Has social networking put an end to web hosting?

Jennifer Scott

COMMENT:You must have an internet presence to be popular in the business world. We all know this. From those who do their work for the joy of it to businesses of all sizes, one must be able to be found on the net - or more precisely Google to get the business, or followers, one needs. It seems however there is now a trend for a quick fix internet space rather than the personal touch.

Geocities was one of those tools that allowed you to put your stamp on that presence. Personal web hosting meant you could build a site yourself, be it a site for a band yes I did this when I was at college or your local business, encouraging visitors to come and check you out, whether "you" was photography, IT solutions or even a dodgy garage punk outfit.

However, Yahoo's move to shut this site down wasn't a mean spirited attack on garage punk bands - however necessary that might be - but user numbers were falling fast and the company no longer saw a need for it.

So where did the need disappear to? Apparently the big social networking sites have come in, tapped personal web hosting on the shoulder and said "move aside buddy, we have it covered."

Admit it. Who looks up a band now on its own personal website instead of using MySpace where you can type the name in and have not only a list of dates, discography and member bios but videos and streams of their songs all on one page?

Facebook has begun to move the same way where you can "become a fan" to get regular updates from an artist but it is not just bands utilising it. Small businesses - and some large ones for that matter have started to work these sites every day, using the internet tools of the masses to get its products out there. If I look at my own "fan list" I have befriended photographers, sound engineers and even stage management personnel.

It has to be said that the simple template nature of a Facebook or MySpace page allows a straightforward, user friendly way of getting all your information into the public domain. It also has a massive ready made audience at your disposal to sell your product to. But surely it can't just be me that finds it all a bit soulless?

Yes, the pages are easy to find. Yes, it has the basics of what the consumer needs.. But I like a bit of flare, a bit of marketing nous. I favour some nifty design elements and evidence that these people care about what they do and are behind whatever product they have. I am afraid following a firm on Twitter or visiting its Bebo profile just doesn't give me the same insight to a company as a personal website does, let alone an artist.

Much of the business world is still quite far behind the creative industries at using, and perhaps abusing, social networking, but I am just keeping my fingers crossed that businesses - especially start ups - realise a dash of individuality is inviting to a customer. Let's hope the closure of Geocities isn't the first step on the rocky road to a uniform internet where information can only be retrieved if it is less than 140 characters.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.