Free Web Hosting – Is There Any Worth Trying?

Ten years ago, there wasn’t any reliable free web hosting. Your only options ranged from shady to downright frightening. Times have changed, however, and free web hosting has its uses, especially if you are only looking to create a personal site.

Traditional Free Hosting Sucks

When free web hosting first appeared, it tended to mimic traditional web hosting. You would create HTML and CSS files (if you were lucky) and upload them to the site.

These services were horrendous. Not only were the size limitations outrageous–I specifically remember my first host giving me 2 Mb–but they tended to add scuzzy ads on top of your content. Even if you could put up with the questionable ads obscuring your content, the services rarely lasted for more than a year before shutting down.

Niche Web Hosting

While these traditional horrendous free web hosting services still exist, a new breed of niche web hosting services have appeared. And they are quite good at what they do.

These new services don’t try to duplicate pay hosting. Rather, they use optimized code to make hosting specific things cheap and easy. Cheap and easy enough that offering the service free doesn’t put them under.

Take Flavors.Me. Realizing that most people don’t need a full-fledged website, Flavors offers a simple landing page that pulls in your online life. Want people to see what you post to your Facebook, FourSquare or Flickr accounts? Well, add them to your Flavors page and they are a click away. The service simplifies page creation for those who don’t need databases and don’t know anything about PHP. Just change a few simple options, like setting your background image and the location of your links, and you are done.

Flavors.me

A Site Created With Flavors.me

Other niche hosts exist too. Blogspot, Livejournal and Tumblr make setting up a blog easy. A service like Dropbox make it easy to store and share files online. Flickr, Picasa Web albums and Photobucket can help you store your pictures in the cloud. The best part of these services? They tend to focus on social networking, making it easy to share your content with friends.

These services survive by focusing on doing one thing well and upselling features. Flavors.Me, for example, makes you pay to integrate some feeds. Dropbox only lets you store a 2 Gb before you have to pay a monthly fee. Flickr limits how many pictures you can upload each month before buying a subscription.

The Upshot

You are not going to find a free service to host your corporate site on. But if you are trying to set up a personal site, then you might be better served trying out these free niche services.

Say you want a site where you can show off your writing, your photos and work you have done for clients. Start with a Flavors.Me page and customize it’s look to your satisfaction. Sign up for Tumblr and start blogging. If you are a graphic designer, you can use a service like Flickr (for photos) or Behance (for everything) to advertise and sell your work. You can also hook your Twitter and Facebook feeds onto your site so that people can get a feel of who you are.

What I outlined above is a killer personal site. It does everything a professional writer and designer would want it to do, and it does it using services that are social in nature. It is probably even better than what you could cobble together yourself.

But if you need a site for pretty much any other purpose, or you want to use your own domain name for branding purposes, then you are pretty much stuck with paying for traditional web hosting.

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