Create A Blog: Best Free Hosted Blog Publishing Services - Mini-Guide
Looking for a free service to host your first blog site? Doubtful about which hosted blogging service to choose? If you are still not ready to code and configure your blog by yourself or do not have the budget to hire a webmaster, a free hosted blog publishing service is positively the best road to take for the time being. In this mini-guide I have personally identified and reviewed the best free hosted blog publishing services out there.
Free, hosted blog publishing services are very easy to set up and configure and generally require you only a few minutes to get you fully started. You create an account, choose a pre-designed template, set your own site name and key content elements, adjust privacy settings and you are ready to roll.
- The key advantages of having a hosted blogging service instead of a self-hosted solution to be installed on your server are basically the advantage of having a software tool, at zero cost, that gets automatically updated without any intervention from you and which allows you to start blogging immediately.
- The down sides are generally a much lower ability to customize and control the look and feel of your site, and to do other advanced customizations which may include adding specific functions or features to your site.
In choosing a free hosted blogging platform you should be careful in checking how easy it will be, if and when you will want to, to move your contents and site structure to a self-hosted, server-based blogging platform. You should also check and make sure that if you later decide to move on a more platform, you will be able to keep your site name and domain.
To help you choose your ideal free blogging solution, I have here selected a few basic criteria that you can use to help yourself differentiate and evaluate your ideal hosted blogging service:
- Look and feel: how much control you have over looks and how many pre-designed templates are offered.
- Privacy settings: how much can you control the setting of restrictions for who can access what on your blog.
- Traffic Analysis: the ability to see the traffic statistics relative to your site. How many visitors, page views, time spent on the site, and so on.
- Mobile blogging: the ability of your blogging platform to host blog posts coming directly from your mobile phone.
- Domain Name Mapping: this feature allows you to have any domain name for your blog and to have to settle down for a generic or blog-platform branded site name and domain.
- Content Export: the ability to easily export your site structure and contents to another blogging platform at a later time.
- Support Forum: a community forum where you can freely pose technical support questions.
Create a Blog
WordPress is by far the most popular free service on the Web to create a blog. Highly customizable thanks to the impressive quantity of plugins and themes you can install, WordPress blogs can also take advantage of a good spam filter, RSS, real-time traffic statistics, and an impressive community support that helps you sort your blogging issues. But if you need an ad-free blog, a customized domain, content-export features, or advanced privacy options, you can upgrade to WordPress premium features. Prices available on the site.
Blogger is a free service from Google to create a blog. You can start building up your blog immediately if you have a Google account, and also use your AdSense and Analytics settings inside it to check ad earnings and traffic statistics. Blogger also supports multi-authors to create community blogs, RSS, several template customization features, post-via-mobile, and adjustable privacy settings. You also have a big support community behind you to sort your blogging issues out. Blogger, though, doesn't support unique domains. No premium accounts available, as well: you get all the features available at a free level.
- Windows Live Spaces
Windows Live Spaces is a free service from Microsoft to create a blog. You can access Live Spaces with your Windows LiveID, and integrate inside your blog the content you have on other Microsoft services, like SkyDrive. Your blog, or "Space", is organized in re-arrangeable modules around the page. Advanced customization modifying the CSS or HTML code is not available by default. Advantages are: you can set privacy settings, use RSS feeds, post from mobile, and have limited traffic analysis features. A drawback is you cannot have a unique domain name for your blog or export your content at a later time. Great support provided by the Live community. Premium accounts not available.
LiveJournal is a virtual community where registered users can create a free blog and receive constant support from other members. Inside LiveJournal you can build your own list of friends and read their updates (and / or let them read yours) via RSS feed. There are several customization possibilities either you want to mess with your CSS or not. With a paid account you can also protect your updates selecting the users who can access your blog, or even be the only one who can read it. Traffic statistics or customized domains are not available by default at any level. Paid accounts with pro features, like exporting your blog content to another platform, or use the "phone to blog" option, that allows you to post directly from your mobile. Starting from $5/2 months.
Vox is a powerful free service that helps you to create a blog. Powered by Six Apart (the company who owns the MovableType blogging platform) Vox only needs your registration data to get you started. Just choose one of the very essential templates, add your content (text, video, images or audio), set your privacy settings and you're done. A powerful feature of Vox is the integration with video and photo sharing sites like Flickr or YouTube. No premium plans available, mobile posting, nor traffic analysis feature, or having a unique domain name. But robust SixApart customer service is at your disposal to solve your blogging issues.
