Share Your Holidays -- Build a Web Site for Free
(It Might Even Be Good for Business!)
Copyright © 1998 Don Hamilton. All rights reserved.
Okay, so you're taking a lot of pictures of the holidays. What are you going to do with them? Make copies and send them to friends and relatives? Maybe, but odds are you won't because of the cost involved. Stick them in a photo album and pull them out when the family gets together? This is the traditional method, but with people moving to electronic photos and away from film there may be a much better way.
Have you ever thought about building your own Web site but thought it would cost too much to buy a domain name and open a Web site? (Some providers offer free space for your Web site but others don't.) Well, we have an idea for those memorable pictures that you want to share with your friends and relatives. A free Web page is the best way to share. There are a lot of sites on the Web today that just want to give you a free Web site for almost any purpose.
Posting pictures on a free Web site is a great way to share your pictures -- I do this all the time with my friends and relatives. When I get my pictures back from any special event, whether it's a ski trip, Christmas, a birthday or just a fun day, I immediately scan them, convert them to .jpg or .gif format, and start adding them to my Web page. I then send an email to the list of people with whom I want to share my pictures. Of course, I always include a clickable link to the Web site, so they can just click into my Web page and share my experience.
But where do you get the software to build a Web site? Tucows is a good place to start. I would recommend NetOjects Fusion or Front Page. You can download either of these programs from Tucows and use them for a 30-day free trial. These are professional-quality programs that cost between $90 and $300 with one-button upload to your Web site, but you don't have to spend that much. You'll be able to find several programs in the free-to-under-$100 range. These software programs make good Christmas or birthday presents for folks who are interested in publishing their photo albums.
The process is really very simple. You scan your pictures and upload them to your site, but if you have a digital camera, you can just shoot your pictures and download them to your computer. This works with some video cameras, too. A lot of video cameras these days have digital screen capture capability, so you can shoot a video, then capture the images out of the video that you like, and put them in your electronic photo album.
Most of the Web page design programs are drop-and-drag or WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). It's much easier to build a page today than it was two years ago. Netscape and Explorer come with a Web page builder included in the browser package. You should build and test your Web page on your own computer. After you build your page, you can open your browser and view the page (offline) as you would a standard Web site. When testing the page on your own computer, you can move back and forth between pages and images very rapidly because it's all stored on your hard drive and you don't have to wait for a slow modem. When you have finished, you can then move it to the server of your choice.
Moving it to the server can be as easy as clicking on the "publish" button on some of the more sophisticated programs. If you're using a simple page design program you will need to download an ftp (file transfer protocol) program. This will allow you to drag the files from the directory on your computer to the files on the host server, just as you would drag them from one directory to another on your own computer. I would recommend Cute ftp to almost anyone because it's simple to use and works very well. However, there are others that are also good and easy to use. If you check Tucows, you'll find a rating system that helps you distinguish "good" from "poor" in their selection of programs, with a one-cow rating being the worst, and a five-cow rating being the best. Tucows has been serving the Web for a long time and is an excellent resource. It also has servers near you, regardless of where you live or work in the world.
Remember, when looking at images for your Web site, that the images are always small with regard to file size. Three or four megs of space may seem limited, but .jpg and .gif files are compressed and take up very little space. You don't want your pictures to be too big because bigger files take too long to download. Mix smaller pictures with some larger images and keep the site interesting. If you do run out of space, no problem -- just sign up for another free page somewhere else, link to it, and zap! You have twice the space. To find out about how to use paint programs, you can search the Internet for tips. Ask Jeeves is a good search engine which allows you to enter your search parameters in natural language. Of course, if you're looking for paint programs that you can download, go to Tucows.
What about privacy, you ask? Some of the free sites allow you to password-protect your page. On the other hand, if you don't use metatags or publicize your page, most people will find it only if you tell them where to find it. People who have put business Web pages up can tell you the whole world does not come knocking at your door unless you advertise.
When I'm putting up a photo album site, I build it much like any other site, with a tool bar down the side and links through the site so visitors can move around as they please. At the beginning of the site I list new additions so visitors don't have to look at everything on the home page again. In that way, I build a home page and keep it current, and most of my family and my fiancée's family are excited to be able to share our latest photos.
But why would anyone give you a free Web site? Just like free email, free Web sites are being promoted as a benefit to you -- and they are. Most of these free sites want to put advertising banners on your Web pages. The banners can be removed on some of the sites, but then you'll probably have to pay the going rate for Web hosting. Many of the free sites will not allow you to build a business page; others don't mind a business page, but they won't let you put banners on your site. Just check out the rules carefully and enjoy the benefits of the Web without spending much money.
I have collected a few of the free Web sites available and listed them below. Enjoy them and your holidays, and check out the sites for the latest information, which is changing all the time, mostly for the good.
