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Free Domains and Web Hosting

Published on 6/29/2010 by

Should you accept?

The web hosting industry has become so competitive that it’s become almost standard for hosts to try and one-up each other. A trend that’s developed, and has taken off in the web hosting industry in the last few years, is the offering of a free domain name with a paid hosting account. Is this really a good deal or is it too good to be true? Let’s take a look.

How can domain names be free?

The first .com domain name ever was registered 25 years ago by computer manufacturer Symbolic, Inc. when they launched symbolics.com. During the late 80s, domain name registration carried a hefty $70 fee, and sometimes more, depending on the registrar. According to experts, approximately 668,000 new domain names are registered every single day around the world. That’s quite a jump from the only six domains which were spoken for in 1985, don’t you think?

Today, domain names can cost as little as ninety-nine cents, though the average is around nine dollars per domain. With such a tremendous drop in price, coupled with the fact that many web hosts get reduced rates for registering domains in bulk, hosts have begun to give away domain names with the purchase of a web hosting account. There’s little, if any, risk for the host to absorb the cost of domain purchases since they’ll make money back hosting your website.

Should you accept a free domain name?

There are varying opinions as to whether it makes sense to take advantage of the free domain name offer from hosts or register a domain name yourself. There have been more than a handful of hosts who have been less than honest about the conditions associated with the acceptance of a free domain. There have been clear instances of a web host holding a domain hostage; that is to say, the host will not give you control of the domain once you cancel your web hosting account.

How to protect yourself and your domain name

There are a few steps you absolutely must take if you plan to let your host register a domain name for you. Without doing these things, you risk losing control of your domain name in the future, no matter how good the offer seems. Before registering, contact the web host and ask these questions:

Will I own the domain? Some hosts will register and host a domain for you, but will retain all ownership rights to that domain. If that’s the case, you may not get the domain back if you choose to leave your hosting plan behind down the road.

Do I get a control panel to manage my domain name? Having access to a domain name control panel enables you to change nameservers and other DNS records. Generally speaking, this is a good sign that you have some amount of control over your domain.

Can I keep my domain if I move to a new company? Read the fine print on your host’s website and specifically ask if you’ll be allowed to move your domain to a new hosting company if you cancel your hosting account. Several companies agree to give you a free domain, but only if you remain a customer.

Can I move the domain to another registrar? If you already have a domain name registrar, it may be convenient to move the domain so that you can control all of your domains in one central location. If the host allows you to freely move the domain away from them and their chosen registrar, you’ll have 100% control of that domain name in the future.

Free domain name offers can be a wise way to save a few dollars, but only if you own the domain and have a level of control. Ask hosts these questions and read over their Terms of Service to be assured that you and your domain names are safe.