did on their LMS. So…that too.

Any thoughts on this?

Update: read comment thread below 

Also: linking to a recent/old (haha) Prof Hacker post of mine on digital life after death (which mentions some of the stuff Audrey alludes to as post-ownership society)

Update again: I annotated Audrey’s post

67 thoughts on “I Don’t Own My Domain : I Rent It #DoOO

  1. Glad you are asking these questions Maha.

    I suspect that the underbelly of all this ain’t pretty.

    I would really like to dig deeper into what this means beyond the institution.

    Is it frankly a student paid, more pedagogically progressive alternative model to a LMS or are we serious about “digital citizenship/activism” etc? Is such a vision naive? Is such a vision dystopic?

    What does this mean in terms of colonisation?

    I suspect this is why I wrote this:

    And this

    And this

    And this

    1. Love that first link Simon free.dom indeed. I think I read the others earlier but will re-read now in context. You’re asking harder questions than I had originally intended but they’re good and important ones.

  2. Very interesting thoughts. I have two main thoughts about this topic: When people rent an apartment, they don’t really refer to it as “the apartment I rent” or whatever. They still same “my apartment” or “I finally have a place of my own!” There is a part of ownership mindset that still extends to what we rent.

    But it is a good idea to have people think in these terms – the ones you blog about here – because it brings the importance of maintaining a website to the forefront. In other words, do something with it or it may slip away.

    The other thing relates to what students do with their domain after they graduate. We are looking at that at UTA as we roll out DoOO. The first thing that we are keeping in mind is that students do pay for it since the money to fund the hosting will come from their student fees eventually. Or if they want a full domain instead of a subdomain, they have to pay for that up front. But we are exploring how to let them keep that space after they graduate. This is very attractive to the university, as it can help us see what happens after they graduate, and how we can improve their experience while here. We may do something like, “if you will blog about your current work transition every 3 months or do, you can continue to have subsidized hosting through us.” Not sure how that will work, but it is something we are exploring. If anything, they can easily transfer over to an individual Reclaim Hosting account if they don’t want to or can’t continue with us.

    1. The difference between owning where u live and renting where u live is HUGE and equally an important thing for people in the US and Egypt. Owning a house means u can build stuff inside it and know it remains safely yours (natural disasters and theft notwithstanding). You are responsible for keeping it safe (e.g. locking etc) vs rental – landlord changes terms periodically and you could get kicked out if rent goes up or such. If you invest in it (eg renovations) you lose all that when you move out and no one owes you a thing. And that’s pretty much what owning a domain is. If you don’t pay again next year, no one owes you anything. It’s a huge risk we take and I only take it because I truly trust Reclaim Hosting. To protect my site and to hold it for me if I am a little bit late paying (Tim Owens did it for once and even gave us a complementary year off)

      1. I’m not sure whether this is different in Egypt, but one never really 100% owns one’s property in the U.S. Everywhere here there is annual property tax, and if you don’t pay it, you lose the property. I suppose many people think of it differently than they do about rent, but the mechanism and the consequences are exactly the same, so there’s no reason to consider it differently conceptually.

        1. I think we have a different system here. I don’t pay an ongoing property tax. If i were to go broke i wouldn’t lose my home if I owned it

  3. It’s a really good point regarding domain registrations and one I’ve pointed out to folks in the past as well. A frustrating reality of how the internet exists today that it’s not possible to permanently own a domain registration. But I do think the language here goes beyond just domain registrations and where something is hosted. Ownership over your data is at the heart of Domain of One’s Own (In fact many schools we work with don’t offer top level domain registrations, but they all provide cPanel and open source applications). Governments seize property by eminent domain (there’s that word again!) in the US all the time so even the idea of owning your own house isn’t without its caveats. But the ability for me to take my data, have it backed up in many locations, and move seamlessly between spaces is just as much if not more important than the question of where it is hosted at a certain point in time (heck if I were a real masochist I guess I could run a server out of my closet and not be beholden to any company). Too many other silos, especially social media, simply don’t offer the same level of flexibility because of the proprietary software they use to run those system.

    1. Well yeah – if you really want to truly have control over your stuff you WOULD keep the server in your closet. But still need to back it up somewhere physically far away, in case of fire etc, right? As it is, I have SOME control over data on my domain, but I am trusting the hosting provider (you guys, Tim) to keep it safe from loss, hacking, etc. And to not bring up backups of stuff I deleted to later use em against me or whatevs.

      It’s more control but it’s not full control.

