Plenty of people have personal Web pages. But are we reaching the point where you need one?
The answer is still 'no' - but that 'no' is no longer quite so firm as it used to be. And sometimes that hesitation is a sign that the wheels of social change are starting to turn - that 'no' will turn into 'maybe' and then from there move quickly to 'yes' and then finally to 'it's weird that you don't.' If you're a thirtysomething, you've seen answering machines, voice mail, email addresses and cellphones complete the journey from curiosities to perceived necessities, just as our elders saw the same thing happen with TVs and phones.
What would drive personal Web pages along that well-traveled track? It's not one thing so much as it's a confluence of things.
The first is the question of how we're to find each other in a rapidly evolving future. As I explored last month, landlines are disappearing, yet there's no 'white pages' for cellphones. And we don't want one - the rise of email, IM and other forms of messaging have transformed the phone call into an intrusive way to communicate, best reserved for certain situations between people who already have a relationship. Which is fine, but raises the issue of how we're supposed to get in touch with people we don't already know. The most likely solution to the problem is a single point of contact, with additional levels of contact information unlocked by us as we deem appropriate. A Web page - whether it's on an outpost such as Facebook or LinkedIn or a site built out with communications tools - can serve that function pretty well.
Another reason is potentially more troubling: the need to defend and define your own identity online, lest others do it for you. A Network World article by Curt Monash caught my eye last week, alleging that an obscure online dating service had created a large number of Web pages based on combinations of first names and last names in hopes of convincing people searching for those names to become members - and potentially crowding out more-useful sites about a person with that name.
More on that a minute - what really struck me was Monash's conclusion: 'The Internet WILL tell stories about you, true or otherwise. Make sure your own version is out there too.'