If you’ve looked into registering a domain, you know that there are a few ways of getting one affordably.
You can find the cheapest domain name registrars, which usually start at around $9 a year for a .com.
You can also find a hosting package that also includes a free domain, though it’s usually only going to be free for the first year.
So the cheapest domains still cost you something.
Obviously. Because nothing’s free. Right?!
…What if I told you that there was a FREE domain provider out there?
Okay, that sure sounds great. But I know what you’re thinking:
Is that real?
Well, I had the same question, before I tested it out.
The short version: I was surprised. Freenom is actually not as scammy as you’d think.
…But it’s still got a sketchy side.
Let’s talk about it!
Starting us off:
Performance and Reliability
I’m going to tell you to brace yourselves, because this section is going to be the hardest to go through.
So let me just tell you simply:
I haven’t really had performance issues with Freenom. In short—it works.
But the issue is that even if I don’t have notable performance issues to complain about, other people do.
Here’s the rating they hold on Facebook:
Okay, so that’s an abysmal rating. But maybe it all has to do with customer support, right? Not performance?
Sorry, friends. These kinds of comments are ALL OVER the Freenom Facebook page.
But it’s also possible that the only people rating and commenting on their Facebook page are people who are upset with Freenom, right?
The thing is, people on Twitter have similar complaints:
The reviews on Trustpilot is about the same as Facebook’s:
I can show you more reviews, but I think this sort of sums it up.
Now, you might be wondering why I would pay specific attention to what other people say here.
It’s because even though my experience has been fine, there have been SO MANY consistently similar complaints and poor reviews from other people.
And means that the risk of Freenom mistreating you is much higher than with most other registrars. Yes, your domain might be safe…but it also might get stolen or you might get locked out.
At this point, you might be wondering why there’s even more to this review. I don’t blame you. BUT:
You might still find Freenom useful for a throwaway domain. In fact, it could be SUPER useful for a throwaway domain or for a site that you just need to set up quickly at minimal cost that ALSO isn’t very important to you.
And beyond that, these criticisms by and large pertain to the FREE domains you get on Freenom. Believe it or not, there are also paid domains, which don’t really suffer this issue.
But more on that later.
Let’s keep going and take a look at what else Freenom can offer us!
Ease of Use
You might be a little skeptical about why an ease of use section is important now.
“Doesn’t it suck? Who cares about ease of use?” – you might be thinking something along those lines.
Well, if you want to quickly set up a site with its own domain for a less important project, one of the BEST points would be ease of use.
So it’s important that Freenom get this right, or at least right enough.
Like most other domain providers, Freenom’s main page has a big search bar that lets you immediately check the availability and prices of a domain name.
I found it was really slow and laggy, but still worked:
So that’s pretty straightforward. The .com and .net domain extensions are still paid, by the way—but they’re cheaper than most other domain providers, so that’s nice.
The checkout process is pretty easy too:
Why is 12 months free and 1 year $9.95? I have no idea.
ANYWAY, the checkout process is very simple, so we’re all good there. And managing your domains once you have them?
It’s pretty easy, and in fact the user interface is pretty clear and not confusing or technical.
But there’s one problem:
It can sometimes be laggy, unresponsive, or slow.
I think in the scheme of things, that’s a pretty minor issue though. And I’ve never been unable to get something done because of clunky website interface, or even significantly delayed.
In summary, I’d have to say that Freenom passes the ease of use question with…ease! The minor issues I mentioned are just that: minor.
So if you need to quickly set something up, Freenom is good for that.
But now it’s time we talk about what a lot of you really want to hear about…
Pricing and Features
Aside from performance, one of the major concerns here is with the pricing and features.
Let’s start with pricing, because it’s obviously a major attraction of Freenom.
Is Freenom actually free?
In short, YES.
Now, if you actually read the last section, you will have noticed that I said .com domains were going for a bit over $8 a year.
The thing about Freenom is SOME domain extensions are free, but only a few that aren’t the popular ones you WANT for free.
Here’s what it looks like:
The ones you want to be free—meaning a .com, .net, .org, etc, are priced roughly what they would be anywhere else.
