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While you can certainly get a free domain from Freenom, there’s really not much else going for it: the interface could use some work, and customer service is nonexistent. You could use it for the free stuff but you’ll still need to get hosting – and some already offer a free domain when you sign up, like Hostinger and InMotion Hosting.
Freenom is a domain name service through and through. The whole point is to get users up and running with a domain as quickly and as cheaply as possible. And the craziest thing is this: you can get a free domain.
And you know what? It works. Some of the domains really are free. It’s… a real thing that’s happening.
I set up a quick and easy test site on my own server, and got myself a free domain to try this service out. The result: It was all right. But is it right for you and your business? Read on to find out.
It’s just… well, I had some trouble coming up with three distinct features to talk about for this review. Yeah, we’ll put it that way.
But first up, the general information: you can configure your domains in all the usual ways. You can direct them to nameservers, or configure everything yourself through DNS records. URL forwarding is available for those who want to forward domain names to another existing web address.
And, funny thing, on top of the domain registration services, Freenom has public DNS servers, like Google does. For the uninitiated, public DNS servers are the ones that tell your computer that a domain name, like “websiteplanet.com,” goes to a particular website IP address.
Normally, your computer will access your internet service provider’s DNS servers, and that usually works just fine. However, some people prefer to use other DNS servers for security reasons, speed reasons, or maybe their ISP is just acting up for a day.
So yeah, Freenom has that. Now, on to the big features.
I’ve actually used free .tk domains in the distant past, when I was first getting my start as a web designer. (Those free domains came in handy, and I sort of wondered what happened to them.) Well, Freenom offers .tk domains, .ml domains, .ga domains, .cf domains, and the very fashionable-sounding .gq domains.
You know… like the magazine? Never mind.
And here’s the catch: you can’t get standard domain extensions like .com or .org for free, which is to be expected. You need to be okay with having a more obscure domain extension. You also can’t get “special domains” for free: this category includes domains of 1-3 characters, and common keywords.
Lastly, the registrant (that’d be you) acts as the “user” of the domain name, and not as the “licensee.” This means you have no legal right to the domain, and only get to use it so long as the company or organization that owns the domain extension (e.g., .tk) says you can. And there are rules about the sorts of sites you’re allowed to use the free domains for.
But hey, that’s not so bad, right? Want to run a simple personal blog on a free domain? No problem.
I should also note that the paid domains are pretty cheap, but if you’re looking for more domain extensions than what Freenom offers (some at even lower prices), you could also give 1&1 IONOS a try.
Free WHOIS ID Protection(!)
Want to keep people who look up your domain from getting your address, phone number, and email? No problem. Every domain (including the free ones) comes with WHOIS protection by default, at no extra charge.
Register Glue Records(…?)
Uh, so this is an obscure sort of feature, but kind of essential if you want to run your own web hosting operation. Basically, it allows you to create your own nameservers, which people can then use to point domain names to their sites on your server.
For example, if your service is at supereasywebhosting.com, you can create nameservers at ns1.supereasywebhosting.com, and ns2.supereasywebhosting.com. You can then provide DNS records for your clients so they don’t have to edit this info themselves.
I did say it was an obscure feature.
Freenom Features at a Glance
Free domain extensions
.tk, .ml, .ga, .cf, .gq
Paid domain extensions
All other domains and special domains that contain 1-3 characters and common keywords
Ease of use
The User Interface Could Be Way More Intuitive
Actually finding and buying a domain is simple stuff. Search for a domain from the home page like you would on any other domain registrar, go through your options, and buy it (or get a free one) if you want to.
At checkout, you can pay with PayPal, credit card, or bank transfer (the credit card and PayPal options each incur a 4% payment processing fee). I went with the free domains for this review.
But after you buy the domain, well… that’s when the experience gets a bit more difficult. For example, configuring your domain is not a user-friendly process. If your web host has nameservers, you can simply enter these in the domain settings. But if it doesn’t, you’ll need to configure DNS records yourself.
The following screenshot shows the minimum working DNS record configuration, with the blurred out numbers being my server’s IP:
And yes, I had to have a look at Freenom’s knowledge base to figure this out. Details about how to enter other DNS records, or even definitions of what they are for, were not available.
Most of the domain registrars I’ve used have at least some instructions in the form of a tooltip or a sidebar to help you figure out what to do. Freenom does not. The domain management UI is fine if you know exactly what you’re doing, but it is not for beginners.
On the upside, I can say that I didn’t actually run into any technical issues. The DNS information was updated in about 10 minutes, and I was able to access my test site with no problems.
