FREE DOMAINS! Get your free domain names!! Read it in your head with the voice of a street vendor waving their goods above their head.

Before you run towards this metaphorical vendor, though, there are a couple of things worth making clear to yourself:

  • 🚧Are free domains riskier than paid ones?
  • 👍Can you get absolutely any domain for free?
  • Is it free forever or are there time limits?
  • 🔮Are there any hidden costs in free domain offers?

However, in order to fully understand your options when it comes to free domain names, it is first useful to answer an even more basic question:

Why Do Domains Cost Money at All?

Seriously, though: if creating a Facebook page is free, and having your own Instagram feed doesn’t cost you anything – why should it be any different with a web address? It’s not like there’s any actual work involved in creating or maintaining a short string of symbols…

Well, actually there is.

Saying that a domain name is just a bunch of letters and numbers is like saying that money is just colorful paper – while factually true, such definition fails to take into account the complex “machinery” behind the scenes that gives domains their value.

In order to understand how it works, let’s get back to basics for a short while and remind ourselves that a domain name is a unique identifier of a certain website. That website is essentially a bunch of files stored on a specialized computer called a web server.

The important bit is this:

web servers have unique identifiers as well, but those are not made up of words – rather, each server on the Internet has a numerical address called an IP, for example 127.104.39.119. As you can see, IP addresses are hardly human-friendly :)

So, in order for a website to be accessible not only by its host server’s IP – but also by an easily recognizable and meaningful phrase (such as www.website.com), there needs to be a registry which associates the ugly numeric IP addresses with the pretty textual domain names.

That global, distributed registry is called the Domain Name System (DNS). In plain words, it’s a bunch of databases maintained by accredited companies, which are referred to as domain name registrars.

Still with me? Good! We’re almost done with the background information. In fact, we can already see the reason why domain names cost money:

maintaining a huge database of IP-to-domain mappings, and making sure all active domains are always reachable by website visitors, requires a lot of resources –

– hardware, electricity (lots of electricity), skilled humans (e.g. network administration specialists), etc. In order to become a domain registrar for a specific domain zone, such as .com, a company needs to meet all requirements (a lot of requirements) set by the top authority of that zone.

If that were not enough, the registrar also needs to pay a $4000 annual fee to the ICANN, the non-profit organization responsible for overseeing the entire domain system of the Internet.

To sum up, organizations which let you register a domain name need to maintain expensive infrastructure, hire skilled professionals, pay regular fees, and meet a slew of additional criteria. In order to keep existing as businesses, they charge money for their service: offering your website an identifier on the Web that is easy to remember and understand (= domain name).

Facebook and Instagram can afford to let you create a page or feed for free because they show you ads and sell your personal information to third parties. Domain registrars don’t do any of those things, which is why domains almost always cost money.

But sometimes…

You can still get a domain name completely free of charge, if you know where to look. And the first place we will consider in this guide is cheerfully called:

“Tropical” Domains

Yes, you guessed it – these are domain zones of small exotic countries or even semi-independent parts of other countries – sometimes just a couple of islands in the ocean.

The domain extensions don’t sound as meaningful or clever as .net or .online – but hey, you can register one for free! Here is an exhaustive list, to the best of our current knowledge:

TLD Corresponding country or territory
.tk Tokelau, three coral islands in the Pacific Ocean with a capital that rotates between the islands each year. De-jure part of New Zealand.
.ml Mali, a landlocked country in North-West Africa with a 10% rate of Internet use among its entire 20 million population.
.ga Gabon, a small nation on the western coast of Africa which has recently undergone a military coup against its president.
.cf Central African Republic, a country where 4% of inhabitants have regular access to the Internet. Obviously located smack in the center of the African continent.
.gq Equatorial Guinea, a tiny African country with a totalitarian government that accumulates all the spoils from its rich oil reserves.

From the short descriptions in the table above it’s easy to grasp a common theme: free domains seem to be associated with countries that have extremely low (or non-existent) internal demand for local domain names.

This can happen for various reasons – e.g. due to economic and political conditions or simply because the place is so tiny no-one is really interested in buying domain names (for example, Tokelau has a total population of 1500).

And now for a plot twist!

In fact, all five free domain zones listed above are the result of efforts of a single company: the Amsterdam-based OpenTLD, operating under the Freenom brand.

They’ve partnered directly with each of the governments to offer their domain zones for free to anyone – including the local population, which benefits the development of the country’s online activities. A win-win situation!

In any case, the important bit is that you can register any of them for free, no strings attached:

Get a free domain at Freenom

Will domains like .ml or .ga one day be perceived as specifically associated with their home countries – like .fr with France or .mx with Mexico? Probably. But that day might not arrive for several decades, at least not before these countries catch up with the rest of the world in terms of economic development.

Right now, none of the five domain extensions listed in our table are thought of as being African (or Oceanian). Unless you’re a citizen of the corresponding country – which statistically you probably aren’t.