But like I said, you’re still able to get some top-level domain extensions for free. So what if they’re not common? That’s WHY they’re free!
Now, free is free, and I’ve got nothing to say there.
But as far as the paid domains go, are those low prices?
I’d say that actually, yes. In particular, a .net starts at under $7 a year, which is easily one of the LOWEST prices I’ve ever seen.
The .com and .org is pretty normal though—on the lower end, I’ll admit, but you can find pretty close pricing with other companies.
Does that mean I recommend getting a .net domain with Freenom?
Ah…not quite. I’ll save that analysis for the conclusion, but let’s take a look at the features Freenom offers first.
Keep in mind that unlike website builders or web hosts, domain name providers don’t really offer a lot of features.
That’s not because these businesses suck, but because it’s an essentially simple service you’re paying for.
With that in mind, here’s what Freenom offers:
Don’t worry, I’ll unpack.
At the basic level, free and paid accounts have the same fundamental features as any other domain registrar.
You can forward your URL, use your own name server (useful when using a separate hosting company), and the default DNS service.
Now, here’s where things get a little dicey:
Someone who gets a free domain from Freenom acts as a user…NOT a licensee. And someone who pays?
That’s a licensee.
The difference is pretty important, and in fact it’s relevant to most of those negative reviews I showed you earlier.
The licensee essentially gets the license for that domain name. It’s theirs for as long as they’re paying for it
And that means the licensor—in this case, Freenom—says it won’t touch that name while the payment/contract is still valid.
A free customer is just a user…so they don’t get that right to the domain name they “get” from Freenom.
What can you expect, though? Domain names simply aren’t really a free thing.
Meaning if you get a free domain, it’s basically written into Freenom’s terms that you are subject to losing that domain…hence a lot of angry customers.
Sure, it sucks, but as long as you know that, it means you’re probably going to be okay.
Now, the Whois feature inclusion is kind of interesting.
For MOST domain registrars, the “default” or “basic” stance is to let the purchaser get registered in the public Whois database.
This means that a person’s information is available for anyone who cares to look up the domain…a security risk a lot of people want to avoid.
So a lot of domain providers let you pay extra to have the domain provider’s information replace yours in the Whois database. You still get the domain, but you’ll be protected.
Some include it for free, and then make you pay for it after a year, and every now and then it gets included for free, period.
But in the case of Freenom, it’s flipped. The person who pays less (someone with a free account) won’t have to worry about being in the Whois database.
But the person who pays Freenom will automatically have their information recorded in the Whois database.
Don’t worry, that’s not the end of the road. You can still get Freenom to protect you by using its “ID shield.”
Which is included for free with the paid service!
So it only looks inverted.
That’s mostly it for Freenom’s pricing and features…except for one more thing:
The renewal prices are the same as the starting prices, and Whois privacy STAYS free after the first year.
So what do I see when I look at things as a whole?
The free versions are free, and you get what you pay for. In this case, if you get a free domain, you don’t own it, and you can lose it if Freenom wants you to.
And as many users have complained about, Freenom has a tendency to take those free domains. Does that suck?
Absolutely. But that’s also what a free domain gets.
In contrast, a paid domain seems safe. It’s yours, sometimes for prices that are similar to the norm, sometimes for prices that are significantly LOWER than usual.
So while the features are overall basic, the Whois privacy is GREAT and the prices are overall pretty low.
Believe it or not, Freenom isn’t doing too bad! Let’s see what else Freenom can do:
Customer support is always important. But here’s the unique thing about Freenom:
Freenom is exactly the type of service where you’re MUCH more likely to contact customer support.
That’s because Freenom seems to have the bad habit of taking people’s domains (when they’re free, anyway) or at least glitching out a bit.
But of course, things don’t look good for Freenom outwardly:
If you remember those screenshots I showed you, customer service was also a point of complaint.
So how does Freenom’s customer support ACTUALLY do?
Basically, you can contact reps with your account, but they’re not always reliable or timely.
There’s some onsite information:
But this knowledge base is the extent of it, aside from a couple other pages about the company.
And if you just look at that picture, you’ll see there aren’t too many articles.
The ones that are there are useful, but it’s still a scant offering of info.
