How to ensure that your blog lives forever, revisited

The future sits
at the juncture
of hopist optimism
and doomist pessimism.
Practicality demands
an assumption of
continuity.

The world will spin on (Avengers Assemble short clip)

Maria Hill: “Sir, is that really a priority right now?”
Nick Fury: “Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”

While some are unconcerned by the eventual fate of their blogs, others, such as Beaton, see the potential for a kind of immortality.

Three years ago, I wrote a post entitled ‘How to ensure that your blog lives forever‘. It was mostly right; but there were some issues it didn’t properly address. I hope to correct that, here.

Forestwood’s post ‘Transfering or Inheriting an Existing Blog‘, and the comments it generated, especially Dr Christa Van Staden’s assertion implying that there wasn’t a problem, caused me to delve more deeply than I had done previously. During the course of October last year, I bent the ears of a succession of WordPress.com Happiness Engineers (ten, in all!) on this topic and related issues.

One of the incidental, yet important, points that came out of these discussions was that WordPress.com is different from most other blog hosting platforms in that they don’t purge sites, which means that these can, potentially, remain available for a very long time.

[…] your free sites will never be deleted or purged, as many others from our competition do. So, your free blog can be on the internet forever (or until there is no WordPress.com) – it just has to be not set to private and there you go. Every site will also have our free domain that you had when you started the site (yoursite.wordpress.com)

Happiness Engineer ‘S’, email dd 26Oct2021

In my earlier post on this subject I explained why I chose to stick with the ‘free’ domain name provided by WordPress.com for ‘Wibble’, rather than opt for a ‘custom domain’. I still think that is (at least for me) the right decision. I was, however, mistaken in believing that all of the links within a WordPress.com site addressed by a custom domain would cease to function sensibly. Most of them will continue to work, such as navigation, widgets, and links to comments; but some, those inserted manually, may not.

Your primary domain is the site address people will see in their browser’s address bar when they visit your site. Your site must have a WordPress.com plan to set a custom domain as the primary site address. Without a paid plan, all custom domain(s) on the site will automatically redirect to your free .wordpress.com or .wpcomstaging.com site address. 

WordPress.com support on ‘Set a Primary Address

There are two different issues here: one concerns the internal linkage within a site; the other relates to inbound links to it from other sites. I’ll try to illustrate some of the problems that can arise by means of some case studies.

missingthemuse.com (case study #1)

Let me state up front that I consider Dan Hoger, and his alter egos ‘Phoenix Autumn’ and ‘Cyborg 476931 from the year 2256’, as a friend. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I was picking on him. But he has given me a perfect way to illustrate some of the problems relating to domain names that expire.

Missing… in action

According to his Gravatar, ‘Phoenix Autumn’ is “a sci-fi/fantasy author, blogger, freelance writer, and copy editor. I write Missing the Muse. I am working on my debut novel.”

I copy-pasted that text directly from Dan’s Gravatar, and the link in that text came with it. Currently, at least, it points to missingthemuse.com, which is a domain that he has allowed to lapse as he has taken a break from blogging (to work on his novel, I hope!).

I took an educated guess and added ‘.wordpress’ before the ‘.com’ to make https://missingthemuse.wordpress.com/. The site is still there. But there are some problems; the ‘about’ page, for example, contains no fewer than nine links that are all dead, because they are to the custom domain missingthemuse.com – which is missing in action.

And there’s more…

Dan’s Gravatar gives a contact email address at danhoger.com. On a hunch, I thought I’d visit danhoger.com on the web, and what I found there suggests that Dan has relinquished that domain too at some time in the past. Whois-history reports that it’s now owned by a company called ‘Alibaba‘, in Singapore.

I didn’t click on on any links on this site (they all look a tad suspect).

The moral of the story here is that there are unscrupulous folk out there who will acquire lapsed domain names and repurpose them to their own nefarious ends, effectively hijacking all inbound links to the name that may exist.


contentedness.net (case study #2)

Hariod Brawn (‘H’) is a blogger I’ve known for years. I still see comments from H all over the place, and those are linked to the domain name contentedness.net, which is – was – the address of H’s site for years. But of late, it appears to have some issues. The domain appears to be active; its registrar is Tucows, and the nameservers associated with it are wordpress.com’s, yet attempting to access it results in:

Something unexpected happened while accessing this website. It looks like it doesn’t have an active domain connection upgrade to link the requested domain name to the WordPress.com site.

