I just saw this question: https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/1718/looking-for-hosting-for-laravel

It's asking for a hosting recommendation. Are these on topic here?

12 Answers 12

We need to clearly draw a line between

Which (company|provider|X) offers hosting for Z?

which (as everybody here already correctly stated, so I skip the reasoning) should be 100% off topic here, and

Application to (self-)host Z

which clearly is asking for software. To give a clearer example of the second, consider this user-case:

In our company, we deal with sensitive data. Our offices are spread across the (town|country|A), and data needs to be available in each of them. What software would allow us to build an own cloud, matching the following criteria: ...

Clearly on-topic, and valid answers would probably include ownCloud – a software package which can be installed on your own hardware, and configured to your needs.

TL;DR

  • Asking for a hosting provider: off topic.
  • Asking for software to create your own "hosting service": on topic.
  • 2
    This is making more sense. This would make Github out of scope ... except in the sense of discussing the Github software codebase as a platform that you can install on your kit. – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 17:56

Maybe.

Web apps are on topic. What this means is that if you are looking for a solution to a particular task, you can ask about web apps as a solution.

Here's the dilemma. Web apps inherently include hosting data as part of the app. If they didn't, there would be no point to using a web app.

So whether or not a particular question is on topic or not really depends on the context and the quality of the question.

We want to recommend and evaluate software, but not services.

Let's look at WordPress.com as an example. Is it a webapp, a website, or a hosting service? It's really all three. We can't declare WordPress.com officially on- or off-topic in all cases.

These questions would not be on-topic:

  • Which blog hosting service is the most reliable?
  • Which blog hosting service has the best community?

However, this question could be on-topic:

Website web app with blog and customizable theme

I'm looking for a web app that will allow me to set up a website. I need the following features:

  • Blog capability with dated posts and comments
  • Customizable look with pre-designed templates to choose from
  • Doesn't require separate hosting
  • Gratis, ads are okay
  • Integrates with twitter
  • Easy to use without knowing HTML

WordPress.com would certainly be a potential answer to that question.

GitHub has a similar situation. We don't want questions that ask us to recommend a reliable code hosting service, but if a well-written question comes along looking for a version control solution with specific features, and GitHub happens to fit the bill, it should be on-topic.

  • By your definition, would Github-like collaboration platform have been off topic? – DanteTheEgregore Feb 26 '14 at 18:49
  • @DanteTheEgregore I would say that it is on-topic. It got marked as duplicate, and in my opinion it is almost a complete duplicate, with the only exception being that the recent question is open to private repos on a hosted solution, and the original question is specifically limited to self-hosted solutions. – Ben Miller Feb 26 '14 at 18:58

No, questions like that are not looking for software, but services using and/or supporting software. I don't think it fits our site any better than recommendations for catering services. As such, I think services are outside of our scope.

No

To summarize what everyone else has been saying, web hosting is a service, not a form of software. This does not necessarily mean that all services are off topic though. As Franck Dernoncourt pointed out, web service recommendations such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Github are on topic. This is because these services are web applications.

What is a web application? As defined by Wikipedia:

A web application or web app is any application software that runs in a web browser or is created in a browser-supported programming language (such as the combination of JavaScript, HTML and CSS) and relies on a common web browser to render the application.

The problem here is that a web hosting service does not provide any clearly definable software and is, instead, merely a service used to host your own website. Thus, it is not on topic or within the scope of our site.

  • 3
    This is nonsense. Github, Dropbox, etc are not just the stuff that run in your web browser. If they were, they would be useless. In reality they are a network of services ... with a web front end. 2) Likewise, a web hosting service also is a network of services with a web front end. (Name me one popular web hosting service that does NOT allow you to manage aspects of your hosted system using a web browser.) – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 17:54
  • @StephenC Once again, a set of software is provided, but there isn't one clearly definable web app. What you're purchasing is a service from a provider. This is not itself a web app and is thus not on topic. This is the same as asking for a ISP, cellphone, VPN, insurance, or other service recommendation. They may provide you with certain tools, but those are part of a larger service that you are purchasing as a whole. – DanteTheEgregore Feb 26 '14 at 17:58
  • Github is NOT (just) a clearly definable webapp either. It is a whole lot more. On that basis, why is it on-topic? For example, if someone asks for a recommendation of Github versus Bitbucket, in terms of normal usability criteria, is that on-topic? Like I said in my answer, this webapp versus service distinction is really about what labels you choose to apply to the respective things. And that choice is subjective. – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 18:09
  • Like I said in my Answer, I don't have an opinion ... apart from saying that your on/off-topic criteria need to be sound, and properly explained. – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 18:11

No, they are not on topic. Hosting is a service. Hosting is not software. Even though you can get some software thrown in with the hosting.

