Free domain names are provided by certain domain name registrars. This page documents some important information about their use and may be more advanced. If you have experience with any of these, please help expand this page.
It’s not currently known what degree of control users have over these domains, or whether or not it’s viable to use them long-term, but they have the potential to open up the possibility of having a space on the indieweb to people who either can’t, or don’t want to pay for domains.
Freenom offer a developers plan which comes with an API allowing programmatic registration and administration of free domains. This could be used by organisations offering content hosting services to simply have a “domain name” field on the registration form, and automatically set it up, preventing users from having to worry about payment or technical DNS configuration.
Free Domain Registrars
The free domain registrars that currently exist are:
- Dot TK: exclusive registrar of TK domains (Tokelau)
- My GA: exclusive registrar of GA domains (Gabon)
- Dot CF: exclusive registrar of CF domains (Central African Republic)
- Point ML: exclusive registrar of ML domains (Mali)
These registrars were given exclusive rights over their respective country's TLD in order to generate revenue for the local government. Despite registering domains for free, they have alternate revenue streams that may include (but aren't limited to):
- DNS and web hosting services
- "Brand protection" services that allow subscribers to block the registration of protected trademarks
- Selling expired domains at a premium
- Selling name, email, or other contact information
- Selling traffic information for your website
In exchange for a free domain, users must agree to a Terms of Service that is comparable to those of most silos. The terms for the revocation of a free domain may include displaying objectionable or illegal material, showing adult content, providing information on illegal drugs or other contraband, displaying someone else's intellectual property, using the account for spam, etc. Many of the terms are very broad and may be prone to abuse, so using a free domain to protect your voice and identity in a dangerous circumstance is not recommended.
It should be noted that all of the existing free domain registrars use Freenom as their backend for handling account registration. As a result, all have a similar feature set:
- Allows forwarding to a URL
- Allows specifying an A record for the bare domain and the "www." variant
- Allows specifying your own DNS server
- Offers to create a free static website with [imcreator.tk] (a separate registration with imcreator.tk is required)
- Domains can be registered for 1 to 12 months
- Domains can only be renewed by registering with a valid email address
- WHOIS information for free domains will display "domain administrator" information, so no personally identifiable information is displayed