Sarah Moon reported on her blog earlier today that Tumblr had recently taken away a URL which she had been using for several years in order to give it to an advertiser (or at least a potential one):
Last week, Tumblr notified me that they were going to give a Tumblr URL I’ve had for nearly five years to the NBA (the basketball league).
They claimed that I was harming the NBA’s SEO because I had this password-protected URL with a reference to their acronym (hint: this isn’t how SEO works at all—this is utter bullshit and Tumblr was basically hoping I was too stupid to know how search works). Keep in mind, “NBA” is an acronym used by many entities, as well as casually for things such as “No Boys Allowed.”
So, driven by the principle of the thing, I protested with Tumblr.
I argued that NBA can stand for any number of things, that I would be happy to remove any reference to the NBA from my password-protected Tumblr blog, that there are many, many other Tumblrs with that acronym in it, and explained to them how search works, and how my URL didn’t impact the NBA’s search results. (Also, it’s not like Tumblr’s search function works anyway.)
Today, Tumblr got back to me and informed me that they’d given the URL to the NBA, whom I assumed wanted it so they can start a style blog devoted toCarmelo Anthony’s hats.
Moon went on to add that this wasn't the first time that Tumblr had seized a URL for spurious reasons; she mentions that when she tweeted about loosing her URL, "loads of people replied saying they knew people whose Tumblr URLs were handed over to advertisers".
This is by no means the first time that a platform has taken something away from a user to hand it to an advertiser oe trademark holder. To name one example, in 2009 Twitter yanked the @towerbridge handle and handed it to the official non-profit that maintained the bridge. That handle had previously been belonged to a Brit which used it to humorously announce when the bridge was going up and down.
And that's just one example; there are dozens more going back years. In fact, horror stories about the capricious management at Blogger are why I never considered using any of the free hosting services when I first started blogging on my own in 2010.
Getting back to why this matters to authors...
Folks, Tumblr has given us another example of why authors should (whenever possible) directly control the website addresses related to their work, and not register it through a third party.
For example, if an author setup a Tumblr at CharacterName.tumblr.com, they run the risk of losing that URL to a studio or publisher if that entity decides they also want to use the character name in one of their works.
Moon described a similar situation:
If you run a fan blog on Tumblr, for example, and the television studio that owns the show you’re a fan of wants your URL, Tumblr will take it away from you.
But if an author registered CharacterName.com on their own, the author would at least have a fighting chance of keeping that domain from being taken away. The author might lose it, but the process required to take the domain is not nearly as easy as asking Tumblr politely.
In short, authors should own and control their web presence for exactly the same reason they own the rest of their IP, including the copyright, artwork, etc. If someone else, including Tumblr and Twitter, controls it on your behalf then you run the risk of that other party owning you.
P.S. If you are looking for a suggestion for where to register your domain, GoDaddy is not terrible. They're not great, either, but they're not terrible.