Pakistani teen Hassan Bin Fahim thinks there’s a crucial barrier keeping Pakistanis from creating web pages, and that’s the cost of hosting them. That’s the main motivator behind Fahim founding free web host BASE.PK in his home town, Rawalpindi, located just outside of Islamabad.
“The purpose behind BASE.PK is simple, to let anyone and everyone in Pakistan create an online presence for themselves and their business without worrying about the costs involved,” Fahim said in a statement. “We really think there’s a lot of potential for good in the Internet and localized content is very important for the growth of the Internet in Pakistan. We really want people to create websites where they share their ideas and experiences in their own languages so that the amount of quality content related to Pakistan increases on the Internet.”
What Fahim is doing is indicative of a larger trend of web hosts in the developing world, which includes countries that have a relatively small per capita GDP but also a great deal of market activity. In these countries, price is an enormous factor in the adoption of web technologies.
Free web hosting services have had a history in the industrialized world with web hosts like Geocities coming to characterize, in large part, the look of the 90s internet. The poor quality of many of these websites speaks to their role in introducing new people to web pages. Free hosting provided an easy introduction for many people to experimenting with websites, in what could be thought of as a crucial step in building a critical mass of people who are confident with websites and associated technologies.
Geocities’ low-priced ads never quite managed to adequately monetize it, however these new web hosts are often offering a combination of free and premium or “freemium” hosting services.
Web hosts like South Africa-based Yola provide a free web hosting plan tier as well as some premium hosting packages that offer more bandwidth, storage, and flexibility. To make it easier for non-experts, the Yola platform includes an online site builder tool (translated to English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish) and an online photo editing utility.
Functional web hosts like Facebook, of course, have essentially taken over some of the territory once claimed by free or low-cost web hosts. For instance, sharing personal photos or updates with family and friends has largely moved to Facebook, and some local businesses and organizations can use their Facebook page to provide all the information their clients need.
But instead of simply having a Facebook page, many businesses want a website with its own domain name and hosting, which provides them more flexibility and ownership over their data, but also a certain status and professionalism.
The idea of offering a version of web hosting for free helps eliminate the hesitation that many people have around new (and sometimes confusing) technologies, especially when the return on investment cannot be guaranteed and every dollar counts, which is especially the case outside of the industrialized world.