Before you move your website to a “topical” domain, there are several pros and cons you should consider:

  • If you’re absolutely positive you don’t want to cough up even $1 for a domain name, these domain names are the way to go. No upfront registration fees, no prolongation fees, pure thrifty bliss.
  • None of these domain names is currently thought of as African (or Pacific), and almost no-one would be able to tell which country a particular extension technically belongs to. Apart possibly from few million people who actually reside in those countries.
  • The registrar reserves the right to disable any particular domain name at any time if they suspect abuse (e.g. illegal content). Some domain owners even report being switched off without prior warning (although there’s no way to verify their claims).
  • Your choice is limited to the five domain extensions listed in the table above. To most people they will sound as random letters, which will make them harder to remember.
  • Some of the free extensions, like .tk, are already firmly associated in the public opinion with low-budget websites or even scammy projects like link farms.
  • Short domain names (3-4 symbols) as well as domains consisting of popular words are classified as “special” by Freenom and therefore cost money. And not just some measly $10 you’d pay for an ordinary .com domain – e.g. blog.cf address will set you back $1000! By the way, that’s how Freenom are able to offer all the other ones for free ;)

Alright, but what if you’re not planning to open a fan club for a certain pop diva (yes, ladyga.ga is still available!) or just want something more conventional, like a .org domain? In that case, there’s a second option you might want to consider:

Free Domains That Come with a Hosting

I know what you’re going to say – if something is “included for free” with a purchase, it just means that the overall price has been adjusted upwards. In other words, you’re still paying for the “free” stuff, but now the cost is hidden from you by bundling with another product or service.

This line of reasoning is not wrong per se, but in the case of hosting it doesn’t include the entire picture.

See, the market for hosting services is very competitive – there are so many companies offering essentially the same thing that one has to get creative (or aggressive, or both) to stand out and get new customers.

Let’s try to look at this situation from the standpoint of a hosting company: a new client earns you recurring income for as long as they keep their website alive. This means you’re ready to spend a fixed sum of money to obtain such client because it will be offset by future income from regular hosting payments. This is where you have a couple of distinct options:

  • You can spend it all on ads and bet on statistics (i.e. the more visitors you have, the more likely some of them will convert into paying customers, even is the conversion probability is quite low).
  • Or, you can spend some of the budget on making your offer more unique or more attractive, thus increasing the conversion rate. This way you’ll need less visitors to achieve the same income.

One surefire way to raise the attractiveness of your product is to offer more value for the same price. For example, give some of the things away for free. Like domain names!

In a nutshell,

it makes sense for a hosting company to offer a free domain name because it’s just reallocating some of its existing marketing budget.

Which the company was going to spend anyway, so it doesn’t need to charge you extra or add any hidden fees.

This is also why such “hosting + free domain” offers make sense for the website owner: you’re going to need a hosting for your website anyway, so why not choose the provider which uses its marketing budget more effectively?

One of the largest web hosts using this tactic is Hostinger, which is also famous for its dedication to offering the lowest possible prices for its hosting packages.

And you don’t have to settle for quirky regional domain extensions either – the offer includes such popular zones as .com, .net, and .online, to name just a few.

Get a free domain from Hostinger

If you follow the button above and choose Premium or Business hosting plan, you will be able to register a new domain name for free, as long as your chosen billing period is at least 1 year:

By the way, in support of the point we made earlier, the price of your order stays the same regardless of whether you use the free domain offer or not.

One more thing – if you’re looking for an even better deal on Hostinger, check out our guide on getting an additional 15% discount using our exclusive promo code.

Before we wrap up, let’s sum up the pro’s and con’s of choosing free domain names that come bundled with hosting:

  • You’re not overpaying because the hosting provider just re-allocates a part of its existing marketing budget to make their offering more attractive and thus stand out from the competition.
  • Such offers usually allow you to choose from a wider variety of more popular domain extensions such as .com
  • You are not limited to a single provider (like Freenom in the first option we’ve discussed earlier) – many large web hosts run such promotions at some point.
  • Since those domain extensions are not inherently free, in most cases you will still need to pay for prolongation after the initial free period ends.

Which Free Domain Option Should You Choose?

In contrast with the majority of choices a website owner faces, this one is relatively straightforward – each of the two options we’ve discussed in this guide implies a clear usage scenario.

To clearly see why, let’s compare the “tropical” free domains with the domain-hosting bundles side by side:

“Tropical” domains (Freenom) ‘Free domain + hosting’ offers
5 specific extensions All popular extensions
Free forever Free to register
Can be revoked by registrar Almost never revoked
Can buy separately Only come with hosting
Only at Freenom Can choose between providers

One thing is clear – the “tropical”, forever-free domains come with less financial obligations (actually, none at all), but have significantly higher risks. In case Freenom decides, for one reason or another, that your website violates its rules, your domain will be shut down immediately, sometimes without warning. If it goes out of business – same outcome.

In the other option you get domains that look more professional and are essentially risk-free, but you’ll still need to pay something for the hosting. Prolonging those domains will also cost you money.

Conclusion?

Go for the “tropical” domains in case your online project is not so serious, like that family website you’re helping your aunt to put together – or if it’s just your first attempt at doing things on the Web.

In all other cases, register a domain with a well-known domain extension like .com or .online for free when opening your hosting account. You’ll still need it to host your website, so why not extract as much value from the purchase as possible?

***

Still having second thoughts? You’re more than welcome to ask questions and share your experiences with free domain names in the comments section below – let’s discuss!

Pour your heart out

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.