Free Web hosting for three years?
November 14, 2003 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Too good to be true? United Internet is launching its public hosting service with a special promotion: a full 500 meg hosting account free for three years. Includes email hosting, FTP and shell access, 5 gigs of transfers, Perl, Python, PHP and MySQL... plus $25 worth of Google AdWords. Sounds fishy to me, but they never asked for my credit card when I signed up.
posted by johnnydark (58 comments total)
Insane. I hope your data doesn't disappear in the dark of the night.
posted by xmutex at 1:19 PM on November 14, 2003

odd, they want a phone number though. not giving them my cell. hmm. i'll use a buddies cubicle. :-) free and anonymous (if you use fake info)
posted by slhack3r at 1:22 PM on November 14, 2003

Hmm, my shitty hosting account renews tomorrow. Can I pull this off in time? Guess we'll find out.
posted by yerfatma at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2003

I signed up a few weeks ago, and have two domains now hosted there. Seems like a great, legit service - it's a promotion that doesn't require any advertising $, hence the great deal.

They'll need your phone # to call you with a PIN, but they'll never ask for your credit card. The company's also a legit one - one of Germany's largest ISPs.
posted by Marquis at 1:26 PM on November 14, 2003

CGI scripts written in Perl
Pretty much living in the Stone Age, aren't they?
posted by mischief at 1:33 PM on November 14, 2003

kewl. I signed up. Why not...

Stone Age? You mean the Perl, or the CGI? I bet you can write your CGI in whatever language you like, if you can target whatever their Linux platform is.
posted by sfenders at 1:42 PM on November 14, 2003

Not so stone age if you plan on running MovableType.
posted by rocketpup at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2003

I signed up for it and about 10 seconds after I clicked submit when entering my phone number, I received a call with my 'PIN'. Cool.
posted by kelrae3 at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2003

Quick! Let's all set up FilePile mirrors there.
posted by robbie01 at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2003

Like Marquis, I signed up a few weeks ago and have had no problems at all. I even used my work number to have the PIN delivered and haven't received any unsolicited calls. They seem on the up and up.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:51 PM on November 14, 2003

The Anandtech Hot Deals crowd has been picking this apart for nine screens now, and nobody's found any major drawbacks (other than skepticism about the business model)..that's enough due diligence for me.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2003

No scam here? no hidden stuff they can send you a bill for?
posted by Iax at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2003

If you stop and think about it, their model does make some sense - we're already talking about the positively here, aren't we? And if they are as big as they say they are, the incremental cost to service consumers has got to be trivial when compared to what it costs to support commercial customers. Even when the "free" 3 years is up, the pricing appears to be in line with what I saw a few months ago surveying the available vendors.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:58 PM on November 14, 2003

I find this hard to believe... however I did sign up and will see what happens.
Free lunch!
posted by ac at 2:00 PM on November 14, 2003

Hey, let's not go as low as putting down Perl--
I'll have to take you down (even if I do hit like a girl)!
posted by troybob at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2003

this thread brought to you by 1&1.COM.
posted by specialk420 at 2:10 PM on November 14, 2003

Damnit. You can't register if you live overseas.

Anyone wanna register me an account?
posted by Katemonkey at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2003

A buddy of mine signed up with this deal a week or so ago and likes it alot. I just signed up but they never asked for my phone number.

I'd be curious how this helps their bottom line without incurring huge overhead costs. Any ideas?
posted by fenriq at 2:14 PM on November 14, 2003

troybob, while I admire your rhyme
You don't need to do it all the time.

Take a break, and try some prose
Don't make me punch you in the nose.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:16 PM on November 14, 2003

If your site/email matters to you in the slightest it's worth spending a small amount on hosting to help support a good, helpful firm and have stability & peace of mind, rather than opting for an overly generous free offer that can only jeopardise the survival of the company.

