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BT Scrap UK FREE Webspace Web Hosting Service for its ISP Customers

Saturday, July 21st, 2012 (7:41 am) - Score 5,685

BT has shocked customers by announcing the closure of its old personal Web Hosting service “within the next few months … because of [the] increased costs in running it“. The service was typically supplied alongside new dialup and broadband accounts.

The ISP claims that its 50Mb of free web space was only being used by a “few people“, although a quick Google search for several related addresses – “www.btinternet.com/~“, “.btinternet.co.uk” “.users.btopenworld.com” – suggests that “few” could potentially equate to several thousand users.

Like many ISPs BT did a very poor job of communicating the existence of this service to their customers, although that’s only one reason for its decline. Today the internet is peppered with automated website creation services, blog hosting and social networking that allow anybody to setup a presence on the internet without actually needing to know how to run a website.

The writing, as they say, was most certainly on the wall and as a result most ISPs no longer offer webspace (or simply fail to promote the fact that they do). This is one of the many reasons why we have always recommended readers to take a Web Hosting service that is separate from their ISP, which makes it easier to switch provider and often also gives you better features.

BT Web Hosting Closure FAQ

What is the free BT Web Hosting Service?

This was 50Mb of free web space for BT personal customers allowing people to create their own website. It was originally part of the BT Openworld email service in the days before we got together with Yahoo! in 2004. In fact, we haven’t been supporting it since then, although we’ve been happy to let people continue with their websites.

The free BT Web Hosting service is linked to people’s btinternet.com usernames, with a website address taking the form “http://www.btinternet.com/~username”.

Why have you decided to close it?

With only a few people using the service now, and also because of increased costs in running it, we’ve decided to withdraw it to concentrate on other services that will benefit more of our customers.

Does this mean I’ll lose my email services as well?

No. This won’t affect your email services which will continue as normal.

When will the service close?

We’ll be closing it within the next few months. We’ll formally notify you of the exact date, but it’s a good idea to take action now.

Unfortunately affected customers have understandably been none too happy with BT’s move. Mr Coles, a long time user of the service, told ISPreview.co.uk, “It’s quite serious [and] very unfair for a big company to shut it down like this & say it’s costing too much to maintain only 50mb of webspace (mostly personal websites) for their existing customers, it’s a disgrace.”

Indeed some customers have been using the service for almost 10 years, dating right back to the very earliest period of BTinternet / BTYahoo! and BTopenworld. This will have helped them to build up a strong and extremely valuable reputation (SEO) with big search engines like Google. BT advises customers to setup new webspace somewhere else and to put a redirect on their old site, although this will only function until BT completes the service withdrawal and means that years of good reputation will be lost.

It should be said that the free BT Web Hosting service was for personal use only. It was never intended for businesses and anyone using it for such purposes would be in breach of BT’s terms of service.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred says:

    I’m surprised it has carried on so long to be honest. Although very limited I used to use it for my own website when I first started out. But 50mb doesn’t go far. Things have moved on so much since it first appeared there are much better options available.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      Have to agree. It’s not really the cost of maintaining a few servers with some big disk drives, and it’s not really the cost of the connectivity either.

      I’d venture it is the cost of supporting it. Might well be notionally free, but one user can take up hours of a support operative’s time (“why doesn’t my CGI script work properly” and so on) and completely destroy all the potential profit on the whole package.

      And as you say, the market has changed. I can’t quite see why they can’t put a 302 permanently redirected status on those sub-domains for maybe three months though – that would be a nice thing to do and avoids irritating their customers.

      And if the space wasn’t for business use, then business users need not complain about lost profit and ought to be getting themselves some professional hosting anyway.

  2. Avatar Darren says:

    Interesting that they are pointing users towards their paid business hosting. If they are maintaining paid hosting servers setting 50Mb aside for free users propably doesn’t cost much, especially as they claim not many people use it anyway.

    If anyone is using the free webspace it’s probably a good idea to backup and migrate regardless of the closure.. I just checked the apache version used on my BT webspace, it’s 1.3.31, which is over 8 years old, obsolete and full of security holes. One would hope they are keeping their business servers more up to date and secure.

    1. Avatar Deduction says:

      Also interesting they blame increasing costs to run it despite the fact the price of line rental and their internet products has gone up several times in the past few years.

  3. Avatar Dan says:

    I know free webspace was given previously on btconnect/btclick, I’ve not heard about them scraping that & their sister site Plusnet offers 50mb free webspace with no subscription dial-up, which seems contradictory.

  4. Avatar Deduction says:

    I think the more likely reason is they just dont want to support or maintain it anymore.

  5. Avatar Stuart says:

    I took the trouble to snailmail the BT director involved…& received a call from an Indian call centre who knew nothing. Later a UK based customer liaison woman rang but ill informed. I had just renewed for a year & had used the webhosting for years for a community project. There is a free BT webhosting service for community projects but it would take hours to shift a self built site containing photos, diagrams, text, & Excel to their format. Shot yourself in the foot BT upsetting so many? Nought out of ten for forethought.

  6. Avatar Jim says:

    Have you ever tried to find information about the free webspace on BT.com? It’s been nigh on impossible for a few years, which means in all probability the only people still using the free web space have done so for many years and are therefore some of BT’s most loyal customers.

    A nice way to treat them…

  7. Avatar stentifw says:

    Try emailing Mr Warren Buckley on warren.buckley@bt.com who signs these notifications. He says boldly that he has had hardly any complaints!!!!

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