      1. In my mind the question of whether or not what you post on a public domain can be brought back to use against you is kind of moot. If your work on your domain is public and on the Web you should assume that anyone could have a copy of it and could use it against you (see If you’re working in a private space on your domain, that’s different (and you do need to be able to rely upon your host to provide a level of security for your private data) but, generally, when we’re talking about DoOO with student sand faculty we are talking about public presence.

        At that point, the danger is something happening to your host and you losing your data, which is a real issue. The first domains we registered at UMW were with a less-than-reliable host who went belly-up three months into our 12 month account. We lost our data (if we hadn’t backed it up) and we lost our domains because they had been registered to the host not to us. We learned an important lesson.

        We could host ourselves and maintain our own servers (which was beyond our expertise and resources) or we could be smarter about how we proceeded. Domain of One’s Own is about empowerment, but empowerment comes with responsibility. (Sort of like tenure.) It’s on us to backup our data (in case our host goes under), to update our applications (so our sites continue to work), to create and remember strong passwords (so our accounts don’t get hacked). Learning these lessons is part of becoming a capable digital citizen. So we still host with a company and we register domains through a domain registrar (because there is no other option). It’s not perfect, but perfect isn’t real.What is real is standing apart from what we’ve long done on the Web in our schools by proclaiming that people deserve to have spaces on the Web over which they have as much control as we can give them. They deserve to own their data, to take it with them when they need to, and to delete it when they want to.

        1. Thanks for this, Martha. Good point re anything public could havd been copied (even screenshot) by anyone before the owner deletes it.

          I am all for all the points you say here

          The only thing I am truly contesting in this post was the “ownership” – as you say, and as Tim said, that’s the way the internet works now (you can’t register a domain #4ever or #4life) .
          The credit card issue is probably something that has a parallel in the US that I am unaware of. I assume some ppl from lower income backgrounds are unable to get/use credit cards?

          1. Of course, saying 4ever or 4life opens up all kinds of other issues. If it is 4ever, then who maintains your site after you pass away? Your kids might, but would someone want to someday inherit their grand parents or great grand parents site to maintain? If they aren’t maintained, they eventually get hacked, or the code falls apart, or something.

            If it is 4life, who determines that? What if you just decide at 70 to end your online presence? Will that be blocked if it is 4life and you are still alive? What if you become very ill and can’t maintain it? Should that be the end of it? What if your family wants to keep it going?

            Is anything online really possible 4ever or even 4life even if “ownership” of the domain can be granted like that?

            1. I asked some of those questions on Prof Hacker a while ago. Also re Kindle/iTunes stuff. Of course my parents vinyl records and even my own cassette tapes as a kid are now unplayable. But books. I have a book of my grandfather’s. Many of my father’s. Why is there no system for Kindle books to be passed on? But that’s a tangent (valuable but different point). This comment thread is turning into an unconference

      2. Even if you have your own server, you have to trust that the manufacturer didn’t install a backdoor to snoop on it. Then you have to trust your ISP to not monitor and record the traffic in and out of the server. No matter what you do, there will be someone to trust, right? No one is an island. There never is full control over anything by anyone once you start dissecting every part.

        1. Great point Matt! And really truly important confidential stuff (that isn’t my blog) often gets protected that way e.g. by FBI. And sometimes still gets uncovered… So… For the rest of us…Back to the responsible citizen part Martha was emphasizing

  4. I think for us the ownership part of DoOO is largely about owning your data. When a student leaves UMW and DoOO they can take every single thing they’ve created with them. That’s not necessarily the case with other systems. Some ePortfolio systems that schools are adopting lock students into using that proprietary system (at a cost) if they want to keep it after graduation. In many LMSs, once the professor unpublishes or deletes a course, students can no longer access their contributions.

    At any time, on DoOO or RH you can download a full backup of your site and keep it on hand. If anything ever happened to those systems, you could rebuild fairly easily.

    Ownership is also about having full control over what appears at that domain — how it looks, what it says, when it disappears.

    You’re right however, that while a student is at our University *we* are the ones paying for their domain and hosting, so do they really “own” it? I think so for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. And when a student graduates, if they want to continue to own it, they’ll have to figure out how to pay for it on their own. Ownership comes at a cost (for us and them).

    The credit card thing is an issue. How do young people in Egypt pay for other things that are purchased online?

    1. So Egyptians can survive pretty well without ever using credit card. Most older people don’t have credit cards (my dad did; my mom never did). People of our generation usually pirate things like music and such πŸ™‚ Uber accepts cash here. And then when someone really needs to pay for something online they ask for help. E.g. My colleague asks me to pay for her and she pays me back. In my office there is a shared business credit card ppl can use for work-related stuff. So..yeah…some people can survive pretty well without one. And I am talking people who are well off but haven’t been working long enough to get a credit card. Parents don’t always trust their kids w credit cards. And there’s fear of hacking. People who are less well off might not even have bank accounts altogether, let alone credit cards. And some people may be morally opposed to credit cards because of interest rates when you pay late and such.

