WWW FAQs: Can I host my website for free?

2006-02-12: Yes, in three different ways. The first is to use free hosting provided by your ISP (the company you pay for Internet service). Not all ISPs offer this -- check with yours. The second is to use a free web hosting service. And the third is to host the site on your own computer at home. All three of these approaches have significant problems, and are recommended mainly for those who just want a personal page or two and want to learn as much as they can. Even then, the hassles can be more than they are worth. You get what you pay for. And if your site is popular enough to earn advertising dollars for a free hosting company, then it is probably popular enough to earn advertising dollars for you instead.
Serious about your website? Register a real domain and work with a real web host.

Let's break down the three approaches in detail.

Free hosting through your ISP. a few ISPs offer free web hosting for a few pages or a personal page with your dialup or broadband account. Log into your Internet Service Provider's site as you would to check your email via the web, and look around for "web space," "personal pages" or similar features. This sort of hosting will place your pages at a URL (address) like this:


Or perhaps:


Either way, it's doesn't look professional, and these packages always limit you to a small amount of disk space and a small amount of bandwidth. Still, for personal pages, it may work just fine. Also, your pages probably won't be covered with advertising, like pages on a free-hosting site. Reliability should be acceptable. And you won't have the technical and security hassles of hosting at home.

Free hosting services. there are many companies that offer "free" web hosting. I put "free" in quotation marks because, instead of charging you money directly, they profit from your pages. These providers place banner ads, popup ads, popunder ads and other frequently obnoxious moneymakers on your pages. Even if the ads are not obnoxious, since decent hosting plans are available for as little as $10 a month, you are much better off profiting from on-page advertising yourself instead of giving that money to a "free" hosting company. See how do I make a profit from my website? for more information about how to pocket that money yourself.

If you don't keep an eye on your site, you might wake up to discover you are now selling things you don't want associated with your pages. In many cases, these companies also require that you sign up to receive advertisements from them by email in order to receive a free web hosting account.

If you are still interested, your least obnoxious and most reliable option is probably still geocities, a service of Yahoo that has been around for years. You'll need to read the page carefully to locate the free option, and your pages will have ads on them. If you want control over your pages, pay for real hosting. The web hosting market is extremely competitive; you can host your pages very well for very little money. See my article Web Hosting Reviews: What web host should I choose? for reviews of some of the major companies.

Some newer alternatives: if neither of these options appeals to you and what you really want to do is post diary, journal or "blog" entries for the world to read, consider LiveJournal. As of this writing, they provide an excellent place to post your journal entries (although it is no longer ad-free), and they offer enhanced options at very low cost. LiveJournal is not appropriate for other types of pages. Another, similar option is Blogger.Com, a service of Google that caters to those who want to post journal entries intended for a wider audience. And myspace.com is a decent place for a personal profile or a site for your band, with relatively little advertising.

Hosting at home. You can host your own site at home. It's a lot of work, your computer has to be on 24-7, and there are many security risks and other hassles involved. But those who really want to learn how the nuts and bolts of the web work often enjoy it. See should I host my own website at home? and how do I host my own website at home? for complete "should-you" and "how-to" information about this option.

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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