European web hosting and domain name registration company 1&1 Internet has launched in the US, and is offering a free, three-year web hosting service to any customer that signs up between now and 14 January.
The service would normally cost $29 per month, said Sebastian Moser, director of technical development for 1&1 Internet.
"The idea behind this whole thing is to get the word of mouth around to influence the decision-makers when it comes to deciding which web hosting company to choose when we offer our whole portfolio," he said.
More than 4,000 companies have signed up so far.
The Linux-based shared hosting service features 500MBytes of web space, 5,000MBytes per month of traffic, 12,000Mbit connectivity, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, no limits on simultaneous hits/bandwidth and firewall protection.
1&1 Internet, the largest web-hosting provider in Europe, is coming to the US because it sees it as a more fragmented market, and thinks it can use its best practices in engineering and web hosting in the US market, said Joshua Beil, an analyst at Tier 1 Research.
"They're basically giving away a $29 a month hosting package for free for the next three years to anybody that signs up. So the days of web hosting and the internet being free are not dead just yet."
Helen Chan, an analyst at The Yankee Group, said 1&1 Internet is being very aggressive in the market. She added that other web hosting companies might offer a free 30-day promotion, but never for three years.
The move into the US web hosting market comes at a time when other companies have either pulled out or have revamped their operations.
In June, Sprint said it would lay off 500 workers and end its web hosting business.
Cable & Wireless also announced it was leaving the US web hosting and services market. Last month, however, C&W announced a "business-ready" hosting service designed to shore up its customer base for potential buyers of the company.
Linda Rosencrance writes for Computerworld