    2. Here is one reason why I hesitate setting up a university sponsored/funded DoOO here at my institution. Control of content (real or perceived) creeps in. I had this discussion this morning with my #TC2027 (Computer and Information Security) students. That point did come up. So I prefer to have them go out and create their own setup wherever they like (free hosting on, getting hosting at Reclaim or other) and work their RSS into our workflow.

      My other reason for not setting up DoOO here is what Jim mentioned elsewhere (Twitter?) that if there isn’t a support structure in place then it will be doomed to fail. I’m a full-time faculty member, this setup of infrastructure and hacking is easy for me since I’m that way and have done it for decades (I’ll claim late AND early membership to #EduPunk). I ain’t got time to support a posse of faculty trying to figure this out. I really want them to do it and evangelize whenever I can but need someone at my institution to setup the people to support a rollout.


    1. Reading it now and was coming here to link to it on my blog. Thanks for posting it here and on Facebook. Also listening to your latest podcast which I hear mentions something related.

  5. I think that our entire concept of ownership doesn’t transfer to the digital world – what does it mean to own something when the incremental cost to copy it is essentially zero? I think the words “intellectual property” are fundamentally misleading because they suggest that an idea can be treated like a chair or an acre of land. Not that I have much insight into a better way to think of it.

  6. Hi all, I am watching this discussion unfold with interest. It is an area that interests me specifically when related to teaching but I think it is possibly the most significant economic discussion of our age. I hope you don’t mind me opening it out further.

    Across the world we are seeing the “austerity” agenda being used as a way of pushing costs away from organisations and towards individuals. This is a convenient way for organisations to reduce their financial responsibilities to their employees and ultimately dis-aggregate labour – paying the lowest price for the time on the job without a care for “hidden costs” such as transport, clothing, childcare etc. In the UK this case highlighted the lack of respect for employees as human beings that can result from a focus solely on organisational profit. The business models we have seen arising in the digital have been no less worrying – minimising social responsibilities through tax avoidance whist squeezing the employee beyond what is reasonable

    Digital domains are not without cost, they have to be maintained. If we are economically active we make choices about how we spend our limited assets whilst maintaining our responsibilities to those we support. The costs are not hidden in our bank balance, what I spend on a website I can’t send elsewhere. Maha is right that those who are the most vulnerable financially for whatever reason need support. Let’s face it any of us could be in that situation at a point in our lives perhaps through illness, loss of work or study (which is an increasingly expensive life decision). I would say – buyer beware! Use services which you trust, ensure that all your content remains yours and can be removed/exported elsewhere when you wish to do so. Don’t tolerate lock-in from any technical “solutions provider”.

    In a teaching context, the UK has a system for reclaiming tax relief on professional expenditure: I have never used it, it is too complicated and out of touch with the reality of teaching today, probably deliberately. Just scanning down the list of approved professional associations and learned societies they seem to favour those already on good incomes (doctors/lawyers) I see nothing that reflects the reality of costs incurred as part of my professional activity. Indeed teaching has been subject to increasing de-professionalisation by successive governments in the UK.

    We need an international debate on the nature of employment and the social responsibilities attached to it. Ownership is part of that – does your employer own you?

    1. Thanks for contributing and taking this conversation further, Teresa. You’re right about the possibility of someone suddenly finding themselves in financial situations where they can no longer maintain this (assuming they could get on it, in the first place). And you make important connections to other discourses /values around us these days (austerity being one I am reading/writing about offline these days)

  7. (try number 2, stopped at the gates by a spam guard!)

    (note, I wrote a comment once yesterday and deleted– I kept feeling I might be mansplaining or speaking too much from a geographic perspective, then wrote it later but decided to think before submitting– and now i see Audrey Watters has taken on the question of ownership elegantly).

    I don’t see ownership of domain as physical property, it is not a physical entity. Owning land is a human constructed idea; most ancient cultures had no need to own land, though empire lines were ones fought for. I’m not expert in how it works in different countries, but even in the US it varies state by state whether you own the water and mineral rights below the surface. You cannot pick up your land and take it with you.

    It’s not about a domain as a thing, but as a representation of us that we can control and manage rather than leaving it to another party. It’s not the physical space ownership, its about a place to expand, express your ideas. Think how much we struggled with the idea of owning ideas.

    Your domain cannot function / operate without the infrastructure of the internet, it has not operational mode on its own.

