On Facebook outages and why it’s still ok to “own your own content”

“Eggs in One Basket” by Flickr user John U.

Over at PostStatus David Bisset has a thoughtful post about brushing off the recent Facebook/Instagram/WeChat outage with quips about “own your own content.”

Time will tell if Facebook being down on Oct 4th will be the single greatest system failure in tech in 2021. There’s been some good writing explaining what went wrong (and the fact that mistakes happen), but predictably when sites and networks fail like this there are reactions on social media. Eventually, especially in the WordPress community, when it comes to corporate sites and social networks someone is there to wag a finger and say “See? Own Your Own Content.” Me included.

This time around — maybe because it was Facebook or I’m just showing my age — it felt different saying “Own your own content.” Yes, you should own your own content. But that’s not possible for many people today, and many were hit harder than you may realize. 

David Bisset, PostStatus

I agree there’s a certain amount of “first-world problem” elitism when small (and large) web publishing advocates say “own your content.” And as you say, in some parts of the world Facebook and its messaging properties are the only available media for business and government (and also, evidently, human trafficking and organized crime!)

But the point of “own your own content” isn’t necessarily to have your own bespoke WordPress website. Instead it’s to… well… own your content. Preferably across a range of platforms.

In my experience as a WordPress support specialist, Facebook (or Amazon, or Google, etc.) outages are very rare compared to even very well-run individual websites. 99.9% uptime still means about 8 hours of downtime per year, right? So it would be risky to publish only on WordPress as well!

I still recommend that people have their own websites, not because they’re more reliable or more popular but because it’s a great foundation for the COPE/CORE publishing strategy: Create Once Post/Repost Everywhere.

It doesn’t necessarily matter where you create your content. Twitter is great for short messaging. Tumblr and Tiktok are surprisingly usable. Matt Mullenweg’s commercial but largely free WordPress.com is fine too. Even Facebook can be ok if you’re able to finesse their algorithms and/or pay to boost your posts, though unlike any of the above it’s harder to get a reliable permalink for cross-posting. Same with Weibo, Zhihu, Pinterest, Wix, etc.

But mostly it’s a good idea to cross-post your content to multiple platforms. Create your content somewhere and paste links elsewhere so they won’t get lost. Or filtered. Or censored. Or “shadowbanned.” WordPress is quite good for all of that that but as I’ve said it doesn’t have to be the only place.

Finally, as far as affordability goes, the WordPress Hosting group on Facebook (ironic I know) is filled with discussions of people using and troubleshooting $1/month hosting in places where SiteGround or Cloudways are extravagant luxuries. So it’s not as though WordPress is completely out of reach.

I definitely get your point, but I think it’s still ok to say own your own content. Even if sometimes that only means control your own content.

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David Innes, RealBasics.com

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...