Even if you’re not a fan of blogging and don’t have an amazing new website to launch, a personal domain can be an awesome tool to own for fun or self promotion: from a customized start page with your favourite services accessible in one click anywhere in the world, to a full on CV or résumé showcasing your talent.
Today I’ve gathered together tons of fantastic ideas for what to do with a personal domain.
Buying Your DomainOf course, you know about .com domains, but did you know about .me ? The .me domain is technically the country-code top level domain (ccTLD) for Montenegro, but it’s found a niche for personal websites and can be purchased by anyone; GoDaddy is currently selling them for less than $10. This is the only cost for using many of the services I’ve listed below, though for some you will require your own hosting too, or a premium upgrade for use with a custom domain.
Host Your Own Website At HomeUsing the free DynDNS service, you can point that domain to your public IP address; Justin wrote a ful guide on how to set up the router side of this; you’ll also need to install some kind of web server (typically a specialised linux distro) on a spare PC, a virtual machine, or as an application on your desktop.
Make Your Own Start PageMost browsers now have the ability to show you a selection of your most visited websites, but for a more attractive and customizable start page consider a static and easily editable site such as Estacado or StartPage.rwt - both require no code knowledge, but must be hosted somewhere.
Virtual Business Card
Nancy covered quite a few virtual business card services before, but my favourite is Flavors.me for it’s sheer simplicity, though using your own custom domain does require a premium $20/year account.
If you have hosting, consider the simple but free Digital Business Card WordPress theme; you can also a run a full blog there, too.
Virtual CV or RésuméOne step up from a pithy little virtual business card, a full web CV will soon be commonplace as the world migrates it’s entire conciousness to an interconnected online entity. Stay ahead of the crowd so you needn’t be laughed at when you offer potential employers a paper copy.
Angela wrote about re.vu earlier this year, a visual résumé service that uses your LinkedIn profile to automatic generate the relevant graphics. The results are pretty stunning, and of course completely customizable.
Unfortunately, there’s no option to host on a custom domain, so for now your only recourse is to redirect your personal domain to re.vu. Visualize.me is a similar service, but not quite as slick in my opinion.
Your Own Customized Email AddressIf you have control of the server where your domain is located (such as a MediaTemple Virtual Private Server), you can use the standard CPanel or Plesk to set up as many unique email addresses as you want – including a catch-all. Catch-all means that any emails sent to any address at the domain that aren’t specifically set up already will just be forwarded to the address you set. You could use this just like a GMail alias for spam protection, or perhaps for giving out personalized email addresses to contacts (“firstname.lastname@example.org, anyone?)
Google AppsEven if you don’t have hosting, you can still install Google Apps – the free version allows up to ten users to have full access to all the Google Services you specify including Gmail. For more information on this, I recommend our free PDF guide to Google Apps.
Setting up Google Apps is quite a daunting process, but really not difficult. You simply need to edit the CNAME and MX records for your domain – found in the DNS Manager of wherever you purchased the domain. These are simply pointers that tell services communicating on your domain where to route things; web services, or email, being the most well known ones.
In the case of GoDaddy, enter the configuration screen for the domain, and click DNS Manager. Just click the quick add button for new entries, or edit existing ones. Follow the instructions careful, and be sure to wait 24 hours for changes to be live.
In fact, to just configure the MX records for GMail, you can use the GoDaddy GMail wizard here.
Custom URL “Shortener”This may be a little pointless if you have a long name, but provided you also have some hosting setup with MySql and PHP capabilities, you are free to set up your own URL shortening service using YOURLS. Simon wrote a full guide to this before, so I’ll just point you there and be on my merry way.
Note that if you have Google Apps set up, you can install an app specifically for the task of URL shortening without needing any hosting.
Setup Your Own Web ProxySchool filtering systems getting you down? Tired of the dictatorship UK government blocking your PirateBays? Set up your own proxy, then laugh in their Orwellian faces as you float around untethered on internet waves of freedom.
Again, this will require your own hosting, and again, Simon has you covered: read his full tutorial here.
Do you think we missed something? What’s your favourite way to use a personal domain?