Of course, there is no such thing as free web hosting. What they call "free hosting" is always paid for. There are two (maybe three) reasons why somebody could offer you hosting could be free:
  1. Professional hosting companies like Portland.co.uk or MyCgiServer that let you have a taste of their services, severely limiting your bandwith quota so that whenever your site's total transfer grows over the 100-200 mb limit per month, your site will be stopped.
  2. Ad based free hosting services: they host your pages so that they can put always more disturbing and/or annoying banner ads on your original work. This model was the one of the so called free internet, but nowadays with always declining internet marketing revenues it's quite hard for them to live. That's why they will sometimes add pop-up ads, popunder ads, layered Flash animations and whatever else can help to render your site unusable;
  3. Kids running a Linux box with a DSL line who want to make millions somehow. They will offer you a lot of services - sometimes even telnet access, but their quality of service is usually awful.
My suggestion is to always go for #1's. They do have a reason for your site to work as smooth as possible: the simple fact that if everything went well and you are satisfied with them and your site grows, you will want to host your paid site on their systems.
#2's are usually more worried by quantity than quality, and do not usually help you at all if you encounter problems with their system. Also, you might find the local church site you mantain under a wealth of unstoppable smutty pop-ups (see infinite pop-up porn ads).
#3's are usually the worst: their downtimes are always abundant and unless you don't like to play "user and root", you'd better stay away from them.

There are all sorts of different people on the Internet and some live in their own little worlds. Most of us live in the joined-up bits, and we all hate ads anywhere except where you deliberately went to try to buy one of them. But...

But the ad-based free web hosts are pretty good. On Angelfire it's a couple of small, usually text, pleas from harmless folks like the American Red Cross, up at the top, and maybe a pop-under, which I've never seen the point of, since you can't actually see them. On GeoCities it's a pop-up, but it's at the far left, and the thing is, after a few seconds it just rolls up till it's nothing but a title bar with a link to the contents.

So the big free sites have advertising that's close to invisible, or at least not nearly as annoying as most places where you get your daily news. The thing is, apart from that, it's your site, and if you hate the way most websites flash and scream and frame and dissolve at you, and use ugly colours, here's one that doesn't, because you design it.

Unless you design it with ugly colours. Admittedly the junior start-up options are provided mainly for obese Missouri schoolgirls who like boybandz and bright purple. But if you choose to do your own HTML you can make it as tasteful as you like.

Pictures and specially videos will fill the free space quickly, but for plain text what they provide is ample. You can create subdirectories. Here's a serious warning about subdirectories on GeoCities. Other people can see everything in them unless you provide an index file. That is, in any given directory, if you go to the URL .../itsdirectoryname/, it will look for index.htm or index.html in that subdirectory and if it doesn't find one will give the looker a complete list of all the files in there and they can click to go to them. So, make an index in each and every subdirectory to preserve your privacy. An index doesn't have to index (list) anything: it can just be a dummy HTML page that stops it showing the default open listing. Angelfire does not allow this loophole.

If you've got a Yahoo! identity, your corresponding web host is under GeoCities. So if I had oldcobbler@yahoo.co.uk as my e-mail, I'd be allowed to create http://uk.geocities.com/oldcobbler as my website. The problem with Yahoo is every single name in the universe has already been taken, including many of those you know can't be because they're in languages you just invented. Something's stuffed but I don't know what. If you're JackW you not only can't get jackw, you also can't get jackjw or charmingjack or jackcharmer or aardvarkjackw or sqanashbukkunaaaghiya (the last because you clicked prematurely). You start experimenting and eventually find you can register mumblingclitoris or something, then you stare at it wondering if it's worth keeping.

Angelfire (a part of Lycos) is much better in this respect, in that your username is in two parts: a kind of domain or neighbourhood, and a personal part. The domains include one for each US state (oh, ny, etc.), cultural attractors like comics, indie, vamp... actually a lot of them have numbers after them, so the original domains must be full. You can't get ny or scifi, only ny5, or scifi2. Anyway, within these domains it is surprisingly easy to get your own chosen name. You log in as e.g. indie/oldcobbler, not as oldcobbler, and your website is www/angelfire/com/indie/oldcobbler.

And of course you can start adding the fal-lals like counters and blogs and visitor statistics, which they can provide, or you can just stick to your own elementary HTML.

And of course they're portals as well and give you news, e-mail, celebrity gossip, the usual rubbish. But as far as simple websites for normal people go, I'd recommend the sturdy, reliable, big ones. So you get a few little ads. Better than have it go bust in the next dot-com bubble-ette. I found a lo-o-ong list of "free web hosting" sites (Google for it) and there were lo-o-ots called things like "icantbelieveitsfuckingfree.com" and little notes under them saying icantbelieveitsfuckingfree seems to have suspended its free service. So just don't muck around with fly-by-nights. It's a computer, you're going to lose everything on it some day, so just minimize your chances by going for the big names. And yeah I hate capitalism too, but I have to store my files somewhere.

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