1&1 Targets UK Businesses with Free Hosting, Domain

1&1 Internet is offering six months free web hosting and a free .co.uk domain name to any UK small business who signs up before June 30. The huge German host launched a similar promotion in its American subsidiary in January, following on a 2003 offer of three years of free hosting. The freebies have played a role in the rapid growth of 1&1's U.S. operation, which now houses 490,000 hostnames, making it the 16th largest American host.

The company's position in the UK market is harder to gauge, as 1&1 houses many of its British hosting customers on servers in Germany. But the latest offer is bound to get the attention of small businesses, who have been bombarded with giveaways from hosting companies eager to lock in relationships with potential e-commerce customers. Last month Yahoo offered free hosting accounts to every small business in America.

1&1 values the free Test Drive 2005 SME package at 110 pounds (about $209). The German company hosts more than 4.9 million hostnames. "Our work with SMEs has helped to show just how vital a web presence is for small and micro sized businesses," said Andreas Gauger, the CEO of 1&1 Internet. "However, some still shy away from the web, mistakenly believing that they do not have the resources necessary to have a website. The offer is a unique opportunity for SMEs to see the difference that a website can make to their business."