Personal web sites

While I was finishing up my new web site a couple weeks ago I was thinking that even as more people are putting their own content on the web in blogs and the like, personal web sites as they once existed are largely becoming redundant. Just about everything commonly found on a personal web site like mine can now be done via a variety of free services around the web. Consider the types of content we’re talking about and the following free services:
You’ve got your written content which can be updated as often as you want, your photo galleries, and your links. What else does the average site (my own included) have? Plus these services give you social networking benefits you don’t get doing it yourself: friends lists, searching tagged content, and so on. Next to the ease of use, social networking is probably the biggest attraction these services have.

Add things like Backpack and Ta-Da Lists for content that doesn’t fit well into a blog-type format and you’ve got pretty much everything the average person could possibly need. Companies that provide services in other areas are even getting in on this sort of information-sharing. For example, Netflix provides RSS feeds of your rental queue that you can import and use on your own site. I suspect it won’t be long before they offer the option to simply make your queue visible to the public on their site, which will benefit their customers who don’t have the expertise or the inclination to muck about with parsing and displaying the RSS on their own sites.

I sometimes miss the personal touches you get from a site created entirely by hand. Minor styling differences aside, one LiveJournal looks pretty much like every other LiveJournal. I remember the days of poring over peoples’ personal pages, the way you could really get a feel for the people who created them. That’s something I don’t really do much anymore, partially because with this ease of updating, people are more inclined to put up whatever crosses their mind at the time, a lot of which isn’t really very interesting (and again, I count myself among their numbers). Also, you often have to jump across half a dozen different blog and photo posting sites to see everything a person has to offer, instead of having it all in one place.

All this said, I definitely think these lower barriers to entry is a good thing. The more people posting content the better, however they choose to do it. There are a lot of interesting people out there who would probably never bother putting up a web site, or keeping one updated, if these types of services weren’t available.