I think what you are really asking is:
Can I run a website at home for zero cost, both in terms of hosting and a domain name?
The answer is "kind of."
Hosting at home rather than at a hosting company can be a great low-cost way to get started. You can use your home computer as a web server and run a web site on it. However, there are some limitations:
- Your internet service provider (ISP) may block port 80 (many, but not all, block it). If it is blocked, you will need to run your server on a non-standard port which will mean your website URLs will have an ugly port number in them like
- You will need to leave your computer turned on all the time and prevent it from sleeping. It can cost over $100 a year in electricity to do so depending on where you live and how much power it consumes. You might be able to run a server on your router which likely gets left on all the time anyway. You could also get a low power device (like a Raspberry Pi) to run a simple, low traffic website.
- Your home server isn't going to be as reliable as using a hosting company. Most home ISPs regularly have outages due to over-use from other customers and downed wires. Power outages are going to cut into your home uptime as well. A hosting company should have a server in a data center with multiple internet connections and backup power.
- You are going to have to learn to configure our own server software and configure port forwarding on your router. Shared hosting companies would be able to get a website up and running for you with just a couple clicks.
- You may not be able to get a static IP address at home from your ISP. If not, you will need to use a "dynamic DNS" service to point your website name to your home IP address. You will need to run a dynamic DNS client at home to keep your DNS records up to date. Such services can usually be found for free, but there may be a fee.
- Your home internet isn't actually free. You are already paying for it and likely hundreds of dollars a year. The cost of shared hosting is substantially less than a home internet connection.
Prices for shared hosting start at around $50 per year. That likely isn't very much compared to what you are already paying for home service and it may be less than the electricity costs and new equipment costs that it would take to host at home. It is going to be more reliable and less hassle than hosting at home.
Free website names
Domain names start at $10 to $15 per year at discount registries such as NameCheap and GoDaddy. However, you can have a website without paying for a domain name with the following options:
- Use the IP address given to you by your home ISP:
- Most ISPs do dynamic DNS. Your IP address changes occasionally like when your router gets rebooted.
- Using an IP address is ugly, hard to type, and hard for users to remember.
- Even if you can get a static IP address, you will lose it if you ever change to a new ISP.
- There is no opportunity to use SSL/HTTPS to secure your website with encryption.
- Get a free subdomain from a dynamic DNS service. Most dynamic DNS services offer free subdomains of their domains to point to your home IP address. However:
- There is no guarantee that your subdomain will be free in the future. The company could start changing at any point and they could charge as much as they wanted.
- The company could go out of business or change their policies and you could lose your subdomain at their whim.
The fee for owning a domain name gives you the ability to maintain control over your website in future years. Costs for standard top level domain names (
.com) are very stable and won't increase substantially over time. There are controls in place that make it hard for you to lose your domain name in most usual circumstances. The danger of not getting your own domain name is that you will have to change the address of your website. That could cost you far more in terms of lost users and search engine rankings than purchasing a domain name up-front.