    By choosing to pay for my domain, rather than it being given outright to me, I am making a stake, I am saying it is important enough for me to pay for it. You may call it rent, I may just call it a lifetime payment plan πŸ˜‰

    Maybe, when you pay for a domain, you are not buying it to own, you are paying a fee to have it available in all of the DNS servers around the world as an address.

    A DoOO program is not about just handing over a deed to students, it’s giving them a chance to develop that presence, and then to make a choice of deciding it’s value.

    It’s a worthy exercise to wrestle with and I have trouble trying to fit the idea of physical ownership of a domain. Still thinking tho…

    1. Honestly I love everyone engaging with me but arguing about the philosophy behind DoOO isn’t telling me something new. I talk to u guys every day. I wanted someone to address the ethics of doing this when students may not have credit cards and therefore no financial means to sustain their domains. The convo currently on Twitter is looking at solutions. Thanks to all who participated in that including Martha, Pete, Tim and Jim. I think that is where this convo can turn into something constructive. How do we develop a DoOO model for the Global South?

      1. So here I get to what I discussed above about hosting on something “free” (as in free beer) like or Blogger or GitHub pages. There are free options that works in a framework that I want for my connected course (an RSS feed that is sane).

        Do they really own it then?

        Well they would have to spend money to have I wanted that but some kitchen company got that before I could stake my claim (love that term @cogdog) so I settle for (similar to your choice Maha).

        But they can be just fine with (I have that, yay me) in the meantime. Is it their “own” domain? No, but that is not the point. They still get their space that they control (mostly) and can pack it up (easy export/import) and pitch their tent somewhere else.

        I did. My site was a (I paid hosting to experiment with their offer of services too) then moved it later.

        Wonderful conversation here.

        (copy/pasting before posting, just in case. Winks at @cogdog)

        1. Exactly same story for me (without the winks to cogdog…winks ot Jim Groom maybe haha). And for my students I ask em to use WordPress so syndication is easier… (we don’t blog really risky/vulnerable stuff so I feel comfortable w this and they use the public end of it to get feedback from the world on their projects so it helps).
          I think there are some important things we get here (e.g. a good degree of control over their space vs LMS, and the opportunity to write in public and share)..but they lose if WordPress closes down (but as u say it’s exportable and someday they could download and install elsewhere).

        2. (wink) (wink) (Hi Ken)

          As much as I love the idea of DoOO in contexts like you describe, Ken, for a first experience writing online, it sometimes seems like a lot to hit people with the full management of a domain experience.

          The last “real” ds106 I taught was for a class of working adults, and also for our TRU YouShow experience, I felt it was better to get people a sense of the possibility in a hosted space, like, where they focus first on the public self expression and less about the mechanical aspects. After that, if they see a value, or if they bump against the limitations, I would suggest looking at migrating to a self-hosted venue. It’s somewhat of a scaffolded step.

          That might be in a place where you are doing this for your course/students, which is a different scene than in institution making a commitment where students will be doing stuff across courses.

          Multiple paths in.

          1. I *think* Ken says most of his students just use something like and have – which I think is what you’re saying, Alan? Which I also believe is definitely a good start for them to see if they want this (especially if not using in other courses). I don’t think any blogger starts out with paying for a domain to start their web presence… most of us (these days, anyway) start out on a hosted platform then move when we realize we DO want to have an ongoing online identity… and that it’s worth inventing some money into it. This approach is, I think, half of DoOO. It’s a space for students to control outside of the LMS, but it remains under the restrictions of wordpress or whatever platform (and its terms of service and the possibility of it disappearing later). Half way there, I think. Depending on what you’re trying to teach them, of course

      2. “I wanted someone to address the ethics of doing this when students may not have credit cards and therefore no financial means to sustain their domains.”

        There are hosters and domain name registrars that accept Bitcoin. If students have access to an exchange provider or BTM or just then they can maintain their online presence that way without credit cards.

        1. I haven’t tried bitcoin but many of the credit card workarounds don’t work in Egypt. Paypal for example wasn’t working until recently (I think it works now but am unsure)

  8. Very good question. I often go solutions first, so is there a way to help those that do not have credit cards or easy access to other payment options. Could an organization be created to develop domain hosting for those without access to pay or ability to pay.

    Bigger question is related to Audrey’s post. Do we own anything? There are somethings. My wedding ring, my clothes…

    What do we not own? My home. The bank is leasing it to me through a loan, but I do not own it. I must keep up its value and maintain insurance to be able to recover the cost of damage, for the bank, if an accident happens. Once I finish making the bank a lot of money by paying of the loan in 21 years, then the home owners associating has rules on what I can do with it, I am still pay property taxes (fees to enable access by roads and utilities), and the government could claim the property through public domain laws. So, I am paying to living there, more freedom than an apartment, but not full ownership.