If you were to include hosting in the scope, why stop there, why not include software development services recommendations, web design recommendations or any other kind of service.

I think that software used in the context of web hosting is appropriate.

  • 1
    But meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/44/… says web service recommendations are on-topic. – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 26 '14 at 16:54
  • I think that's slightly different, I guess it's all about definition. Is web hosting defined as software? No. Is a web service defined as software... it kind of is, though I tend to think of web services as software components. You make a good point – user500 Feb 26 '14 at 16:56
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    @FranckDernoncourt The main difference (for me) is that most web services have some sort of desktop/mobile applications, while hosting services just provide a place for your web files. – 3ventic Feb 26 '14 at 16:58
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    Sure I just wanted to point out that being a service is not a justification for being off topic. – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 26 '14 at 17:03
  • I think that being a service is indeed a justification for being off topic, in all cases except web services,web service="software that is exposed over http". you try to say that hosting is the same thing, but it isn't, there is a clear difference between web services and web hosting. Think of it this way, if the site was a car recommendation site instead of a software recommendation site, would it be on topic to ask a question for garage recommendations? Asking for hosting recommendation on a software recommendation site is like asking for garage recommendations on a car recommendations site. – user500 Feb 26 '14 at 17:12
  • So what if I ask for a recommendation of Github versus Bitbucket? – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 18:17
  • @StephenC That happened earlier today. Questions comparing X vs. Y are off topic, but a question asking for a Github alternative was posted. Of course, it was closed as a duplicate. Another valid web app example would be this question asking for a free online storage solution such as Google Drive or Dropbox with minimum 15gb storage for a free account. – DanteTheEgregore Feb 26 '14 at 18:41
  • @DanteTheEgregore - The Dropbox alternative question is clearly about cloud storage as a service not alternative webapps. This neatly illustrates >>my<< point ... that your "webapp versus service" distinction cannot be objectively applied. It is actually just a post-hoc rationalization ... – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 22:54
  • @StephenC with regards to asking for a recommendation of github vs bitbucket, I think you should ask that on the web applicaitons stack exchange site webapps.stackexchange.com though you might also want to check on the meta site if it's appropriate or not. if you ask me, i'd say that webapps.se is a more appropriate place to ask about things like bitbucket, github and dropbox. chat is also a good place to ask about things that might not fit into the criteria of a particular site – user500 Feb 26 '14 at 23:03
  • @StephenC also for web hosting in particular, i think that the web masters stack exchange site webmasters.stackexchange.com might be a place to have a look at, though you should check the meta site for appropriateness before posting a question, also in the chat room for that site, there are likely to be people with first hand experience of different hosting options who you can talk to about your needs – user500 Feb 26 '14 at 23:16
  • @Alex - Whether there are other places to ask is actually not pertinent to the issue under discussion. But I don't think either of those examples would be good places for those questions because of the general StackExchange "not a recommendation site" policy. Note that that policy explicitly does not apply here ... – Stephen C Feb 27 '14 at 7:40
  • @StephenC must we explicitly define the meaning of "recommendation" and the meaning of "software" and how they relate to each other, to make it clear that things which are not software do not meet the criteria for a software recommendation? web hosting is not software, if one knows what web hosting is and one knows what software is, then that should be clear enough, there seems to be some confusion about the difference between web hosting and web applications, there also seems to be some confusion about the difference between web hosting and web services – user500 Feb 27 '14 at 22:13
  • just because the "not a recommendation site" policy is not in place it should certainly not mean "recommend anything that's related to software in some way". – user500 Feb 27 '14 at 22:13
  • @Alex - That is a strawman argument. – Stephen C Feb 27 '14 at 22:27
  • @StephenC "web hosting is not software" is a straw man? please explain, i dont understand – user500 Feb 27 '14 at 23:20

I wouldn´t use that question for references:

haven't got a clue if a web hosting is okay to use or best to get VPS?

This simple sentence has two problems... OP doesn´t even know what is the problem to solve, and it invites people to share subjective opinions rather than facts. An answer to that question would be:

Use X because they are great and never failed to me. It will solve all your problems.

That is a valid but bad answer. It answers OP question it doesn´t tell me how or why it does.

Now, strictly speaking, no, we are not hosting/service recommendations but software recommendations. Hosting providers are outside the scope of the site.

No

Hosting recommendations are more about recommending a service than recommending software, and therefore fall outside of our scope.

