4 Free Web Hosting Services, And How They Size Up
Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Yahoo! GeoCities (http://www.geocities.com) is one of the oldest free hosting services. And it's one of the most popular. How popular? Well, it has a huge international user base. And it's so popular that there's a book titled Creating GeoCities Web Sites. It's the only published guide to putting together Web pages for a specific free hosting service that I've seen.
What sets Yahoo! GeoCities apart from its competitors is the service's file management capabilities and the PageBuilder Web authoring tool. The Yahoo! GeoCities file manager gives you full control over your files--as much as, or more than, you have with the file manager in your operating system. With it, you can delete, copy, rename, preview, edit, and upload files with only a few clicks. PageBuilder is an advanced point-and-click HTML editor that has capabilities rivaling those of many commercial HTML authoring tools. Using PageBuilder you can position any element on your Web pages, then preview the page. There is also a set of add-ons that insert buttons, graphics, lines, and counters into a document.
On the downside, you're forced to pigeonhole your site into a "neighborhood," based on your area of interest. If you have a site devoted to origami, you're encouraged to put it into one of the Tokyo neighborhoods. Your URL will look something like this: (http://www.geocities.com)/Tokyo/Club/1273. That's a lot of typing!
AngelFire (http://www.angelfire.com) is a solid service that has some nice features but that can also be quite annoying. The nice features include a pair of easy-to-use HTML editors. One lets you type in your HTML code; perfect for the experienced Web builder. The other editor is more of a wizard aimed at the newbie. With it, you can choose a pre-defined layout as well as specify the colors to use on your pages. You can also pick graphics, set up a list of links, and type in some body text. Best of all, you can arrange where on the page these elements will appear. You don't get as much control as you would with the code-based editor, but it's a good way to quickly get up and running.
What I found annoying about AngelFire is that it insists all Web page files have the extension HTML. This is fine if you're building from scratch but not so good if you're moving your files from another location. You may have to change the file names and any internal links.
The first time I encountered a Xoom (http://www.xoom.com) Web site, it crashed my browser. But that didn't sour me on Xoom. It's easy to use, and Xoom gives you an unlimited amount of space. I don't know how true this is, but I doubt anyone has yet to use even a portion of their space.
Xoom makes creating Web pages easy. Like AngelFire, Xoom has a page-building wizard. It's not fancy, but it gets the job done. You choose a pre-defined page template, and then select the graphics and type the text you want to appear on your page. Here again, you don't have much control over layouts. All the templates are heavily graphical, which can really affect loading time. On top of that, there is no way to edit the HTML code of your pages online. You have to download them, do the editing on your computer, then use FTP to transfer the files back to Xoom. Doing this quickly becomes tedious.
Of all the Web hosting services I've tried, WebJump (http://www.webjump.com) is my favorite. It's easy to use, and, best of all, you can choose a personalized URL--like (http://kujira.webjump.com). This isn't as good as having your own Internet domain, but it is the next best thing. And it's sure a lot easier to type than a GeoCities or AngelFire address.
One area in which WebJump stands out is technical support. Most free Web hosting services don't offer much beyond a set of frequently asked questions and an e-mail address for support. WebJump, on the other hand, has a toll-free number and 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week technical and customer support.
WebJump lacks the frills many of its rivals have. But, then again, that's another reason I was attracted to it: simplicity. You just create and upload your pages, then you're done. It's that simple. You also get access to a scripting engine that will allow you to add dynamic content to your site like a search engine or a survey form. On top of that, WebJump has a free e-commerce site builder for the budding Web entrepreneur. The only thing that could make this deal sweeter is free e-mail.
Submitted by HostingChecker.com - for help on all your hosting needs. (http://www.hostingchecker.com )
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