You can cancel your domain at any time, but there are no refunds for paid domains, ever, unless you submit a special cancellation request within five days of making your purchase.
Three Ways to Contact Support, and I Struck Out
So what happens if you have problems with your domain, or questions about the nearly non-existent UI? Well, technically, there is some support!
Firstly, there’s a knowledge base. It’s hardly what you’d call “extensive,” but it did help me solve one problem I was having.
If you want help from a real person, you have three options: phone, email, and (apparently) a ticket system.
I tried to set up a wildcard DNS record (for the uninitiated… that’s a long story), and it didn’t work. Turns out those aren’t allowed, at least not on the free domains. I wanted to see if they were allowed on the paid ones, so I asked.
Technically, you’re supposed to get a reply within 24 hours. Well, I never did get a reply, which is not a great showing for any support department. Next, I did the one thing that annoys millennials all over the world: I made a phone call.
To my surprise, the customer service agent spoke English (Freenom’s phone number connects to the Netherlands). However, this department was based in a call center that only takes corporate calls during the night shift, and couldn’t answer my question. No tech support is provided outside of Netherlands business hours.
So I called again some hours later, and was put on hold for five minutes (which felt much longer thanks to some very annoying-at-3-AM “epic” music). Once I was connected to customer service, I was told two things:
The support agent flat-out told me that my technical knowledge outstripped his. While flattering, this is less than good.
Actual tech support is only for people with paid domains, at which point a ticket system becomes available.
Overall, I found the support experience to be somewhat lacking. Support for paying customers probably would have been better, but I wasn’t about to pay to find out. I was raised in a culture of faith, and if you don’t mind me getting personal, I don’t have that much left. Not enough to make me pay up.
And, well, if you’re running a business, you need to provide good support, and you need to provide it quickly. Waiting 24 hours (or even just for Netherlands business hours to begin) certainly won’t work for everyone.
The free domains are absolutely the best reason to choose Freenom, and the free WHOIS protection is a solid feature that should be standard everywhere. However, with the sparse UI, the limited feature set, and the unfortunate lack of full support for free domains, I can’t say that Freenom is one of the “best” domain name registrars.
You’d easily be better off going with Domain.com or Namecheap, as these registrars have loads of extra features to help you configure and protect your domain.
That said, Freenom worked just fine for me once I figured out how to use it. With more time and development, it could become one of the greats. It just isn’t there yet.
How do I use Freenom?Mostly the same as you’d use any other registrar: search for the domain you want, choose the best option, then buy it. If you choose a free domain, you won’t even have to bother with the third step. It’s just that easy.
That said, if you do want to purchase a cheap domain extension that isn’t offered by Freenom, take a look at our list of the best domain registrars in 2022 for some user-friendly options.Are all domain names from Freenom actually free?Only the .tk, .ml, .ga, .cf, and .gq domains are free. And even then, you have to follow certain rules (no adult or gambling sites, no domain parking) and make sure to renew every year. And you can’t use popular keywords alone as your domain. Those are always expensive. Lastly, you don’t “own” your free domain, and it can be taken away at the discretion of the people who own the domain extension.
If those limitations don’t sound great to you, and you need a deal on domains (or hosting, for that matter), check out deals and coupon page. That could save you a fair bit of cash right there.Does Freenom offer hosting?Nope. It does not. If you’re looking for a good web host or twenty, may I recommend checking out our list of the best all-time web hosts in 2022? We’ve worked hard on these, and I’ve even written a few myself.
If you’re looking for some quick recommendations, check out Hostinger, MochaHost, GreenGeeks, or InMotion Hosting. They all have pretty useful features, server performance, and deals.Is Freenom safe to use?It’s no more or less safe than just about any other online service. From the perspective of a tech nerd, that’s a little bit terrifying because this whole system is a bit fragile and modern life depends… well, that’s a rant for another day.
My point is, the company is legit. You need not worry too much about handing over your credit card information. And technically, you don’t need to hand it over at all.
If you’re looking for more safe options, Namecheap.com offers built-in domain privacy for free, which will keep you protected from things like spam, scams, and unsolicited Googling.
Ezequiel Bruni is biologically Canadian, legally Mexican, and self identifies as a total nerd. He’s been a web and experience designer off and on since he was a teenager, and loves sharing the kind of beginner’s advice he really wishes he’d had when he first started. He also loves video games, tacos, open source software, video games, sci-fi and fantasy in all their forms, and video games. He does not love writing in the third person.