If this is your domain name and it has recently stopped working, it’s possible that your plan or domain may have expired. Please log in to your WordPress.com account and review the status of your plan and domain.

The ‘free’ wordpress.com domain for H’s site is https://contentednessdotnet.wordpress.com/, and most of the links within work fine.

However, the link to the book (‘The Sway of Contentedness’) in the middle of the home page is to http://contentedness.net/a-book-by-hariod-brawn/, which fails because that domain name is inaccessible. This link has clearly not been automagically converted to the ‘free’ name; if it had been, it would point to https://contentednessdotnet.wordpress.com/a-book-by-hariod-brawn/.

(As a gift for H, some time ago I created a ‘genius link’ for that book, at booklinker.net, which automagically transports the user to the (spit) amazon website in their own neck of the woods:
http://mybook.to/TheSwayOfContentedness.)


thenerdylion.com (case study #3)

I used to frequent The Nerdy Lion’s blog years ago via thenerdylion.com, a domain which appears to be active, yet trying to access it directly results in an error:

The connection has timed out
An error occurred during a connection to thenerdylion.com.

A little digging suggests that the content may be available at https://thenerdylion.wordpress.com, though that site is currently private – and, indeed, there’s no way to be sure that it’s actually the same ‘The Nerdy Lion’ at all.


gratwise.com (case study #4)

I acquired the domain name ‘gratwise.com’ a year ago, as a gift for a friend who was working on a project for which I thought the name might be suitable. Those In Charge of the project didn’t agree, so the name is no longer needed. I’ve deliberately chosen not to renew it, and to use it instead to test some aspects of the question of what happens when a custom domain isn’t renewed. The name gratwise.com is scheduled to expire tomorrow; just a few hours from now.

Paraphrasing the email I received from WordPress.com not long ago:

The domain name gratwise.com is set to expire on February 9, 2022. If the upgrade which adds this domain to your is not renewed, the site will no longer be available at https://gratwise.com/.

I’ve set up a microsite at https://gratwise.wordpress.com with gratwise.com as its primary domain. If you’re still reading and aren’t entirely bored by all of this waffle, you may want to visit the site; I discuss there some other issues I’ve not touched on here. You will need a password to access the site: it’s “letmein”. (Yep, that’s neither especially imaginative nor particularly secure; but neither are necessary.)


You’ll probably be glad to hear that I’m nearly done.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that inbound links to a site, where the domain name is no longer available, will all fail, effectively severing the site from the web, casting it adrift. So, even if the content is still there… what’s the point, if it can’t be found? In some cases, it might be possible to insert ‘.wordpress’ into the domain name to access the site – but, of course, not every site is on WordPress.com.

And, of course, modifying the name in this way will only work if the (lapsed) custom domain name is identical to the first part of the ‘free’ WordPress.com domain name. For example, for a short time in 2018, I registered the custom domain ‘wibble.blog’ and had it set as the primary domain here on ‘Wibble’. I recognised my mistake, and reversed the decision (as I recounted in my earlier post on this topic). I allowed ‘wibble.blog’ to lapse; there’s no point trying to access it via the web as (unless someone else has acquired it) the DNS will return an ‘NXDOMAIN‘ (‘non-existent domain’) response, and your browser will say something like ‘This site can’t be reached’ (Chrome) or ‘Hmm. We’re having trouble finding that site’ (Firefox). Worse, though: even if you knew that ‘Wibble’ was hosted on WordPress.com, there is no way of knowing from the name ‘wibble.blog’ what this site’s ‘free’ domain name is pendantry.wordpress.com. Worse still: there is a site at the domain wibble.wordpress.com (which was born, and apparently died, in January 2006, a year before I started blogging here).

The World Wide Web has a serious design flaw, one that ensures that link rot is endemic. The domain name system (DNS) requires that domains be maintained; a fee must be regularly paid to keep the name in operation.