    It is an important discussion you started. Thank you

    1. Thanks for this Mark. There are some good ideas now being considered on Twitter. I will try to summarize that convo

  9. Something else that comes to mind – there are different meanings for the word “own.” “Ownership” is not the only way to define it. It can also be used as “an intensifier to indicate oneself as the sole agent of some activity or action, preceded by a possessive” such as “He insists on being his own doctor.” That is kind of how I have always looked at “own” in “Domain of One’s Own.” If it meant “ownership,” the proper way to phrase it would be “Domain That One Owns” or DTOO. But there are many shades to the word “own,” all of which would lead to an interesting discussion:

    1. Have u seen Audrey’s response? She’s unpacking own. Still doesn’t address the financial burden I am bringing up and that it requires periodical payment

        1. Lol. And don’t forget my annotations on her post. And the Twitter convo. Do u want in on the Slack, too? (discussing DoOO in general for research by Pete Rorabaugh… Not this topic particularly)

  10. Lots of great comments and I hope we can continue this conversation (as much as I love Twitter being restricted to a handful of words in order to include others in thread is frustrating, but that’s a rant for another day). The financial conversation is an important one and I think an important aspect of it that you point out is how different cultures, generations, and geographical regions all handle this differently (in essence it’s not simply an issue of whether someone has the funds, but also whether they have the ability to pay for things online at all). One thing Kin Lane clued me in on early on that I had looked at but not been able to work into Reclaim Hosting at the time was Cashtie ( I don’t know how well this works globally, but the essential idea is that you go to buy something online, you’re given a printout that you then take to a local department store, and can pay with cash. The transaction is then handled completely online automatically as if you had paid with a card. It’s used primarily in situations where folks need to pay utility bills without the means to pay online with a credit card but I see the obvious benefit here as well. That might be a start.

    I’ll confess I’m completely torn on the conversation of subsidies. DoOO already is subsidizing accounts for students while they’re in school and it’s not a permanent solution. Hiding and offsetting the costs only cheapens the value of what getting a domain and space on the web is. I say that recognizing the privilege of my position and knowing that affordability is absolutely and always at the forefront of our mind. People have begged us to charge more for our services and I always point out to them that they should first put themselves in the shoes of a college student perhaps struggling to buy textbooks or figure out which meal plan they can afford. I can honestly say we have built Reclaim Hosting currently to be as cheap as we could while still being sustainable (cheap hosts that go out of business don’t benefit anyone) so as we discuss ways to make it more affordable or subsidize the cost for others I would hope we could keep those points in mind. To say it’s a difficult nut to crack is putting it lightly, but it’s an important one and thank you again for raising questions like this.

    1. As one of the people who suggested the buy one/get one model on Twitter, I just want to chime in and say that I think if this is a goal it needs to fall on the shoulders of the broader DoOO community, not RH. As Tim points out, RH is already doing a lot of subsidizing and trying to balance keeping prices affordable while making the enterprise sustainable. And as Jim pointed out on Twitter, the admin overhead of a buy one/get one project is not insignificant and shouldn’t fall just on RH.

      I also think it’s important to make sure people understand the costs of an enterprise and subsidizing can mask that in ways that are unintentionally harmful. People who can afford their own domain/hosting should pay a fair price for it. I’m more concerned (as I think Maha is) with the people who are left out of the conversation because they lack the means. Their voices are already marginalized and I think finding a way for those voices to be heard is important.

      I look forward to continuing to talk about what is feasible, fair, and ethical on this front.

      1. I think it’s great we are talking solutions for those people who are left as you say, Martha. The issue is how to sustainably have a way for them to keep renting their domain (coz we can’t gift it to them once and 4life). Maybe Tim’s idea of a Cashtie model (that’s not RH specific. But different institutions will have to accept payment that way). Or through the universities that take cash from students and coordinate with hosting? But that’s even limiting it to university educated people…. Hmmmm

      2. I am just coming back to the point about RH of course not having to carry burden of all domain hosting! Just that RH is the only hosting service I trust. Not everyone has that privilege of hosting w ppl they know personally or who have the kind of ethos of RH. I also think the RH model of DoOO (I assume makes good agreements w universities?) can be a place to start thinking w universities how to support students who graduate and want their domain but don’t have means to pay. Can institutions pay on their behalf? Or can students pay the univ and univ pays RH? Can universities, say, keep “active” domains (e.g. that produce new content monthly) of alumni? (my univ, for example, gives us our student email forever – which I still use now as a faculty member)

      1. Yeah my issue with the current system gets at Jim’s concerns a bit with regards to management. Who decides who gets free accounts when there’s a general fund? Certainly not a role I want to play (I do get occasional requests for reduced cost and if the situation justifies it and we’re able to I will just outright waive the cost, but that doesn’t scale). I’ve seen this play out as well with conference attendance where even if a reduced or free rate is offered for those who need it there’s some type of application to be filled out and that process ultimately excludes as well if it’s not done carefully.