I've used 3 hosting firms so far - WebFusion persistently screwed up billing and has extortionate charges for extra bandwidth (£50 per GB!); Cyberjack doesn't offer anything cheap or special but always respond very quickly and go out of their way to be helpful; EV1Servers/Rackshack is dirt cheap for dedicated servers but feels somewhat like the Wild West of web hosting - don't be tempted unless you know what you're doing with a server.
posted by malevolent at 2:20 PM on November 14, 2003

I've had an account for about a month, moved some parked and otherwise low-traffic domains there and have had no problems, no spam, no contact. Signed up for adwords account, all seems good.
posted by sageleaf at 2:22 PM on November 14, 2003

Looks to me like the goal of it is to get you to go over the 5 gig transfer, and then charge you for that. Is the 5 gigs a montly, yearly, or over the whole life of the hosting?
posted by woil at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2003

Woil: monthly.

From their FAQ page:

How about (excessive) bandwidth?
If the data traffic generated by visitors to your Website exceeds the free 5 GB in a given month, the additional bandwidth is charged at an industry-leading $0.99 per GB. The free traffic allowance is typically sufficient for a high 5-digit number of visitors.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:39 PM on November 14, 2003

And does it mean anything that the Agreement is only good for the term of one month?

8.1. The initial term of this Agreement shall be one (1) month with automatic renewal for subsequent additional months after the expiration of the initial term (each such month a "Contract Term"). 1&1 reserves the right to accept pre-payment of renewal periods and may from time to time offer financial incentives for such pre-payment. The Contract Term, however, shall remain one (1) month.
posted by perorate at 2:51 PM on November 14, 2003

this thread brought to you by 1&1.COM.

So is the deal that we can't discuss anything involving someone incorporated anywhere? This thread just saved me at least $50, and probably a whole lot of headaches, given my current web host is some college dropout renting office space from his parents and the servers are as reliable as the Argentinian economy.
posted by yerfatma at 2:53 PM on November 14, 2003

wow, pretty cool. i signed up. hope they don't go under.
posted by jcruelty at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2003

I've been using this for a while, no complaints. There's an option where you can cap your billing at $0, if you're worried about exceeding the limits.
posted by muckster at 3:14 PM on November 14, 2003

I've seen this for about three months now at various places -- website and magazines. Just a few minutes ago, I saw an ad in PC Magazine, in fact. Seems legit to me.
posted by davidmsc at 3:30 PM on November 14, 2003

$5.99 domain registration too.

posted by Espoo2 at 3:43 PM on November 14, 2003

I've done this, and it's fantastic. I use it as a backup for large media files for my site. Works very well, no catches.
posted by waxpancake at 3:59 PM on November 14, 2003

Reading the FAQ reveals that the offer ends January 14, 2004 (that is, after that no one can sign up for three years of free service, but everyone that signs up before then gets three years free). They also say that they'll be rolling out a full suite of services on 1/15/04, costing between $5 and $29 a month.

In that context the deal doesn't seem so insane--the people who sign up for free within the relatively small time window create an evangelizing community that spreads the word. Based on this thread it seems to be working pretty well.
posted by Prospero at 4:31 PM on November 14, 2003

If the phone call comes so quickly that one could use, say, a pay phone or otherwise anonymous location and no credit card is required, how are these people confident that they'll be able to bill customers whose transfer amount is over 5GB? Seems hinky to me as this could easily be abused by people wanting to post large (copyrighted media) files.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:39 PM on November 14, 2003

Wow, I inserted fake info, and the street name and "zip code" didnt match up (is 90210 even real??? that what I always use...). Anyway, it provided real info for me! Pretty cool...dunno if I'm awaiting an email or what tho,
posted by Orange Goblin at 5:09 PM on November 14, 2003

I've been using it as a backup to my Cornerhost account to host video files for Shrednow. I have no complaints. I love that I got a Google gift certificate with it. I have no complaints and have been recommending it to my friends. Now I just have to remember to cancel the account before 3 years is up.
posted by neuroshred at 5:52 PM on November 14, 2003

90210 is the ZIP for Beverly Hills, CA. Like, duh.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:02 PM on November 14, 2003

1&1 will definitely change the market; they are after all responsible for the fact that Germany has the highest number of domains per inhabitants world-wide. Here is what Netcraft has to say:

It was surprising how many people in the US hosting industry simply hadn't heard of 1&1. In terms of hostnames found by the Web Server Survey, 1&1 is the largest hoster in the world by a margin, and hosts fully 18% of the hostnames in Europe, making it plain why they felt the need to expand into the US.