Free Web Offerings
NetZero has POPs all over the county. They don't just offer free Web sites -- they offer the whole enchilada: email, hosting and more. They also claim to be totally confidential. NetZero says, "There's one BIG thing we want you to know about privacy on NetZero. We've gone to a lot of trouble to keep your user profile in strict confidence. Sure, we distribute advertising to you based on the information in your profile and your Internet use habits. But that data is always separated from your name and personal information. So your identity is always kept strictly confidential. From our advertisers. From our employees. From everybody." Regarding Internet access, NetZero says, "What do you pay for your Internet service? $19.95 a month? $17.95? A little less? More? Whatever you're paying, we don't think you should have to. That's why NetZero gives it all to you for free! No monthly charges. No sign up fees. No e-mail fees. Every month, you pay NOTHING! Zero. Zip. Nada. The big goose egg."
Nettaxi is a good example of a Web site provider. They were listed number 17 on the "100 Hot Sites" list of the Web's most popular sites. With a million visits or more a day, they have been continuously growing. In fact, they are in the phase of getting a third round of financing this month. The 17th most-visited site on the Web, Nettaxi provides a disk to help you get started. They also offer free software on a CD (that you can order), called "Internet the City," to give you a guided tour through the Internet. In addition, they offer a free personal Web site with up to three megabytes of space available.
Joining Talk City gives you a free 12-megabyte home page, a permanent chat nickname, and membership in the "friendliest online community in the world." They maintain that the personal information you provide is confidential and is not included on your home page or chat profile. To understand what they do, check out the Talk Citizens at the site, and find out who uses it and why.
As with most free sites, WhoWhere? has a few rules they would like you to live by. If you have 60 days of no activity the site will be removed. Also included are several no's: "…no nudity, no sex, no pornography, no foul language, no hate propaganda, no anything illegal, no mail fraud or pyramid schemes…" If these rules bother you, most likely you will have a problem as most of these free sites have a set of no's as large or larger. As in all civilizations, you will be required to act civilized. In order to get your WhoWhere? home page, you must first have a MailCity free Web-based email account. MailCity allows you to access your email from any computer with a Web browser, and every MailCity account comes with a free WhoWhere? home page. Once you have a MailCity account, you can use your MailCity user name and password to log in to WhoWhere? Pages. Many of the free sites give you an email account these days, which is no problem as long as it is a POP3 mail account because you can download all of them at the same time remotely in most "real" mail programs. A Web-based email account does have the advantage of allowing you to check it at work without having your manager review what your spouse/significant other is lecturing you about.
GURL Pages is an interesting site that offers 5MB free space for your home page. The standard rules apply, as with most others. One of the features of this site is what they advertise as "the easiest Web page creator on the Internet, as well as a variety of graphics, sounds and utilities to make your page uniquely your own."
Offering home pages of up to five megabytes, FreeTown is one of the fast growing online communities. Since the recent opening of the FreeTown Neighborhoods, they claim "over 150,000 people have created their free personal Home Pages in FreeTown." They also offer free chat rooms. FreeTown has a chat community with over three million hits a day from people all over the world. According to the FreeTown site, "FreeTown is a recipient of the Starting Point Hot Site award, Windows Magazine's Readers Choice Award and the prestigious WebCrawler Outstanding Site Award, and has recently been in the national news for its recent Chat Marathons which were held for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity and Just Say No International."
* Free for life
* No banners other than the ones they put on a page
* No commercial pages promoting or describing any kind of business
* Your email address should be posted on your pages
* Wizard for building pages
* Page manager
* Graphics Library
* Web site counters to track your visitors
* Email order forms
* Email-on-demand (autoresponders)
* Email tech support
* 15-megabyte home page with full permissions under your own name
* Your own email name
* 5MB Web page
* Web email account
* Can grow into paid-per-month account with 100 MB for $8.25
* You must have a valid email on your page or it will be removed
* Build with FrontPage
* In business since 1995
* One of the big guys on the Web
The following is a list of downloadable, easy-to-use HTML editors listed on the Nettaxi site:
Netscape Composer is the component of Netscape Communicator used for making, editing and publishing (uploading) your Web pages to the Internet.
HotDog (by Sausage Software)
HotDog allows you to create anything you see on the Web with minimal effort. It has all the power of the latest Web technologies, and the code is always available for you to learn the ropes along the way. Even though HotDog is tremendously powerful and feature-rich, the program is extremely user-friendly, thanks to superb built-in help files, detailed tutorials and an intuitive interface. HotDog is the most popular HTML Editor on the Internet for one simple reason, we don't have any standards to push. Our sites look great in both browsers.
HTMLed is a powerful, shareware HTML editor. It includes Table and Form editors, testing using Netscape and Internet Explorer, a Homepage Builder and many more features. HTMLed, like all of our tools, is highly customizable -- with an editable right mouse button menu, custom buttons and custom tool menu.
HTMLed Pro is a superset of HTMLed. It offers such advanced features as a spell checker, Frame Designer, Image Map Editor, Import RTF Capability, Open and Save to Remote site capability and Table and Form preview.
Carouselle is our top-of-the-line product. It boasts HTMLed Pro's feature set, adding a document manager and tabbed editing window. As well, it offers the user a choice between WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing environment and a standard tag based one -- allowing you to switch between them in the same session!
Web Page Creator
Web Page Creator is an easy-to-use, fast, cheap, and reliable HTML editor, with an incredibly small file size. Web Page Creator's icon-driven point-and-click interface, with the combination of WYSIWYG and plain HTML editing is difficult to match when its registration fee is just $20 (New Zealand).