Hosting a Website for Free, with a Custom Domain, Using Bitbucket

Monday, 25 Jan 2016


It seems there aren’t any good free hostings anymore. (Topic for another time: why doesn’t Google or Dropbox make this easy? After all they are giving us a lot of space and bandwidth already…).

I had an account on 000webhost, which offers quite a lot of features for a free service and with no banners or garbage added to the files. However, it is lacking on the security of its implementations.

When I started to set up the site I was aware that GitHub made possible to serve static pages (which my website consists of) and use a custom domain. The reason why I didn’t use that at first was that I was planning on also getting an email account with my domain, a feature that 000webhosts offers. The problem with that is that I later learned that there is no way to access the email securely: none of the webmail interfaces they offer (you can use three different ones) offer secure access, and neither is the POP3/IMAP access encrypted. The same thing happens with FTP: it doesn’t support encryption. So, realizing that email would be unusable, I decided to get away from 000webhost.

Moving to a repo-based hosting

Before moving the pages to GitHub, I checked if BitBucket offered something similar. It turns out they did offer to serve static pages, but the feature of linking a custom domain to the BitBucket account was discontinued.

However, there is an add-on called Aerobatic that allows you to do the same as GitHub pages, but with the option of leaving your repo as private—an advantage I’ve always liked about the free BitBucket accounts, and that makes the repos usable for things like college assignments.

It was as simple as installing the add-on in my BitBucket account, creating a new repo, and changing the DNS settings in ZoneEdit (another free service).

If you don’t have or don’t want to configure a custom domain, you can use the one provided by Aerobatic: The cool thing about that is that it supports SSL. (If you wanted to have secure access with your custom domain, you have to pay $12/month, a price I believe is expensive, since with that money you could get a real hosting and a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt.)

The service is awesome, it works perfectly and it is fast. From Aerobatic’s description:

CDN, Custom Domains, SSL, API Proxy, HTTP Basic Auth, Custom Error Pages, all included.

Definitely much more reliable than any free hosting site around.

The support is also excellent: the first day, during a weekend, I discovered a bug in the way links worked in custom error pages. I contacted them and in a couple of hours they not only answered me, but they fixed the bug!

TL;DR Summary

  1. Free .cf domain from
  2. Free DNS from ZoneEdit
  3. Free hosting using BitBucket‘s add-on Aerobatic
  4. ???
  5. Profit == your free website