The Digital House

Imagine that a home salesman comes to you. He has an excellent and exclusive offer - a free house. The deal seems too good to be true. The house is in excellent condition, it has friendly neighbourhood, great amenities and convenient public transportation services. However the free house comes with a certain agreement that you have to sign before accepting the deal.

The agreement states several important things:

  1. The Firm can change anything in your house anytime they want.
  2. The Firm is not liable for any damage that happens to your property or to you in this house. You can never sue them.
  3. The Firm will have digital cameras installed in every room of the house and will use the information gathered from the cameras to understand your needs better and to improve their housing service.

I believe the majority of people would find this deal unsatisfactory and creepy. We like to own our homes. We might hire people to clean them, build them or repair them, but we want to feel safe and private there. We want to make decisions about what happens in our home.

Your Facebook profile is you Digital house. You got it for free. But you don't own it. You are renting your profile space and the price you pay is the ads, dorm-like streamlined experience, digital tracking and no liability from the Firm.

The digital giants seem to be doing quite well today. This has created an illusion that such business as usual will continue forever. However when the things will get dire for the Firm (and it will sooner or later) then you, the customer, will be the first to feel the heat.

Imagine all your photo albums, all your posts, thoughts and ideas that you have collected for decades disappear never to return again. After all, this is a likely long-term possibility. Since you thought that some businesses can run on thin air one day there could be no logging in again. If the costs of running the servers with terabytes of information will not be profitable anymore, the servers will be shut down. There will be no digital charity from Facebook or any other company. These are the laws of business.

What is the alternative? The alternative is to start building the digital house yourself. It will cost you some time and money, but it will repay in the long term. Start by buying a domain name. This can be your own piece of digital land. It is protected by law and you can legally own it. Start using tools and services that allow you to own your data. Build a website. Take some time to download and store your photos on an external hard drive.

It takes time and patience to build a digital house. But it will give you satisfaction and sense of worth. It will give you long-term value. The future belongs to the digital home-owners and not the free-riding campers dwelling in the noisy dorms of the web.