Another reason to move

I've had a MindSpring address since 1997, when I first left the non-profit world. It was the first time I needed to separate my personal and professional Internet use, and MindSpring was a good, "real" ISP (i.e., not AOL). It's served me well, and with over 10 years of use, a lot of people (and systems) know that address. I also have some web pages with decent PageRank on that domain (especially my international affairs pages). But yesterday's announcement from EarthLink (NASDAQ: ELNK) reinforces the need to migrate my email and web presence to my own domain.

The ISP business has gotten tough since the cable/telco duopoly offered high-speed Internet to their customers. The economics are tough for ISPs who resell broadband access, but they don't have much in the way of alternatives. Customers want broadband, so ISPs have to partner with the pipe operators or lose their customer base.

Some of the comments in the EarthLink statement suggest that the economics are beyond painful, at least for new customers who take advantage of teaser rates and leave before paying the higher rates of long-term customers. The irony is that everyone wants long-term customers, but their collective pricing strategies encourage exactly the opposite behavior.

Sticky services
Internet access—the actual network connection—is almost a pure commodity. A fast, reliable connection is all you really want. The stickiness—the part that makes it hard to change providers—comes from the other services, such as email and personal web sites. Service providers love sticky services, because they lead customers to Recurring Revenue Land. Free, web-based services have gone a long way toward unsticking ISP services, except for those of us who've been using the same ISP-provided addresses and URLs for years.

The new plan
Because of the pricing incentives, personal branding considerations and other benefits, I decided a few years ago to move everything to my own domain(s). My ISP will be for access, not hosting. If I want—or need—to change ISPs, it won't affect my address or availability, just the access.

I've been moving to my domain for a little over a year, starting with moving the blogs from blogspot. I've changed email subscriptions, and new contacts always get the new address, but I haven't felt the urgency to move everyone else. EarthLink's announcement reminds me that I need to keep making progress on the move.


About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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