Financially, the offer is not as reckless as it first appears: it is a time limited promotion until January 2004, restricted to US and Canadian residents, and counters 1&1’s lack of brand awareness in the US. In this respect, it may turn out to be “cheaper than advertising” although they will need to do that as well.

All sites are hosted by which is growing relentlessly. If you can decipher the graphs, Netcraft has been monitoring their performance.

They really mean it and they have lots of happy customers.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 6:20 PM on November 14, 2003

hmm. pretty shrewed plan. in one fell swoop they are going to not only wipe out their competition but sign up a wackload of customers to their service.
posted by carfilhiot at 10:13 PM on November 14, 2003

Here's the scoop on the phone - They do give your number to telemarketers. I know this because I gave them the land line number here, and it is the only association that has been made with that number and my name, as I use a cell and I'm not on the land line account.
I got a call from Capital one earlier this week.
I'm happy with the service otherwise.
posted by 2sheets at 10:20 PM on November 14, 2003

Now just watch this get slashdotted and the company'll go out of business :)
posted by Krrrlson at 12:27 AM on November 15, 2003

Now all we need is a phone equivilent of for the harvest sites like this.
posted by stbalbach at 12:35 AM on November 15, 2003

Yes, carfilhiot, it is a pretty shrewd plan and will likely wipe out a lot of their competition.

Interesting. When a big retailer uses price to crush smaller retailers, the FPP refers to the retailer as a leviathan. When a big hosting company uses price to crush smaller hosting companies, the FPP uses the words too good to be true.

Just an observation and I hope it does not derail this thread. I would much rather this thread focuses on the pros and cons of this particular service rather than become another chain store vs. local shop debate.

Thank you for this FPP, by the way, and thanks to all the people who offered their experiences with this company. If I was located in North America I would probably throw some of my experimental sites on their servers just to see how things go.
posted by cup at 12:48 AM on November 15, 2003

Civil_Disobedient - I wasn't sure if it was actually the zip, or just something they made up.
posted by Orange Goblin at 1:21 AM on November 15, 2003

OG - It's the real zip. And I was totally kidding with the "duh" comment. Like, gag me with a spoon.

I did a little research on the 1and1 deal, and it's legit. So legit that it could qualify as the "greatest internet deal of the century", provided nothing better comes up in the ensuing 97 years.

You get 3 years of free hosting, with a 5 gig transfer limit ($1 per gig over). There's a slew of additional niceties (mySQL database, PHP, ColdFusion) that makes this deal too good to pass up. Some additional notes: you may want to register your domain with another provider. While their registration costs are good ($6.00/domain), I've heard that they can be somewhat possessive with domains if you try and change providers. You don't have to use their domain registration to point your DNS entry to their servers. Also, you should be smart and set up your system (easily configurable) so that your site will stop serving if you go over the 5gig limit (just to be on the safe side of a slashdotting, for example).

1and1 is going to put a lot of domestic providers out of a job. Being poor of bandwidth, I'm fine with that. I've tested a few sites already registered with the 3-year deal, and they pop up instantly, so it looks like a great connection.

In short, get this deal if you ever plan on running a website.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:58 AM on November 15, 2003

1and1 is going to put a lot of domestic providers out of a job.

