What to look for
Starting out with the wrong platform can make it very difficult to switch later. Consider what you want to achieve with your blog now and in the future. If you hope to add more features over time then you need a platform with flexibility and room to grow. Even if you have no current plans to make money, it’s wise to have the option to do so later. Most free sites allow you to purchase additional options including custom domain name, additional storage, and other services.
WordPress is the most popular free blogging platform. With WordPress.com, you can rapidly create a basic new blog entirely for free. It is considered the best free option for anyone wanting a strong mix of power, customisation and usability, though this requires some learning. If you want to choose another platform, most web hosts provide WordPress as a free single-click install via WordPress.org
Easy to use and manage without any technical skills, Blogger is one of the longest running free blogging platforms on the web and has the added advantage of Google’s robust secure platform and reliability. There are only basic blogging tools and you cannot add new features. Be aware that Google can suspend your blog at any time, or even cancel the Blogger service altogether.
Tumblr is an easy to use micro-blogging platform with social networking features including following other blogs, re-blogging, built-in sharing tools. It favours succinct output, though it is easy to blog videos, GIFs, images and audio formats. The number of features are limited and you cannot extend as your blog grows.
Launched in 2012 by Twitter's founders, this community of writers, bloggers, journalists and experts allows you to focus solely on writing, instead of designing a website. There are limited social networking features and you are very limited in the design or building of your brand. Running adverts is not possible on this blogging platform.
Wix offers an easy way for small businesses to build a website using drag and drop tools and claims to be the only drag-and-drop site building platform with HTML5 capabilities. You can also add a blog to your website by adding the Wix Blog. You get 500MB storage and 1GB bandwidth with a free Wix account that shows shows Wix branding and ads on your site.
Weebly is a hosted platform that allows you to build your website using drag and drop tools. It comes with dozens of ready-to-use themes that you can customize using their web-based interface. Built-in features are limited, and you cannot add new features. There is also limited integration with third party platforms.
Joomla is like WordPress.org, but has a much smaller community. You will need a domain name and web hosting to use it. Joomla is extremely powerful and flexible, though you are responsible for managing your backups, updates, and security.
Launched in 1999 the lines are blurred between blogging and social networking, meaning that communal interaction is encouraged. To get the most out of LiveJournal, you need to be prepared to delve into discussion as much as writing.
Squarespace is a website building service that allows you to create beautiful websites using easy drag and drop tools. It focuses on small business owners who are looking for an easy way to create an online presence. The Personal plan limits you to 20 pages, a blog, and 2 contributors.
Describing itself as a "blogging platform designed to help you think", Svbtle is fairly similar to Medium in approach in that it relies on you wanting something extremely simple and not care about customisation.
Ghost is a minimalist blogging platform with limited features focused on writing blog posts. Ghost is only free if you download and install it yourself, which needs some technology skills, but it's a worthy alternative to WordPress, though with less options.
Yola boasts flexible layouts and no third-party ads. You can only have two sites and three web pages with its free plan, but this includes 1GB of both storage and bandwidth, and your site will not carry third-party ads. Getting started is easy, with dozens of customisable templates to choose from, a straightforward site builder for putting everything together, flexible layouts and drag-and-drop widgets. If you have the skill, you are able to edit your CSS to create a unique style just for your site.
Contentful provides a way to separate your content from your design. It calls this an "API-first" approach, so your content is stored on their servers and you can call it into any design or platform as you like. This means that if you want to build a completely different site years later, it's easy to bring everything in as it is set up to be portable from the start.