Xanga is a community-supported blogging service that allows you to create a blog for free. Simply register and start customizing your blog layout with one of the several templates offered. Then share your content via RSS syndication. If you have the skills, you can even customize the CSS of your blog. You can also protect your updates by selecting the people who will have access to them. No traffic analysis, customized domains, or mobile posting features available. Good problem-solving forum support Premium accounts with more features are starting at 4$/1 month.
- tripod Lycos
tripod Lycos is a popular online service to create a RSS-syndicated free blog. If you already have a Lycos account, you can start right away managing your blog online, or take advantage of the integration with Microsoft FrontPage. No traffic statistics, mobile posting, export your content, or privacy settings features available. Also limited forum support. Other advanced customization features (like having a custom domain), are available in the advanced plans starting at 4.95$/month.
blog.com is a free service to create your own blog. After a simple registration process you can create an ad-supported blog you can syndicate via both RSS and Atom feeds. You can purchase a premium account starting from $ 4.95/month for the Plus option. Premium accounts also allow you to get other advanced features like setting the privacy settings of your blog, or customize the CSS (which is advisable since free blogs have scarce theme selection possibilities). No traffic statistics, customized domains, content-export or mobile posting features available. Scarce forum support.
- Yahoo! 360°
Yahoo! 360° is a free service to create your own blog. You need a Yahoo! account in the following countries: USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Ireland, France and Germany. To start, log in, choose the colors of your blog (available templates are pretty much all the same), set your privacy settings, and then begin sharing your content (RSS syndication available). You can even post from your mobile using the free Yahoo! Mobile option. Yahoo! 360° has no premium accounts, customizing domain possibilities, nor traffic statistics features. Robust support available from the Yahoo! community and experts.
blogr is a free service that helps you to create a blog and share your own content right away. Currently in Alpha (development) status, blogr has a very simple interface where you can post your writings, photos, and videos with the minimum effort. You can organize your content in one of the (few) available templates and syndicate via RSS. Drawbacks are the very limited set of feature you have: no traffic statistics, mobile posting, privacy settings or customized domains. Good forum support. Premium accounts are not available at the moment.
Squarespace is a powerful solution to create a blog. Thanks to its easy-to-use interface, you can adjust, set, and even drag&drop elements in your layout with no technical knowledge. Additional features include privacy settings, traffic analysis, RSS, and explanatory tutorials to get you started right away. No mobile posting. Registration is needed. You can try Squarespace for free for 14 days, and then switch to one of the paid plans starting from 8$/month that also allow you to customize your domain name and receive support from a dedicated customer service.
TypePad is a full-featured service that helps you create your own blog easily. There are more than a hundred templates to customize the look and feel of your blog. TypePad main characteristics include: post from mobile, post from Facebook, RSS, traffic statistics, spam filtering, ads management, and much more. Good forum support, but no content-export features. You can try TypePad for free for 14 days, and then select one of the additional pricing plans starting from 4.95$/month.
Other Great Lists of Free Blog Publishing Hosts and Services
SherifAbdou puts up a recent list of the top 10 blogging services that allow you to create a blog free of charge. Description provided for each service.
(Updated January 26, 2009)
The Times - 40 Free Blog Hosts
(Updated May 29, 2008)
The popular tech blog Mashable proposes its own list of free hosted blog publishing services. Services are divided in four categories and a brief description is provided for each one of them:
- Danga Software Powered: LiveJournal and otehr platforms that use similar software
- Themed blog sites: blog services that allow you to create a blog focusing on a specific niche
- WordPress powered: services to create a blog based on the WordPress platform
- Various platform: general free blogging services with popular and less popular picks.
(Updated August 6, 2007)
Programmer and entrepreneur Stephen Miller makes a big list of 190 free blog publishing services for all tastes. Unfortunately, Miller provided no description, so you have to check out each service for yourself.
(Updated January 1, 2007)
Originally prepared by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia, and first published on March 9, 2009 as "Create A Blog: Best Free Hosted Blog Publishing Services - Mini-Guide".
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