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Digital identity and digital property are getting more valuable. From cryptocurrency to digital art to domains and websites, engagement with online content is increasing. So, being in a global digital gold rush, what assets should you invest in? 

With practically unlimited options, start with the most important, the digital property that represents you.  Much of the public online representation of you is out of your control because it is hosted on “free” services that are trading access to their network platforms for your valuable unique data, as well as that of your friends and family including the pictures and videos of you that they post. Owning the firstnamelastname.ca and firstnamelastname.com internet domains for your first name and last name gives you some control over the public digital representations of your name and identity. 

Digital representations of you include electronic text, images, and sound stored on and accessed from computers connected to the internet. In the past, these public representations were the framed paper credentials on the walls in your office, but they are quickly moving to the digital walls of LinkedIn and websites like it. The best digital representations are accurate.  They reflect your accomplishments and values and keep up with your changing aspirations and opinions. Why is it important to be accurately represented online? To prevent misunderstandings offline. When an online representation of you is a misrepresentation, it causes misunderstandings, and then you are cursed to interact with people who misunderstand you.

Consider two friends talking and one brings up a problem they are trying to resolve and the other says ‘Oh, I know someone who can fix that. Their name is Jane Smith, but I don’t have their contact.’ What happens next? They unlock their phones, open a web browser, go to Google.com or DuckDuckGo.com, type in ‘Jane Smith Saskatoon’, and hit enter or click on the magnifying glass to search.  The search engine tries to return the most relevant digital representations of the text entered.  How do the software engineers decide what result is the most relevant when there are many websites with relevant content? The answer is a formula with dynamic criteria that generates a list with the most relevant search result at the top of the first page and the least relevant at the bottom of the last page.

Your name as a domain is one of the few criteria in the search formula that you can influence. The problem is your name is not unique. The number of other people with the same spelling of your first and last name varies from tens or hundreds if you have a last name like Zaba to thousands with a last name like Smith or Johnson. But there is only one .ca and one .com domain for your first and last name, and it’s first come first serve.

Let’s consider Jane Smith again and the friends searching for information about her and her business. Here are some of the possible outcomes:

  1. Janesmith.com will be ranked highly in the search results when they search for Jane Smith, but Jane never considered buying that domain, so a global advertising agency bought it and redirected it to janesmithagency.com. The friends who are searching for Jane Smith and find themselves at janesmithagency.com will probably realize the Jane they are looking for does not own a global marketing agency but hitting a dead-end is frustrating and might cause Jane to miss out on a valuable opportunity. 
  1. A scarier version of option 1 would be if janesmith.com was purchased by a malicious competitor who scraped real pictures of Jane from social media to make a website dedicated to the proposition that getting vaccinated will magnetize you and eventually turn you into a giant lizard. They then include some of her work history to make the website seem like an accurate representation of Jane’s perspective, but in truth, it is the opposite. Unfortunately, when Jane investigates, she discovers the domain registrar and website host are based out of the Netherlands, and she has little recourse to force removal of the malicious misinformation hosted overseas. Now anyone who searches her name on Google before meeting and lands on that website will be looking for a tinfoil hat if they show up at all. Not only is this an embarrassing problem for Jane, but it also has a negative impact on the reputation of any business she owns or works for. 
  1. The best scenario is if Jane owns janesmith.com herself. Domains are inexpensive and she could have purchased janesmith.com for $15 for the first year and $30 each year after. Maybe she initially buys the domain as insurance to prevent it from hosting misleading content, but eventually, she can develop it into a portfolio of her writing and photography and work experience in exactly the way that represents her perspective.

So, how do you know if your name as a domain is available to purchase? We recommend Namecheap.com and GoDaddy.com to search for and purchase domains. Namecheap is one of the most economical domain registrars to buy domains from. GoDaddy leads the industry in customer service, so if domain names and domain registrars are somewhat foreign concepts, we recommend you spend the extra $10 and use the help. If someone else owns your domain, you can contact the registrar and potentially negotiate the sale of your domain through a broker like GoDaddy. 

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It is important that your perspective has a platform and is accurately represented. It is important for you, so you aren’t constantly interacting with misunderstandings when you meet new people, but it is also important for your community. The spot where you stand has a unique vantage and we need your perspective to understand the full picture.  Maybe when all of us are connected online, each with a platform that represents our perspective, we can hope to accurately describe something as complex as reality.