Can You Open-Source an Entire Website?
To put it simply: yes, it is possible to have a website up and running completely free. But even then, it is extremely difficult (and risky!)
You can get rid of 90% of the hassle by registering a domain for 99 cents (Godaddy will have some if you shop around for the right coupon). You can even use renewal coupons from godaddy to have a domain registered for about $7 average per year. Remember that paid hosting doesn’t have to be expensive either, use a coupon to get it for as low as $1 per month.
There are three main parts to creating a website: registering a domain name, hosting your website, and creating the content for that website. We’ll show you how you can do all of this for free.
1. Registering a Domain Name
Unfortunately there is no way to register a domain name for completely free. Every domain has to give a small fee to to the ICANN, a governing body that regulates the entire domain name industry.
You can apply to become a certified domain registrar yourself, which will mean that you can register domains legally and, presumably, only pay a small fee to ICANN.
However, there is a $3500 application fee to be considered as an official registrar, so that completely defeats the ‘free’ part of it.
2. Hosting Your Website For Free: Possible!
Here’s where, if you’re really committed, you can have your website hosted completely for free.
You see, hosting servers are just computers: they have software, memory, processors, just like your computer at home. The only difference is that they are specially built to host websites, so they don’t have monitors, keyboards, or anything like that.
However, because of this you can host a website by yourself. You can take an old computer that you don’t use anymore and host your website on it. You can install a Linux OS (or a Windows OS if that’s your preference), and add your website’s database and website files to it. Voila! Your website is now hosted at home.
Why doesn’t everyone do this? For a few very good reasons:
- Servers use a lot of power – Depending on how popular your website is, it may be tens of thousands of requests a day. That uses a lot of power. You’ll also need to keep your server cool, so that means investing in some kind of A/C unit or fans to keep it from overheating.
- Power Outage – If the power goes out at your home, it means that your website will be unreachable. Hosting companies use datacenters with their own backup generators explicitly for this purpose.
- Specialized Software and Equipment Required – It’s not quite as easy as installing Linux and adding your website. Hosting companies have been doing this for years, and they’ve developed specialized software to use less resources for the same number of requests. You can research these programs and install them yourself, but that will take quite a bit of time, knowledge, and command line expertise.
Also the hardware that you use to connect your server to your ISP is very important for your website’s speed and performance. Not to mention the fact that, if your ISP is not particularly fast themselves, it can severely bottleneck your website. Google Fiber can’t come fast enough!
3. Creating Your Website: Free and Recommended!
Here comes the easy (and free!) part. Once your website is registered and hosted, you can create your website. You’ll need a CMS (content management system) for your website’s backend.
Of course we would recommend Joomla, but you can install WordPress, Wix, Weebly, or whatever you would like. The applications themselves are free.
Joomla has thousands of free templates for you to choose from, as well as extensions to add functionality to your website.
The only real limit is your imagination at this point!