In effect, it ignores the inevitability of death.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in Communication, Computers and Internet, Core thought, Strategy, Tech tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to How to ensure that your blog lives forever, revisited

  1. Pingback: How to ensure that your blog lives forever | Wibble

  2. This is very interesting and I’m glad I haven’t paid for a domain, even though the wordpress.com ending makes it look more amateur. But I always wondered what mess it would create if I wanted to stop paying. I would like for my blog to live until my kids are old enough to read it and get to know me as a person, beyond being just their mum. So… maybe 20 years from now? Who knows if WordPress will exist then and still be free, but fingers crossed! Thanks for this informative post! I also liked the way it was written and chuckled at ”you’ll probably be glad to know I’m almost done” 😆

    Liked by 3 people

    • peNdantry says:

      The way I look at it, wordpress.com has a better chance at meaningful longevity than pendantry.com (which I have registered… but it will cease to be when I do). I don’t consider a ‘.wordpress.com’ domain in any way ‘amateur’. That’s what those who hawk domain names want us all to think (simply because it improves their bottom line). I think WordPress.com is a superb platform, and I don’t mind at all that I’m effectively advertising them by having it in the domain name of my blog. At the end of the day, the original intention of domain names is to make web addresses human-readable; simply adding the ten extra characters ‘.wordpress’ doesn’t make it any less so.

      Liked by 2 people

      • True. And I’m grateful enough for the free platform to advertise it, too. I’m very happy I chose WordPress, back in the day.

        Liked by 1 person

      • (I had to try blogger/blogspot once for a course I was attending, and it was horrible. And owned by Google, too, so it was odd how underdeveloped it seemed.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Forestwood says:

          I so agree about blogger. I started out there and it was definitely not user-friendly. Even now there is no community around it. WordPress has succeeded in that aspect so well. Glad I didn’t choose a domain name – amateur is okay with me, if that is so.

          Liked by 4 people

          • It’s true, the WP community ads so much to the experience! Over here, it’s very popular to blog on these platforms run by large media houses. The blogger is not required to or able to build their own site, it’s a bit like posting on facebook, anyone can start. But they immediately become influencers or influencer wannabes because the media houses already have such large traffic. However, the quality of content is low, mostly sponsored posts, and there is no engagement or community, only competition. So I’m even more happy I chose WP, that is definitely not my scene!

            Liked by 2 people

          • Forestwood says:

            We all find our niche!

            Liked by 2 people

    • parikhit says:

      Oh I agree with you there! In reality all the plans confuse me and I am just happy being the freeloader :D

      Liked by 2 people

    • I like the ‘letting my kids get to know me through my writing’ idea.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting read.
    I tried my level best to understand what is going on 😂 but resigned to my fate since I am a lay man in understanding Greek and Latin.
    I have a premium plan and if I don’t renew the same…will it revert back to wordpress com? and thus become un approachable stuff with premature death?
    Not that my children or people are dying to read my posts!!
    Apologies for my ignorance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      No need to apologise, Philo! I’m sure that your knowledge of photography would put mine to shame (I can point a camera and click the button… and that’s about it).

      I assume (as you say you have a ‘premium plan’) that your site is on WordPress.com. If so, it will have a ‘free’ domain, either yournamehere.wordpress.com or yournamehere.wpcomstaging.com (depending on the facilities you use). You will have set this ‘free’ name when you created your account; perhaps that was a long time ago, and you’ve forgotten. If you can’t recall what it is, then I think that you should be able to find it if you go to https://wordpress.com/domains/manage/philosophyvia.photos … at the very bottom of that page it should say “Your free WordPress.com address is …”.

      I say ‘think’ because I tried to find a way to describe how you can find this yourself without having to go to https://wordpress.com/support (I couldn’t find an answer there to the question, “How do I locate the ‘free’ domain for my site?”). I did some digging in the configuration options (it doesn’t seem to be easy to find) and the solution I came up with was to check phlyarology.com (another of my sites, and it, like yours, has a custom domain set as primary); I went to https://wordpress.com/domains/manage/phlyarology.com and it says at the foot of that page ‘Your free WordPress.com address is phlyarology.wordpress.com’.

      Please let me know whether that works (and, assuming you find it, what your site’s ‘free’ name is – I’ll be able to update the 💥 ?Random Raiders! 💥 site with it, against the day that your custom domain should ever vanish ;)

      Like

      • You are down to earth my friend.
        I wish everybody including me be like you.
        I checked the link you provided.
        Yes. Indeed I have a WP free account
        Free account is – philosophyviaphotos.wordpress.com
        Primary site address is – philosophyvia.photos ( probably this address came to me after I opted for premium plan)🙏🙏🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you once again.
    That means Ishould select the free address ie philosophy viaphotos.wordpress.com in ma gravatar profile?
    Sorry for this stupid question.

