Of all the WordPress hosting companies that I’ve tested, I have yet to come across one that could potentially challenge Automattic for the WP crown–until now.
Going by the name of I Control My Site, this company has the potential of challenging Automattic by offering users more freedom with their WordPress blogs at the low cost of free (note: this only applies to their Lite plan).
Publicly unveiled in August of 2010, I Control My Site presents users with an inexpensive alternative to WordPress.com that is in many ways similar to Automattic due to its custom admin interface as well as its “social” UI that allows one to send a “friend request” to users within the community.
While I Control My Site does offer users the ability to upgrade their accounts in order to take advantage of extra features (such as email, FTP, more space, etc.), users who enjoy blogging under a sub domain for free may want to check out I Control My Site before making any commitments to WP.com.
First Blood: Space Wars
Currently I Control My Site limits users to 250 mb of space, although the company did hint that this is a “soft limit” and that the owners will increase the amount of space needed by users (if necessary) without charging your credit card.
However if you’re in need of a large amount of space, I Control My Site will kindly ask you to upgrade to the pro plan (as there is only so much they can offers the masses without charging users a dime.
WordPress.com: 1, I Control My Site: 0
Media Killed The Blogging Star
Unlike WordPress.com which requires that you purchase a $20 space upgrade for the privilage of uploading audio to your blog or $60 for video, I Control My Site allows users to upload videos and audio for free (provided that the files are each under 30 mb).
While bloggers should always be wary of uploading raw video directly upon their blog (especially if one is choosing to host upon the cloud), I Control My Site thus far does not have any restrictions for direct video uploads.
Users can also upload audio files as well, although the embedded files are not as nice as WP.com truth be told.
I did encounter a few bugs while uploading specific audio and video files, although the team behind I Control My Site is working on ironing out various file types that do not upload properly.
WordPress.com: 1, I Control My Site: 1
Problogging For Free?
Believe it or not Automattic does allow WordPress.com users to place ads upon their site (via Google AdSense), however that right is only reserved for blogs receiving over 25,000 page views/month.
Worse, users have to split the revenue with Automattic 50/50, which more or less removes the incentive of problogging upon WordPress.com (at least for those of you who see ad revenue as your main source of income).
I Control My Site however allows WP fans to run Adsense (or any other ads) upon their servers without “sharing the wealth,” which means bloggers starting up their own mini-news stands can experiment with different ad networks before deciding to become a problogger.
WordPress.com: 1, I Control My Site: 2
Ruler Of My Domain
Both sites offer WordPress fans the ability to use a custom domain upon their respective sites, with the only difference being that WordPress.com charges users $12/year (plus $5/year for registrations) while I Control My Site requires users to upgrade to a higher plan (costing $20/month or $120/year).
While I Control My Site’s prices are much more expensive than Automattic’s, this is probably the trade off for the company offering several premium features for free (as the geeks there have to eat too!).
WordPress.com: 2, I Control My Site: 2
What About Plugins?
On the basic level, I Control My Site does not allow plugins (at least as far as I could tell), but users who choose to upgrade to their Pro account are granted the ability to install plugins, as well as access their blog’s FTP (which is helpful for those of you seeking to migrate upon their servers).
I Control My Site also provides users with several hand picked plugins, although users are free to utilize their own plugins (on the Pro plan) which can help WP customize their sites even further.
WordPress.com: 2, I Control My Site: 3
Uh Oh: Business Concerns
The only thing that makes me nervous about I Control My Site is their lack of bandwidth restrictions, as unlimited bandwidth is more of a myth in the blogosphere (with the only exceptions being companies backed by millions of dollars in funding or venture capital).
Although their pro package is competitive against many of their WP only hosting rivals, their premium plan (which features a dedicated server and costs $200/month) seems to be “underpriced,” especially when compared against rivals like HostCo and WPWebHost (whose “comparable” plans are $300/month and $279/month, respectively).
While I’m for cheaper prices for quality service (as that leaves more money in my pocket), hopefully the geeks at I Control My Site are not undercutting themselves in order to make a sale (as everyone has to eat too).
Should I Use I Control My Site?
If you are the type of blogger who wants to merely “test the WordPress waters” of problogging (minus the risk), then I Control My Site is probably a wiser alternative than WP.com (at least when comparing basic features).
I Control My Site does provide automatic updates for WordPress plugins as well as WP core files (a must have feature in my honest opinion for security reasons), as well as daily backups of your blog upon their servers.
Unfortunately the site does not offer any migration services (as far as I can tell), although truth be told that is quickly becoming irrelevant in the age of VaultPress and other backup solutions (as one can easily FTP everything upon their new server).
Users can test out I Control My Site for free, and for those of you who choose to host with I Control My Site, feel free to share your experiences with the rest of us (especially those of you who choose the premium plan).
Image Credits: Norebbo