Truly free domain name sources: A rarity
A quick google search for "free domain name" quickly reveals that a lot of hosting sites will offer free domain names with hosting subscriptions. Some of these services require you to host your servers with them and pay a hosting fee in order to get the "free" domain name. Others will offer you subdomains rather than domains. Thus you either do not have full access to the backend server or get locked in with the hosting provider to get your "free" domain name.
A domain name is simply an alias or nickname for the IP that your website is hosted at. You could also simply type your IP into the address bar and your website will show up. However, for psychological and branding reasons you often would like to have a natural-looking nickname (domain name) to spread your website around.
In such cases, it is much more apt to pay for a domain name separately and choose your hosting provider separately to maximize the freedom with which you operate your servers and domains while minimizing the cost. However, for small personal projects, the domain and hosting costs add up quickly to a point that hobbyists and casual users may not be willing to pay. In such cases, getting a domain name for free (without compromising on the server hosting costs and freedoms) is quite a boon.
freenom.com is one of the rare service providers that allows you to register a domain for absolutely no cost (no hidden costs either). The downside is that you will be limited to using somewhat obscure domain extensions like ".ga" or ".cf" instead of the usual ".com" or other preferred extensions. Another downside is that you may not always be able to get the domain name you want for free as it may be unavailable and you need to be flexible with the name choice.
This is however not a problem if you are simply using the domain for one of your personal projects and you don't mind using the available domain extension for your website. If you are too fidgety about your branding and want a ".com" at the end, you can always upgrade and move the site to a paid domain name later when your site is no longer just a personal project.
The user interface is quite intuitive for freenom.com and I will let you head over to their site and figure it out. The registered domain can also be configured with freenom's DNS service (again, at no cost) to point to the IP of your website. According to freenom, it is the world's first and only free domain name provider and its goal is to help countries develop their digital economies. Freenom most likely makes its money by selling other non-free domain names and organizing registrar competency training (It is not clear if freenom is a non-profit or not). It is to be noted however that freenom also sells many domain names at cost.
Note that this is not a sponsored post for freenom or any other entity. Nor is the author in any way associated with freenom. The only purpose of this post was to highlight a useful resource for small-scale businesses and developers. If you find any other truly free domain name registrars like freenom, let us know in the comments below! Happy coding!
While you are registering the domain (or after you have done so), you can choose to associate your domain to your IP address using either the DNS service from freenom or any other external DNS service. Once the DNS is setup you can add the domain name to your server configuration and use it to serve your website. See our blog post to see how the domain name can be configured in Nginx to serve the correct website (note that more than one website could be served from the same IP, but with different domain names being directed to different websites by Nginx).