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How to Get a Completely Free Website

Published on in 👨‍💻 Dev
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In this post I want to show with which services and tools it is possible to run a completely free website. An own website not only offers the possibility to create your own professional web presence, it can also make you independent from silos like Facebook, Twitter or Medium. It is always better to publish content on your own page with your own domain. If a service changes the terms of use or ceases operation, it is so much easier to move to another service.

To use the listed services and tools, some technical experience is helpful. However, most services or tools also provide instructions for beginners.

This article does not contain any referral links, because I only want to offer help with this post, but not earn money.

Domain

To make the website available on the internet via a simple name, a domain name is required. There are different domain providers (registrars). This site offers a good overview at which registrar, which TLD (Top-Level-Domain) is the cheapest. Important to consider are also the costs for renewal. Often the initial registration is very cheap, but the costs for renewal are even higher.

freenom

freenom offers the free or paid registration of TLDs such as .tk, .ml or .ga. It should be remembered that, in the case of free registration, it is not the user himself but freenom who acts as licensee and grants himself extensive rights and can simply withdraw the domain again. Also, such TLDs are often misused for spam and thus enjoy a lower reputation, which can have consequences when used as an email domain.

Porkbun (not free, but cheap)

I think domain names should be paid for even with the strictest budget constraints. A domain name is like a digital identity and once in use it is hard to change. Porkbun usually offers a very low price for domains. Most of my own domains are registered there.

Hosting

To be able to provide answers to browser queries, it needs a hosting service. There are many different options for this. However, in general it can be said that most free offers, which also allow the use of an own domain, only support the delivery of static pages (i.e. only files directly from the file system without a dynamic backend like WordPress). But this is not necessarily a disadvantage. Static pages are usually faster, because the pages are not generated when requests are made and they are usually more secure.

Netlify

Netlify is such a service that offers free static hosting with your own domain and free TLS. Files can either be uploaded by yourself, or alternatively you can connect Netlify to repositories on GitHub, GitLab or BitBucket and it will regenerate the page every time you change the code. One of the advantages of Netlify is that changes can be easily undone and Netlify uses a global CDN so that requests from anywhere in the world can be answered quickly.

GitLab Pages

GitLab Pages works similar to Netlify. However, it is necessary to host the code on GitLab. You can also configure your own domain and TLS, and set up which commands are used to generate pages. Very popular, but with fewer options is GitHub Pages.

Hetzner Cloud (not free, but cheap)

If more than just static hosting is required, the use of a virtual private server (VPS) is a good option. Any Linux distribution can be installed on a VPS and any software can be installed on it according to your own wishes, such as WordPress. I myself used the provider Hetzner for my server needs. With the Hetzner Cloud they offer very cheap VPS in Germany and Finland. An alternative with additional server locations, but at a slightly higher price, is Digital Ocean.

CMS

It is very tedious to manually create HTML pages, which are the basis of every website. Content Management Systems (CMS) take over the management of the content and the generation of pages for display in the browser. WordPress is a very popular dynamic CMS. But to use static hosting, a static site generator, a static CMS, is necessary. This generates all necessary files of the website with one call, which can then be uploaded manually or automatically to the server or hosting service. StaticGen offers an overview of the top static site generators.

Hugo

Hugo is my favorite SSG. Hugo is easy to install (just download a file), runs on any common operating system and is quite fast. My whole blog can be generated in under 2 seconds. Hugo also offers a wide range of ready-to-use themes and many features.

CDN

The use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is rather optional and only recommended if the website is very highly frequented. A CDN speeds up the loading of a page by either caching the page itself on servers around the world or by delivering large files such as images or videos from servers around the globe.

CloudFlare

Cloudflare is very popular and a large part of the internet traffic runs through servers of Cloudflare. However, Cloudflare is criticized for making Tor more difficult to use. In the past, Cloudflare was often used to protect connections with a free TLS certificate, but now there is Let’s Encrypt and most hosting services also offer free certificates.

I myself only use Cloudflare for DNS hosting. So I can manage the DNS records of all my domains centrally. And I use Cloudflare as a domain registrar for some domains, because they offer the renewal for the price they pay themselves.

BunnyCDN (not free, but cheap)

BunnyCDN is the CDN of my choice. BunnyCDN is not free, but very cheap compared to other providers. If you need a CDN, I would recommend BunnyCDN.

IndieWeb

Finally, now that you have a website, I recommend that you also take a look at indieweb.org. The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”.

This is a post originally published in 2015 but reworked at the end of 2019.

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Jan-Lukas Else
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