  11. I think we need to get beyond domains.

    In torrenting, objects you publish get ids. The ids are never replicated and belong to that content forever. Torrents are never truly dead, only just sleeping.

    A domain is basically a folder on the internet marked “You”. It seems like a great way to organize things until you realize if the folder is ever destroyed all your stuff goes away.

    Models like IPFS and SOLID decouple content from display servers, and will be the ultimate solution to this problem. Reclaiming domains is a good intermediate goal, but in the end we’d like to move past domains altogether.

    1. Hey Mike – translating that would be awesome πŸ™‚ and ur really good at that kind of thing – have you written about it somewhere or could you recommend some resources?

  12. I agree with your post that I think the DoOO metaphor with RoOO is a bit muddled. You still need room (physically, temporally, emotionally, etc) to write. Whether you write in proprietary software or on a typewriter (like the beautiful one on Audrey’s site), we can to some limited extent say that you own that writing.

    However, I think the domain is much closer to a publishing platform than it it is to the room in which you’re writing. Just as early modern and modern writers paid for the privilege of publishing their words for a broader audience, we pay yearly for registration and hosting. We could publish elsewhere and negotiate the costs with traditional publishing houses as Woolf did, or temporarily exchange our work for free publication ( or github). I think this conflict over owning a domain is conflating the ownership of the stuff (our words or programs) with the service that allows others to utilize our stuff (the domain).

    As for students, I think the DoOO is hugely valuable in that we pay for them to have a platform and hopefully help them understand how to use it. But I think it’s up to them to decide individually if self-publication is a valuable enough service to continue to use once they graduate. I think many students will decide that it’s not worth it to pay to self-publish, but they still own the stuff they produced.

    1. That’s a useful distinction, John regarding owning the actual content and then how we choose it distribute it. The key is what you mention at the end: whether students choose to keep it after they graduate. I am concerned (as I think is Ken in Mexico) that some will not even have that choice (lack of access to financial means or method)…and by starting on their own domain, they can’t continue there once they graduate. But maybe there can be a way like Tim is thinking.. For them to pay some other way if they wanted to keep it

  13. I wonder whether we are a bit too hung up on the “ownership” aspect of it all? In the UK the idea of “owning” a home means that you have a mortgage, pay it off over 25-40 years and then live in it until you die (or sell it to pay for your care in old age).
    In France the model is very different, many more people rent their properties than in the UK & this has the advantage that you can be transient, go where you need to go for work and also means that the maintenance of the property is someone else’s responsibility.

    You might say that the person renting the property never “owns” a property but still they call it home.
    Technically I haven’t owned a car for 12 years – I have long term leased cars since 2004 as it has worked out more cost effective for me and my growing family. (My grandfather told me that if it depreciates then lease it – and cars depreciate faster than anything!)

    When we talk about online ownership (of data in particular) what we really mean is that we don’t want a faceless corporation taking “our” data and using it for their own gain. But in reality do I ever really “own” that data once I have made it publicly available? I totally love the DoOO concept, but I love it more for the moral and ethical standpoint than the ownership standpoint. (I’d rather pay DoOO for hosting and server space and support people who are not faceless than a faceless hosting company). But the reality is that my data is still be stored on servers that are probably co-located with servers owned by the faceless hosting providers too.

    A couple of years ago I wrote this post about ephemeral nature of content:

    In this post I observe that we are seeing a shift in the concept of ownership. Our use of digital content means that we are approaching it much more like the French house ownership model. I now rent all of my music & all of my films. I haven’t bought any physical audio or video content in the last 5 years and Kindle is just far too useful when travelling that physical books are actually a hinderance in some situations.

    So, when we talk about a DoOO I don’t see the “own” as “ownership” as in the UK house model, but I see it more as a place I pay for that I can call “home”.

    When we talk about students “owning” their data – what I think we mean is that they are able to make choices about whether to share that data, understand how it is being used. Many I suspect will be happy to use spaces such as Medium as their “blogging” platform and others will wish to continue to use DoOO. Whatever they choose the main point is that they make an informed decision whether to get a mortgage or not.