Great. I can't wait.
posted by Witty at 3:44 AM on November 15, 2003

you should be smart and set up your system (easily configurable) so that your site will stop serving if you go over the 5gig limit (just to be on the safe side of a slashdotting, for example).

posted by billsaysthis at 11:37 AM on November 15, 2003

Go to the control panel (, enter your login/password, then click on the contract that corresponds to the Domain you wish to configure. Go to "My Account", then "Billing Overview", and click on "Cost Limit". Set the Cost Limit to $1.00.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:06 PM on November 15, 2003

Thanks, C_D.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:29 PM on November 15, 2003

CGI scripts written in Perl

Pretty much living in the Stone Age, aren't they?

Well, precisely. They don't seem to offer mod_perl, which is generally faster than all the other solutions. I bet there's no mod_rewrite either. No spam filtering.. and I sure hope their shell access is chrooted otherwise they're gunna have big problems.

Still, if you don't mind being thrown onto a box with 1000 other customers (I know a host who threw 1600 customers on to a new box), sign up now. I'm sure your MySQL database will really fly.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is."
posted by wackybrit at 1:46 AM on November 16, 2003

I probably wouldn't select this deal if I had a site I was willing to spend money on. But I don't, so it's good enough.

They don't seem to offer mod_perl,

Why do you say that? It seems very probable that they use mod_perl.

I bet there's no mod_rewrite either.

There is, and the httpd.conf for your server is writable. It probably gets overwritten by their web setup scripts tho, and they don't provide any obvious way to restart the server.

I sure hope their shell access is chrooted

They're using grsecurity.

I know a host who threw 1600 customers on to a new box)

7000 or so users on the 1and1 server I'm on, though I've no idea how many are active. Oddly enough, /proc/loadavg is not readable. No problems so far though. Must be some serious hardware, but /proc/cpuinfo isn't readable, so I dunno, other than that it's SMP.

There are a couple of minor flaws, little bugs here and there in the web pages - looks like this is their way of recruiting beta testers.
posted by sfenders at 7:24 AM on November 16, 2003

Nice for people in the US or Canada....too bad for everyone else.
posted by Poagao at 7:38 AM on November 16, 2003

Hey, sfenders, I was actually wondering if they offered mod_rewrite. I tried editting my .htaccess file just to test it out, but it didn't work. Do I have to specifically ask them to turn it on for my account or something? (Sorry to anyone not interested in webtech, but I've been trying to figure this out for the past two days).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:00 AM on November 16, 2003

After looking at the mod_rewrite docs, I think the most likely reason it doesn't work is that "you need to have a RewriteEngine on directive for each virtual host." You could add one to ~/../httpd.conf, but you'd then have to get apache to reload its config somehow.

Could also just be that you're missing RewriteBase or something - apparently .htaccess rewrite rules are slightly different than ones in httpd.conf, I've never used 'em myself.
posted by sfenders at 10:29 AM on November 16, 2003

Correction: apparently, you can just put "RewriteEngine On" in .htaccess, like so:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /xyz #the web url for this directory.
RewriteRule ^oldstuff\.html$ newstuff.html
posted by sfenders at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2003

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:16 PM on November 16, 2003

Thanks for this! I signed up just as it was free and I can use it for stuff I wouldn't otherwise bother with. Pretty cool offer.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:37 PM on November 16, 2003

Aah, I figured out what wasn't working.

Do this:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ---whatever---

It's that backslash that's so important. mod_rewrite now functions perfectly.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:48 PM on November 16, 2003

I also signed up. Since I've never had a website before, and have always been intrigued by the possibility, I could do worse than to sign up for it just to mess around with the the possibilities and to see the results. For free. Now all I need is a domain name!

I do have some concerns about what might happen come early January 2004, it being the roll-out time for their full suite of for-$ services (in view of the one month Agreement period).

Many thanks to johnnydark for the post. :-)
posted by attackthetaxi at 4:03 AM on November 17, 2003

Poop. The AdWords credit is for new accounts only. Anyone want mine?
posted by pzarquon at 11:33 AM on November 18, 2003

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