How to create a website with no extra domains

by Christopher Heng,

I recently received an email from a visitor asking if he could build a website without buying a domain name. This article attempts to answer this and, incidentally, attempts to clear up a misunderstanding about website building that often accompanies this question.

The Short Answer

The short answer to the question is “yes.” But you really should read the long answer. The devil is in the details.


Judging by the way my visitor asked the question, they probably did so after reading the articles “How to Create/Start a Website: A Beginner’s Guide” and possibly also “How much does it cost to set up a website?”.

If you haven’t read those articles, you might want to at least read the Beginner’s Guide, as this article assumes you have some basic understanding of what “domain names” and “web hosts” mean.

What if you don’t have a domain name?

Some web hosts, mainly free web hosts, allow you to create a website even if you don’t have a domain. name. To do this, they create a subdomain that they associate with your website.

For example, if your web server is “” (not an actual web server), they can create a subdomain called “” that you can use for your website. Visitors typing “” will end up on your website. You don’t have to pay for such a subdomain name, since you don’t actually own it; your web host owns “” and you can create and delete any subdomains you like.

The high price of free (sub)domain names: a lesson from history

There is a huge cost associated with not paying for a domain name. What you save in pennies today, you’ll pay for in pounds later (and maybe over the life of your site, too).

It is a well-known fact among experienced webmasters that free web hosts crash very frequently. It’s not just toddler basement web hosting operations that go out of business. Even the big ones also close. For example, in recent memory, Google shut down its Google Page Creator service. Around the same period, AOL also shut down its members pages, causing an uproar among the large number of webmasters who hosted their sites there. And then there’s Yahoo’s Geocities, one of the oldest and arguably the best-known free web hosts. That also closed. And these are just the famous web hosts run by reputable corporations. I didn’t mention the smaller operations.

Every time a free web server is shut down, the sites hosted on those servers are gone forever. The webmasters of those sites can’t say, well, no problem, I’ll just transfer my site to a new web host and keep my web address. Their web addresses, such as “” mentioned above, do not belong to them. They belong to the owner of “”, which is your web server.

The Real Consequence of Losing Your Web Address

You may be thinking, “It’s not a big deal. I’m a smart strategist and I’ve backed up all my files. Everything I What I need to do is go to another free web host and get a new web address, like ‘’, once I post a backup of my files to that address, I’m good to go to start”.

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It’s not that simple.

When you lose your old web address, you lose all of your regular and loyal visitors—people who have bookmarked your website and return frequently to find new information. When they click your “Favorites” link, they will end up on a browser error page. Do you seriously think they’ll assume you’ve moved to a new web host and search the web for your new address? Websites disappear from the internet all the time. They’ll just say to themselves, “Oh, well. Another one bites the dust.”

Not only will you lose your old visitors, but you will also lose all visitors, at least for a while. When you lose your old domain name (or more accurately the subdomain name), all links pointing to your website from search engines and other websites will automatically break.

The problem is worse than it seems (yes, worse), for the following reasons.

  • As mentioned in the article How to Improve Your Google Search Engine Ranking, search engines like Google rely on links to your site from other places to determine if it is valuable enough to list on the search engine results page. When you recreate a new website that doesn’t have links to it, since it’s at a new address, your new site is considered less important than the old one. This is the case even if all of your content is exactly the same as your old site.

  • It takes you a long time to build the links you had before. Sure, you can go to all the websites linking to you above and tell them you’ve upgraded. But not everyone will update their links right away, if at all.Without those links, search engines won’t consider your site very important. Without search engines, you will not have visitors.

As you can see, once you lose your old web address, it’s like starting a new site from scratch. You will have to advertise your site and do all the things you used to do when your site was new to attract visitors. And it will take some time before the traffic to your site returns to what it used to be.

This is why webmasters who had sites on AOL and all the other dead free web hosts were so upset. When he closed the free web host, his site had already accumulated a certain number of visitors per day. Moving web servers, with the associated change of web address, meant they had to start over.

Compare this to what happens when you have your own domain name. When you change web hosts, you take your domain name with you and attach it to your new location. The change is (mostly) transparent to your visitors and search engines. As far as they are concerned, there is no web address change and their site can be accessed in the same location as before. If you don’t mention it on your website, your visitors probably won’t even know you’ve changed hosts.

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But my site is just for fun; I’ll get a domain when I’m serious

“But my site is just for fun,” you say. “I’ll buy a domain when I’m serious about making a proper website.”

When I started my first website, it was just for fun. It was a place for me to post some of the programs I had written and to post my bookmarks that I had annotated with my own notes. Later, I also wrote short articles about my experiences with building websites to help visitors who kept emailing me for help. I never planned for that initial game site to be anything more than a toy.

The beauty of websites you create for fun, as a hobby, is that they are genuine. They are not fake websites created for you to make a quick buck. You pour your soul into it, and the love you lavish on it can be seen in your content. And people notice. And when they find out, they’ll come back for more.

What I’m trying to say is don’t underestimate this first website you’re building “for fun”. I never stopped working on that first site. It is still here today. You are looking at it. It is now split in two and is known as and

But because I didn’t know the things I know today, I created my first site on a free web host, without my own domain. I used my web server address. As a result, when I changed web hosts, my web address also changed. This happened several times over the years before it finally occurred to me to get my own domain name. In other words, what I mentioned above is not some hypothetical scenario that I dreamed up in my spare time. It’s something I paid dearly to learn.

Your site can now be a hobby site. But who knows what will happen in the next few years?

It’s more expensive to get it for free

I subtitled this article “The High Price of ‘Free'” because, as you can see above, it’s actually more expensive in the long run. don’t get your own domain name. Domain name prices are cheap, around $10 a year (depending on the registrar you choose), so it’s smarter to buy a domain for your site before you get started. Even if you actually decide to leave your website later, you’ll only have lost that $10 (or whatever amount you paid). But if your site really takes off, that paltry sum will turn into a worthwhile investment, paying many times its original amount.

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Copyright © 2009-2023 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved. Get more tips and free articles like this one, on web design, promotion, income, and scripting, at

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