    1. Thanks Simon…yes, “informed” is probably key here, that we help develop the digital literacies to know what each option entails and let students enter with their eyes wide open

  14. Wonderful to see a blog post with so many comments. I’m having 2006 flashbacks.

    For the payment issue, the credit card problem isn’t one for most recent college graduates in the US because most bank debit cards are affiliated with MasterCard or Visa so they can pay domain registration and hosting (if they choose) with their debit cards out of a checking or savings account. I suspect the situation is very different elsewhere though, especially if PayPal isn’t an option. A bit of poking around this morning and I found, a French domain register and host that accepts payment by check, back transfer and Western Union in addition to the usual PayPal and credit cards.

    About the paying for versus free, I admit I’m very reluctant to have students use “free” services (that are profiting off my students’ content) partly because of that profiting, partly because in my very early days of net use, I lost content when the free host “Free Yellow” shut down. I know and the like offer export abilities, but I still want to be able to email or call someone if there’s a problem and know I’m a customer, not a product. All that said, I still use Twitter with my students.

    The issue of cost post-college is a real one and I don’t mean what I say next to make light of the discussions above. But one of the things I like about Domain of One’s Own is partly that the student’s domain dies by default if they do nothing and their content goes away without them having to do anything else. Maybe after four years they’re sick of the name they choose in a brief moment during their first week of college. Maybe they want to move their content somewhere else. Maybe they just want to download it and save it on a flash drive the way I stuck my college papers in a folder for 10 years before I threw them out. One of the problems with free services is work doesn’t go away unless you take it down. Even then it’s hard to actually delete a domain. I’ve tried.

    Thank you for starting such a great conversation.

    1. Comment 51

      For the sake of curation, I reckon I should post this response to your post here Maha πŸ™‚

      In the meantime, interested to see Ken, Alan, and Maha’s comment about starting off exploring possibilities with site/blog – as other teachers where I work deal with hosting sites that’s as far as I can reasonably get as an English teacher ;-).

      1. I think it’s a good start (there is also a Slack community here we are discussing #DoOo if anyone here is interested) but the issues Annemarie mentions (ones Jim Groom, Audrey Watters, Martha ,Tim and others have mentioned before) regarding free hosted sites profiting from student content, and possibly closing down, and possibly making it difficult to delete stuff…all of that makes it still not ideal. I think each of us tries to find a good solution within our constraints. It’s important to be aware of our constraints and still be aware of what is less than ideal. I am still unsure what the *ideal* is, in my context.

  15. Lovely comment thread – we can have nice things on the internet πŸ™‚
    I know part of your point was a more practical one about how can ppl without credit cards get domains, but the general points you (and then Audrey) raise about ownership are interesting and something I’ve pondered a few times. There are cultural perspectives on it too I think – for instance in Germany home ownership is quite unusual (or it was when I was there), but people had very long tenancy agreements (20 plus years). So people did feel that they ‘owned’ the house to some extent ie they viewed it as their home and would put resource into it. And of course some cultures believe that you should leave the smallest impact on the planet, so ownership isn’t really promoted.
    Maybe ownership isn’t a binary but a continuum – after all I don’t own my house if I’m paying the mortgage, but I own it more than someone on a 6 month rental contract. Sorry, I think I’m rambling now – I will go away and think about it. Thanks for kicking it off

    1. Is the government the hosting provider in this metaphor? That probably leads me to all kinds of rambling around trust in that government, imminent domain, civil forfeiture, air/mineral rights etc. . . . (probably different names in different countries but similar concepts). Owning something (particularly something entwined with the environment like a house) feels way more complex that it appears at first.

      1. Perceptions of ownership (and also trust in government and its responsibility towards public good, plus its capacity to do so without corruption/surveillance issues) clearly more diverse and contextual than I had imagined.
        In this book by a Syrian-French author talking of childhood in Libya in 70s/80s he says homes were state owned and you couldn’t lock it. If you left the house unattended someone else could take it as theirs. Crazy right? But if I left my iPad unlocked someone could easily pretend to be me on Twitter or Facebook or email or gdocs! Yikes

        1. Kind of crazy/scary as I thought deeper as well. There’s so many weird things like squatter’s rights (apparently also called adverse possession) that apply to things I’d previously thought of as relatively straight forward.

          It is a fragile crust on which all these seemingly solid things depend . . .

    2. “So people did feel that they β€˜owned’ the house to some extent ie they viewed it as their home and would put resource into it. And of course some cultures believe that you should leave the smallest impact on the planet, so ownership isn’t really promoted.”

      These sentences together are interesting. The first one describes the positive connection of ownership with taking responsibility and maintaining what is owned. The second one suggests that there are many cultures where that connection has yet to be realised. I hope they catch up soon!

