1&1 Offers Free "Test Drive" Accounts

1&1 Internet AG, the world’s largest hosting company, has launched a promotion offering free full-featured web hosting accounts for up to six months. The “Test Drive” features 1&1’s BusinessPro Package, which is its most popular hosting plan and normally costs $9.99 a month. The free trial includes a domain name and participants do not have to submit any credit card information.

The offer is similar to an earlier 1&1 campaign to promote the launch of its U.S. hosting operation, which offered up to three years of unpaid hosting. 1&1 is clearly hoping to convert the free accounts to paid customers, which it presumably has not yet done with the approximately 100,000 accounts it signed up under its U.S. launch promotion. The free hosting offer debuts as many hosting companies are seeking to attract customers with enhanced disk space and bandwidth allowances, rather than price cuts that further erode profit margins.

1&1 hosts more than 2.2 million active sites and 4 million hostnames, with active subsidiaries in the U.K. and America. The German hosting giant gained more sites than any other hosting company in 2004, adding 397K active sites for 21.9 percent growth, according to our Hosting Provider Switching Analysis.

Competitors are starting to specifically target 1&1 customers with innovative marketing campaigns. British hosting firm POBox Hosting used concerns about Google rankings to try and lure 1&1 customers, claiming that UK-only searches at google.co.uk no longer included British customers of 1&1, which are hosted on IP addresses at 1&1's Schlund unit in Germany. However, a UK-only search of google.co.uk for "1and1" turns up the 1&1.co.uk home page, which is housed at Schlund.