Free Joomla hosting was discussed in Joomla community quite often. Unfortunately, unlike WordPress MU, or WordPress 3, there are no good solutions to host multi-Joomlas with one installation, as I know.
This means this can be a great opportunity for new start-ups on free hosting. Of course, it will need considerable cash investment.
Recently, I had a phone chat with the owners of FreeJoomlas.com, which is currently the only free Joomla hosting provider using one installation. But they fail to upgrade to Joomla 1.5, and they have to use Joomla 1.0.8. From the conversion, I learnt:
- The demand for free Joomla hosting is quite strong. The FreeJoomlas.com now has more than 500 signups without any marketing. 90% traffic is from the search engine. The guys did not put much efforts on it after they failed twice to upgrade the system. If some marketing efforts had been in place, they should have got more than 2000 signups. This illustrated how strong the demand is.
- The major obstacle of provide free Joomla hosting is the lack of powerful scripts. The scripts they are using were purchased in 2005, with a lot of bugs. The vendor has disappeared since 2006. So, they have to hire freelancers to patch it and fix the bugs. The way how FreeJoomla.com works is similar to WordPress MU: all Joomlas share a few databases; a configuration directory for each Joomla. But the Joomla is a bit more complicated compared to WordPress. In WordPress 3, you can simply enable network to start host multi-blogs, as explained in a previous post. In Joomla, you have a lot of modules/add-ons to play with. To create the scripts with similar functions as WordPress MU definitely need a lot of work.
- Great opportunity for start-ups with deep pocket. Because there are no leading providers in this market, this is one of the best niche in free hosting industry. However, as I mentioned, considerable investment for the scripts is needed. The guys behind FreeJoomlas.com tried more than 10 different freelancers in last 5 years. Only 2 of them submitted the scripts and cost them more than $10000. But they found both scripts are too buggy and too hard to maintain.
Anyway, I believe this is good niche if you have a deep pocket for free hosting, because of the strong demand and non-exist competition. If I find some scripts for such jobs, I will update this post.