  16. It maybe a rather odd interpretation but I tend to think of this as being less about “owning” in a capital/purchase-sense and more about internalizing knowledge and experiences. A (knowledge) domain of my own is a thing I have chosen to immerse myself in, to struggle to understand, to follow ever deeper. The domain name may come or go. The technologies will change. I may or may not eventually have a server in my closet but I’m making intentional choices that lead to greater knowledge. Knowledge that people can’t take from me. Understandings that are bigger than a particular technology or piece of software. A domain of your own provides you with the options to follow rabbit holes, to pry up floorboards, to paint a room, to see what happens if you mix a bunch of chemicals and set it on fire . . .

  17. I’ve come back to this post following a line of thought, and now I’ve stopped to think at the place of the last comment. “A domain of your own provides you with the options to follow rabbit holes, to pry up floorboards, to paint a room, to see what happens if you mix a bunch of chemicals and set it on fire . . . ”

    Ownership isn’t a simple thing in homes or domains, it turns out. Both require a literacy, a know-how. I rent a domain from Reclaim, and I do nothing with it that I wouldn’t do with, because I have so few skills. I don’t pry up floorboards, I don’t mix chemicals. I sense there are standards, if not rules. (Are there rules? I have no idea.) I sit inside my domain with my content like a renter sitting on my packing boxes.

    As time passes I become more starkly aware of the failure my uneasy tenancy represents. I have moved into a more illustrations neighbourhood, certainly with nice and welcoming neighbours, but belonging is more than this.

    So my sense here is that digital domain life for many low-skill users includes the slightly uneasy feeling of having moved into a hipster neighbourhood, quickly watching YouTube videos on how to hipster.

    1. Yes! I just wrote a long reply that got deleted by mistake . The gist of it is: yes, thanks for bringing that up!

    2. I think it’s both simple and complex . . .

      I think everyone starts feeling the same way. I moved to Bluehost and knew nothing around 2006 after having a spot on a WordPress multisite that James Farmer ran prior to his edublogs days. I didn’t do much for any number of years. I would have pursued easier paths than I did if they had existed. For that matter, I actively resisted gaining certain skills until relatively recently.

      It just depends on when you start and what you want to do. For me, that has changed relative to lots of outside forces.

      I don’t know that I understand what you mean by standards or rules.

      But I’d argue, in reclaim anyway, that there’s no goal of hipster-coolness-through-exclusion. I have been helped by the extended ds106/reclaim community over time and try to return the favor when I can. I know that personally I don’t care what you do with your space if it makes you happy. Take on whatever challenges you want. There’s something positive to me in knowing I have an option even if it’s not exercised.

      I resist the hipster parallel because that stuff seems to be about style/exclusivity rather than substance and inclusion. Maybe a commune with the desire to be somewhere between less-dependent to self-sufficient? Maybe I just dislike the thought of wearing tight jeans and trucker hats.

      For the record, I still watch videos and feel totally lost on a daily basis. I blame our society/educational structure for making people feel like that’s not normal or even positive.

      1. “I don’t care what you do with your space if it makes you happy.” The issue for me is the rephrasing of skill gap as choice. We underestimate owning when we think of it in terms of having, rather than having and using. This is especially true in tech.

        So widening access to domain habitation needs a companion program of skills development and a means of developing some complex cultural literacies, if we want to lower barriers to domain using.

        Broadly I’m persuaded that DoOO is an important ethical shift. Personally, I’m absolutely persuaded by Reclaim. But there is a prairie of assumptions out there about what comes next, and as an educator working with large numbers of low-skill student bloggers, this challenge really interests me.

        1. That particular phrase was meant to be directed against the idea of hipster-judgement associated with “coolness/not coolness” based on doing some particular thing. (Something I associate with hipsters.) My intent was to say I don’t care if you write your own software or use WordPress or write assembly code. My hope is that the choices you can/do make are based on the pursuit of happiness rather than some attempt to belong to some particular hipster-clique. I don’t think the people around Reclaim have that kind of vibe. You don’t have to do anything to belong unless you want to do something to belong.

          No question all this requires investments of time/energy/money etc.

          I can’t speak to how that works for other people. I don’t know if/how my own experience generalizes. I have no idea how it works for people who don’t speak English.

          I spent ten or so years trying to learn this stuff with differing degrees of focus/commitment/time. I remain very unsatisfied (internally mostly but with some envy as well) with where I am now but having a place where I might try things has been key for progress.

          I think it takes lots of time to learn to do some of this stuff yourself– if that is what you want to do. And there’s no end to it that I see. My own path has been crooked and wandering but that’s my own preference and one I can indulge.

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