This week, Julia Allison answers readers' questions about occupying Internet real estate for the preborn and getting last-minute gifts for the moms who would have done the same for you, if only there had been an Internet.
Dear Julia: My future daughter hasn't even been conceived, but I already Googled her name and bought the domain. Other than my husband, I've never told anyone I did this. I realize some people might think me silly or weird, but I believe in planning ahead. Am I being crazy here? Are there other things I could or should be doing to properly prepare the gleam in my eye for this 2.0 world?
Dear Overprepared: You may be overzealous (and very organized), but I don't think you're crazy — and you're definitely not alone. “Internet-savvy parents are certainly doing that,” says Bob Parsons, founder of Go Daddy, the world's largest domain-name registrar. “As soon as they pick their child's name, they register the domain. It's taking off like a house on fire.”
A legion of parents making digital land grabs for their child's URL is less surprising than you may think. “The Internet has had a huge impact on the modern baby names 'arms race.' We've gotten used to the idea of unique user names,” says Laura Wattenberg, arguably America's best-known baby-name expert and author of the popular blog Babynamewizard.com.
“Much of what we do today is not done in person, so there's a lot of pressure on your name to make that first impression for you,” Wattenberg says. “At the extreme end, you have parents who insist their child's full name be available as a dot-com. It's one more step toward treating personal names like brand names.”
Exactly! Because how else will your brands — er, babies — get those Pampers and Gerber endorsement deals if they don't own their own URL thanks to their unique, Googleable names? Duh.
All snark aside, you're smart to Google your baby's name before you sign a birth certificate. It's a pre-emptive defensive strike against the possibility that someone else, whether an impostor or a stranger, will dominate your child's online search results. Twenty minutes at the computer can save your children a lifetime of attempting to explain that, no, they aren't really that porn star or that money-laundering banker.
That's what expectant mom Victoria Weber did, before she grabbed both the domain name and Twitter handle for her future baby. That name, however “wasn't my first choice,” she says. Googling the initial selection, she found it identical to aLouisiana politician's. “After reading about him, I decided against the name. It had just lost its spark.”
So future parents, take note: RodBlagojevich.com is already taken.
It's not ridiculous to imagine a time when the importance of a domain name could rival that of a street address or a Social Security number, a time when a unique URL (or e-mail address) would be assigned at birth.
While you're at it, I also recommend registering your child's name everywhere: Twitter, Flickr, Gmail, etc. Maybe these will be useful, maybe they won't, but if the property does become important, you'll want to make sure you control that handle (even if you never post a thing on there).
Of course, as one of my readers commented on my blog a few months ago, “Imagine if your parents had named you based on whatever was the hip, cool way of contacting people in the early '80s?” You mean, no one picked names such as “Jennifer” and “Jason” just because they looked good on a pager?
“There is a fine line between responding to modern technology — and obsession,” Wattenberg admits. “And, yeah, by the time your child is 20, there will probably be five new technologies.”
Just remember this: A URL costs about $9 a year. Threatening to post your kid's humiliating baby photos on his or her custom Web site won't cost you a thing.
Dear Julia: My mom's birthday is tomorrow, and I have no idea what to get her. Please tell me there are some last-minute gifts I can purchase online immediately that don't require shipping.
— Bad, Lazy Son
Dear Lazy: You're in luck, thanks to your new BFFs Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. If your mom has a Kindle, iPad or iPhone, you can gift her a book (or four) electronically from Amazon. Or you could head over to the iTunes Store, click on any song or album and select “Gift this.” Add a few favorite movies, or a season pass to her favorite TV show. Want to really suck up? Custom-build a playlist of songs just for her (Mix Tape 2.0!) All these options can include a birthday message that's sent instantly. Whew!
Julia Allison is a columnist, TV personality, public speaker and former Wired cover girl. Contact her at Socialstudiescolumn@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @Socialstudies and @Juliaallison.