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      Not necessarily. It really depends upon two things:

      1. How do you feel about including the ‘.wordpress’ in the site’s name? (As it’s currently configured, ie it immediately redirects to the custom name, this won’t matter much.)

      More importantly, though:
      2. Do you think you may want to move your site (and its custom domain name) to another hosting service in the future? If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, then you will not want to encourage others to use the ‘.wordpress’ version, as this would break inbound links to the site if you were to change its hosting provider.

      (For me, the answers are 1. I don’t mind at all giving WordPress.com a teensy-weensy little ‘advert’ in this way, and 2. No chance at all. WordPress.com does have its flaws, but in my mind at least it’s streets ahead of the competition!)

      I hope that’s clear. If not, please don’t hesitate to ask me to clarify!

      There are no stupid questions: only stupid answers :)

      Like

      • Thanks a lot.
        1. I don’t mind including WP in sites name.
        My point is if I don’t wish to renew…whether this particular site disappears and in that case , still I can manage with my free WP site. (Premium plan gives 13 GB and free plan gives 3 gb of storage space and I drastically wish to reduce the photos)
        2. I don’t want to move my present cusuom domain to another hosting service.

        Thanks once again for yeoman service and helping the fellow bloggers

        Liked by 1 person

        • peNdantry says:

          Given your responses to my questions, I would suggest that altering your Gravatar such that it points to the ‘free’ domain cannot hurt. Your ‘free’ domain currently redirects to your custom domain, so there’s not a problem there.

          As for the storage space issue: I don’t know how WordPress.com would deal with that situation, but I strongly suspect that, as their objective would, in that situation, be to try to persuade you to restart a ‘plan’ should you allow it to lapse, their system would simply block attempts to upload further content to the media library if the total exceeds the maximum. (If they were to arbitrarily delete content to bring the total below the ‘3GB maximum’, that would, I’m sure, incline the site owner to think something along the lines of “well, f*ck you, then!” – that would certainly be my knee-jerk response, anyway!) You commented on my post ‘The green way to blog longevity via image optimisation‘ so I know you’ve seen that; I would suggest that, going forward, you consider its message to minimise additional storage requirements. Going back and optimising images on old posts would, of course, be a potentially intimidating task!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Zillion tons of ‘ A big Thank you’

            In premium plan we get 13GB storage, and I guess this storage space is allowed, provided I renew it annually.

            Now I have just used 17% of storage so I wonder what happens to the available storage of 83% in case I don’t renew!

            As you felt, WP may delete the content to bring down the level to 3 GB ….if that is the case I can jolly well start a new free plans sans my followers. ( to be frank ‘the number of followers’ is more of a proud assertion and ego booster than anything else. Sadly nobody realises that 95% of followers either bogus or advt category to sell the products).

            By not renewing and going for a fresh free account starting from the scratch (even otherwise my previous followers never care whether I am alive or dead!) is sure to help your thoughts on ‘The greenway to blog’ in the long run.

            Optimising the old blog images is worth trying when I go for a free plan and my great grand children will thank me (for making the earth worth living) as they wake me up from my grave yard (if at all they remember the date of death anniversary of their dear great grandfather)

            Luckily I have saved all my posts in the most world famous ‘One Drive’ so even if there is problem with the site…I need not depend on mood elevators.

            Thanks again for all the guidance and hey just remember that you bring Sunshine to all your followers.

            Liked by 1 person

          • My sincere apologies for the rant.

            Liked by 1 person

          • peNdantry says:

            Rant? That wasn’t a ‘rant’! Well, not in my book, anyway.

            Liked by 1 person

          • peNdantry says:

            Well, let’s see… 17% of 13GB is ~2.2GB, and that’s under the 3GB limit for the free account, so you’d lose nothing. Your 13GB would simply shrink to 3GB.

            And if you optimise images before you upload them from here on, there’s no reason why you couldn’t stay under the limit for years. I started ‘Wibble’ in 2007; the 585 images in my media library total just 44.6MB – you would have roughly twice as much space as that remaining on a free plan. So it can be done.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you my friend.
            Now I am in a better position to decide.
            🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I just tried checking out gratwise.wordpress.com and it takes me to gratwise.com no matter what I do. And that is not able to be viewed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Seems like I lost you somewhere along the way again my friend… Rectified now 👍

    Very interesting post. I’ve had a little experience in this area after an ill-fated foray into purchasing a domain recently. Should never have done it as I know nothing about it and I’m not sure of the impact its had on the accessibility of my blog.

