Microsoft Pulls the Plug on Free Office Live Domains

domain-micro.jpgChat boards are rumbling and grumbling with the news that Microsoft is going to make customers who signed up for free custom domains with Office Live Small Business start paying $14.95 a year as of Oct. 1. This despite the fact that its site still encourages small business owners to "Get a free web site and more." But few have bothered to ask Microsoft what's up. Turns out it's not quite as sweeping of a change as you might think.

I put in a call to Microsoft PR firm Waggener Edstrom in Portland, Ore., and got some background. Turns out many custom site subscribers already pay the $14.95 fee. It's just customers who signed up before Feb. 12, 2008 who ever got the free custom deal.

Small business owners can still get a free fourth-level domain at Office Live, such as, which is the offer the Office Live site is touting. But if you want Microsoft to host your site, you pay the fee.

In all, under $15 a year for hosting a custom site is still dirt cheap. Many of Microsoft's hosting services are still free. But when you've been promised something free and there's no caveat that it's a limited-time offer, I think the expectation is that it's going to stay free.

What do you think of Microsoft's move?