Launched in 1999, FC2 is a pretty popular blogging host from Japan and currently ranked as the third most popular video hosting service in its homeland. From January 2018, it gained status for being the 11th most popular website in all of Japan. The company is supposedly run by brothers Takahiro (Rihiro and Takahashi) and headquartered in Amstelveen (the Netherlands), where it employs around twenty full-time staff members and about thirty part-time ones. However, a 2016 survey done by Nielsen (a global marketing research company) shows a significant drop in the number of users, resulting in a fall from the third to the eighth place in Japan.
Controversy has followed FC2 through the years, primarily for allowing hosting without putting any restrictions on the content including pornography, piracy and defamation. Fortunately, from 2012 onwards stricter rules have been enforced and the changes in Japanese law regarding the foreign entities operating in Japan have helped the injured parties seek justice.
For those growing up in the early 2000s, FC2’s main website may feel like a walk down the memory lane with its old-school style and somewhat puzzling user experience. Everything seems straightforward at the beginning, but soon enough you might feel like being lost in a maze, faced with dead ends and some pages popping up in Japanese just to confuse you even further.
FC2’s blogging site is much more modern than its website page (Image credit: FC2)
Besides English and Japanese, FC2’s website is available in eleven additional languages, although the translation doesn’t appear to be total in some parts. If you click on “Blog” (next to a cute rubber duck), you’ll proceed to FC2 BLOG’s website which is more modern, easier to use and available in all the same languages.
The “About” section of FC2’s website provides a brief overview of FC2’s history that ends in 2013 and fails to mention anything about their servers or data center locations.
Plans and pricing
Although there is truth in the words that you get what you pay for, since FC2 provides services that are completely free of charge, we’ll have to judge them by other means. With FC2 there aren’t multiple web hosting plans to choose from, but rather one plan to rule them all for those looking for a way to create their dream blog without lightening their wallets.
As one would expect, this plan doesn’t provide much, but it does include up to 1GB of web space, one subdomain, unlimited bandwidth, a file manager and editor, support for Java and Flash file types as well for CGI, PHP and SSI. Besides shared hosting, FC2 provides its own website builder, which is (again) absolutely free.
Despite the fact that FC2’s services are free, you can make some pocket money by allowing ads on your blog, although (as of late) you can decide not to allow any advertisements on it.
You’ll have to register with FC2 before you begin writing a blog or building a website (Image credit: FC2)
Ease of use
This is the FC2 dashboard where you’ll manage all of your services (Image credit: FC2)
In a matter of minutes you’ll get another email form FC2 and proceed to their dashboard where you can add some of the free services they provide besides web hosting. These include FC2 Blog (where you’ll find a website builder), FC2 Video (video hosting), FC2 Live, FC2 Analyzer, FC2 Content Market and the list goes on. These and all other aspects of your website can be monitored and managed from your dashboard.
If you would rather use a website builder to create content for your new website, FC2 will provide you with one together with 5000 colorful templates, a photo album feature and an ability to create pay-to-view content. If you already have a blog, you can transfer it from a broad range of sites (WordPress included) to FC2.
If you are wondering about the ads, apart from “Powered by FC2”credited at the bottom end of each page, you won’t be seeing any, unless you chose to add them to make extra money along the way.
We used GTmetrix to measure the uptime and response time of our FC2 site (Image credit: GTmetrix)
Speed and experience
Even though FC2 makes no promises when it comes to speed or performance, after testing their main website we were blown away by the results we received. The latest performance report by GTmetrix (which is our tool of choice) shows first-grade performance of an A (100%), with all of the vital metrics dramatically above the average values. The time it took to fully load the page amounted to 1.5 seconds which looks even better when compared with the average result of 8.2 seconds.
Since FC2 offers no uptime guarantee, we didn’t expect much when we decided to monitor the uptime of their main website via UptimeRobot. One month later we got a report indicating a spotless uptime of 100%. During this period we failed to record any downtime at all and response time, although not ideally fast, was fairly stable. All in all, it appears that neither speed nor uptime should be on your “worry list” when hosting with FC2.
You can find answers to some common questions in FC2’s Website Manual (Image credit: FC2)
Having dedicated customer support is definitely not something FC2 can brag about which is understandable considering that their services come at no cost. Since direct channels of support (such as telephone number or live chat) are not an option, you’ll have to find your way using some of the self-help alternatives. The most obvious one is FC2’s “Website Manual” which contains several novice-friendly guides summarizing basic knowledge on how to create your first website. This section functions as the knowledgbase comprising of 26 articles at the time of writing.
A FAQ section is available as well and it features separate sections on various issues (such as registration, file manager, FTP, images, files and so forth) covering most of the essential questions and concerns. There is a comment section at the bottom of the page, however, since some comments have been pending an approval from 2017, we wouldn’t waste our time on that.
A good alternative to FC2 for those who are looking for free hosting is FreeHostingNoAds, an experienced host with a name that sums it all up. For a free service, FreeHostingNoAds earns a credit for providing a decent range of features (free domain registration, auto-installs for WordPress, Joomla and the CMS Grav, and a simple website builder). However, the bandwidth is limited to 5GB (while with FC2 it’s unlimited), disc space to 1GB (same as with FC2) and the upload file limit is a mere 15MB (it’s 250 KB with FC2), so if you want anything more than a very simple website, look elsewhere.
Infinity Free is considered to be one of the best providers of free hosting and for good reasons. It puts no restrictions on storage space and the number of monthly visits and subdomains. However, in terms of speed and uptime performance, FC2 wins the prize by a long shot. At any rate, since both services are entirely free, you have nothing to lose but your time.
Although HostGator doesn’t offer free hosting in itself, with their generous 45-days money-back guarantee you are free to try out what they have to offer without worrying about your budget. In addition to this, HostGator is very user-friendly (especially towards beginners), while FC2 users are primarily left to fend for themselves.
Another good beginner-friendly choice is Bluehost which (much like HostGator) doesn’t offer free hosting but still provides user-friendly experience with 24/7 customer support, a myriad of options and features, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. FC2, although quite suitable for those who are just learning how to build their online presence, won’t give your website much space to grow and prosper.
As a rule, free web hosting comes with a certain number of limitations. Such is the case with FC2, although they can supply everything that is essential for a personal blog, and a website builder with which you can build your website without much hassle. It is even possible to earn a bit of cash on the side, that is, if you don’t have an aversion to ads.
With all that said, if you are a first-timer who wants a helping hand, or a veteran webmaster wanting more than an absolute minimum, you’ll be better off choosing HostGator or Bluehost as your hosting provider. Their services don’t come free-of-charge, but will provide you with much more.
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