Now you might be thinking that a domain registrar doesn’t need to have a ton of knowledge base articles.
You’d be kind of right, but I still think it’s good to see more out of Freenom. And besides, other registrars offer more.
So unfortunately, I’ve got to say that Freenom’s customer support actually isn’t that great.
The nasty reviews people leave aren’t all accurate though—I’ve at least been able to get help before. It’s just that those reviews aren’t entirely wrong either.
Now, let’s check out our last factor:
This is a big one. The security of your domain name is important for reasons I don’t need to explain, but it’s realistically more of an issue with Freenom.
I think just about everyone who’s heard of Freenom has thought to themselves, “is that safe?”
I know I did. But I gave Freenom the benefit of the doubt, and looked into it while testing them.
Here’s the good news:
I had no security issues.
But that’s only gonna mean so much. The problem is I don’t have much else to tell you, at least officially.
Freenom basically only says this much:
In other words, “we’re secure because we use AnyCast Cloud tech and are partnered with some big names.”
I actually am willing to give that some credit. I just wish there was more information.
On the bright side, it is true that .tk domains are probably one of the safest in the world…particularly because few people are targeting them.
I can summarize how Freenom does with security in one sentence:
Freenom’s mainly criticized for stealing domains, not for having poor security on those domains.
So while I don’t trust Freenom’s security as much as I trust Namecheap’s or Google’s (for example), I don’t think poor security is a major flaw Freenom suffers from.
Alright, nice to end a section on a positive note! Let’s keep the good vibes going:
- Simple site interface and straightforward domain management.
- It’s true, you can get some domains for free. (Kind of).
- Paid domains have a low-average pricing range.
- Whois is included for free!
- Decent enough security.
- Freenom has a reputation for stealing domains and locking users out of their accounts. (Note that this really goes only for free accounts).
- In general, the website can be clunky.
- Sub-par customer support.
- Free domains give you rights as a user, not a licensee…so you don’t really own the domain (hence the above performance issue).
- Not a lot of information about security.
Conclusion: Do I Recommend Freenom?
That first section on performance really set a bad tone. If you ONLY read that section, you probably wouldn’t recommend Freenom.
But at the end of the day, there’s a fair amount of nuance with Freenom. So let me take this apart:
I wouldn’t really recommend using Freenom’s free domains…UNLESS you just need a quick name set up for an unimportant project. Because you might lose it.
The bigger nuance is for the paid domains. If the domain you want is SLIGHTLY less expensive with Freenom than with other major domain providers, I’d say go with other major providers.
They’re more reputable, have better support, and will probably be more reliable.
I’ve also seen the occasional complaint online that paid domains get stolen, but I’m a little skeptical of the evidence.
So it’s really your call how safe you feel. My personal recommendation would be to just do what’s safest, and pay a slightly higher price for a significantly more reputable provider.
But in the case of a .net, for example, which is significantly cheaper on Freenom than with most other providers, I think it can be worth a shot.
…But those other bad reviews still sketch me out, so maybe only pay for a domain that’s less important to you.
Hey, you know how it is—if you’re still uncertain, just try Freenom! After all…
It’s FREE! (Kind of).
Yeah, that’s what I wondered at first too.
Freenom partners with developing countries that want to expand their digital economy. People in those countries—for example, people living in the New Zealand territory Tokelau—get service for a free top-level domain for their country.
Meanwhile, Freenom is getting more business from that country and exposure.
Plus, Freenom already has some funding from a high profile investor group. And don’t forget that Freenom is also offering popular top-level domain extensions for a price!
Some domain registrars also offer hosting, and some hosting companies also offer domain registration.
But Freenom is strictly for domains…for now, anyway.
While it’s subjective, most .com domains start at $8 or $9 on the lower side. The usual range is $9-$12, and this also holds roughly true for a .net or .org.
But there’s still some nuance here. For example, many web hosts offer a free domain registration for a year with a web hosting package.
However, the domain will renew at normal price.
Some, like GoDaddy, have low first-year prices just for a domain, but will jack them up the next year.
Whether you go with Freenom or not, you’ll be able to get the best deal if you take a second look at the terms, price renewals, inclusion of Whois, and so on!