    Anyhow, I’m still here I guess and it’s great to find you again! 😁🖤

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      Nice to see you again!

      I’m sure that you don’t need to worry too much. I think the most important point is trying to ensure long-term stability of a site’s name; it’s the chopping and changing that does the damage.

      I note that your Gravatar links to https://afragilemind.home.blog/ … which is interesting, I don’t think I’ve heard of ‘home.blog’ before, and I see that there’s also a ‘poetry.blog’ and other sites, and it seems they all come under the WordPress.com umbrella. On a whim I’ve created http://wibble.poetry.blog as a possible place to host my poetry (I’m having some issues with the rendering of the content on the ‘blog’ page, think I’ll ask a Happiness Engineer about that). So, thanks for introducing me to something new!

      Please forgive my nosiness: I see that there’s also a site at https://afragilemind.wordpress.com/. Is that one of yours? It appears to have been created in 2010 and then left to rot. If it is yours, then – none of my business of course, but – if you’re doing nothing else with it, if it were me I’d just clear it down to a single page that expounds the virtues of, and of course links to, your main site.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, glad to know I can be of some use! 😁

        Yeah, I think my free domain has always been ‘home.blog’. It always worked well for me until I messed up recently by trying to change it and then and change back again 😬 Now I’ve got dead links all over Google and it seems my actual blog isn’t searchable in the WP reader anymore either. God knows how I did that 🤔

        Yeah, I’m thinking that I may have been given ‘home.blog’ as afragilemind.wordpress.com was already taken in 2010. This isn’t anything to do with me as I only joined WP in 2019 👍🖤

        Liked by 1 person

        • peNdantry says:

          I shouldn’t be too concerned about Google (and other search engines). Their crawlers fix things like that over time. You can be proactive about it if you wish.

          Regarding the WordPress Reader… hmm… there are quite a few sites titled/ subtitled ‘Ramblings Of A Fragile Mind” (or variants), and you have an Oscar Wilde quote as a ‘tagline’, so you have some competition for those labels. But even so, I have to admit that I can’t find anything from your site by searching the Reader, which seems odd. WordPress.com support suggests:

          To appear on the Reader tag pages, your site must be public and able to be indexed by search engines. You can check the site visibility settings in My Site → Settings → General.

          If that’s not the issue, try asking a Happiness Engineer to investigate, they’re pretty helpful.

          Good to know that that other site isn’t yours‡. Shame you can’t do anything about that, but c’ést la vie.

          ‡ If I forget that in the future I’ll blame it on my aging gray matter.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. spwilcen says:

    All about the revenue. And why not? But it borders on despicable usury many times. I ran a paid plan for a year – until I discovered WP wasn’t getting me what I really wanted. Downgraded to “free” though for the main, the fact that my presence on WP isn’t giving me what I want, continuing is still in question. Good read here, good points. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      Glad that you found this interesting, SP!

      Hmm… now you’ve got me interested in what it is that you want. Care to share?

      Liked by 1 person

      • spwilcen says:

        Be happy to share. Leaving another “writers'” site because it was suddenly flooded with teeny-boppers [there’s a meaningful backstory there] and their social flim-flammery, I though perhaps on WP I could become part of a circle of serious wannabes willing to share meaningful criticism and encourage professional growth. Eager to reciprocate [hopefully that shows] I find very little of that, seeing the site as virtually every other, deteriorate [for the most part] into a tittering social farce.
        [You have been one of few exceptions I can count using the digits of either hand.] Writers and their ilk are egonarcissists, sure, but ninety-five percent of what takes place on WP between ostensibly serious writers is social dung.

        Liked by 1 person

        • peNdantry says:

          That doesn’t sound like much fun. I’ve had very few bad experiences here on WordPress.com myself; on the whole I find the folks here a pretty supportive crowd. I guess there are bad apples anywhere.

          Your story rings bells though (perhaps we’ve talked about this before, maybe on your site?) Sorry if I’m repeating myself here, but if your intent is to engage with other writers with a view towards improvement, then I can strongly recommend Scribophile.

          Liked by 1 person

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