  • 1
    But where do you draw the line? What about things that are both software AND service, and that are clearly relevant to people doing programming jobs. – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 22:57
  • 1
    The line is drawn at "is it a software recommendation?" – Flyk Feb 26 '14 at 23:30

No, because these are overwhelmingly shopping recommendations.

The kind of recommendations we host there have characteristics which give them value beyond the asker. They define a problem to be solved, and call for answers that are solutions to this problem. Anyone else with the same problem is likely to find the advice given in solutions relevant. Although software can become unavailable and prices can vary, such events are relatively rare.

On the other hand, a request for a pure hosting service is extremely sensitive to price. Prices vary based significantly in time, based on geographical location, and based on the precise amount of data or computation that is performed. Recommendations on hosting alone can very rarely be expected to have lasting value.

This is the same argument raised against hardware recommendations, only to a far worse degree.

While any recommendation for a service provider suffers from the same defect, the degree is significantly less as the field is much reduced and the differentiation between actors is greater. Hosting provider A provides substantially the same services as hosting provider PPPP, whereas software-as-a-service provider A provides substantially different services from software-as-a-service provider C.

We may need to see more examples to draw the line.

  • From this site's guidelines: "While we discussed the topic of a site for software recommendations, we had to take some time to identify our chief concerns with recommendation & shopping type questions. The number one problem that we agreed upon was pretty simple: They tend to overrun a site. This entire site is dedicated to this type of question, so this is obviously a moot concern.". – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 18:24
  • 1
    Your point about price-based recommendation is valid ... but that applies across the board to all software-related recommendations. Unless you propose to limit this site to free software. – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 18:28
  • Not to forget that there are also hosting providers that offer their service for free. – unor Mar 5 '14 at 12:32

Sort of, but only in so far as they are looking for a platform recommendation not a service provider.

If you are looking for a place to do x (host X Gb data via http and ftp) then no. If you have a user story and are trying to settle on a platform then we can probably cover the platform part. Is some cases the platform will also be a service that will naturally lead to a provider.

As consensus seems to have been reached, I post this as CW so we can explain the rationales for our choice and give examples.

Hosting isn't fine

As a general rule, we do not accept hosting questions. We do accept hosting-related questions, ie questions about software interacting with a hosting service. Of course, we understand hosting isn't a self-evident notion. Please see the examples below if you need to be clear on what is regarded as hosting here on SR.

What exactly is "hosting"

It has been previously decided that we will accept webapps as answers. You cannot ask for a hosting provider, even indirectly. Questions that specify which webapp they want hosted somewhere are clearly off-topic. Questions that are about a service providing some information are not OK either, except if they're asking for a way to access that service. Faking the system asking for "a webpage that questions a given database for such and such info" are not fine either, as you could have guessed yourself.

For further reference, also see the Wikipedia article on "Internet Hosting Service".

Example of questions closed as "hosting questions", and rationale for closure

Looking for hosting for Laravel

Our "opening question" for this Meta page. No explanation needed: hosting for my laravel website is clearly asking for a hosting service, and not any kind of software.

Free image upload, with direct links and no advertisement

This was not an easy one to close, as it's well redacted. Nevertheless:

  • it's not asking for either a program, app, or web-app
  • it's asking for image hosting → Hosting

Social based github site, for art, projects, creation

  • explicitly asking for a web based hosting service
  • the "software" part doesn't need an answer, as the OP already has decided upon (git, Github)

eCommerce Payment Gateway with no percentage transaction fee?

Asking for a service, not for the software: looking at payment gateway and eCommerce services

Free web service for consumer drug information

Not asking for any kind of software, not even web-app or API – rather for a service providing the wanted information.

Website for file sharing and easy command line access

OP is looking for the hosting service again, the software part is already decided (wget). The "other way around" it would have been on-topic (looking for the command-line tools to exchange the files, with "wget" being on of the possible answers).

Webservice that will run scripts 24/7

Though it might look like belonging into the next section (border-line: "Is it web-app or hosting?"), OP clearly wants his own scripts/web-apps being hosted, hence it's a "hosting question".

Payment service

OP is looking for a company dealing with his sites payment stuff ("what I'm looking for is a payment service". While some API might kick in eventually, the question's current main purpose is to find a service provider handling payment stuff in the specific way described – which clearly goes beyond the scrope of this site.

Hard-to-decide / unclear examples (aka "border-line?")

Items like the following might make a closer discussion necessary, dealing with where exactly the border is between "clearly hosting-related" and "a web-app implying hosting". Bens answer partly covers this, but we still have no "clear line" yet.

Online photo SHARING APP to show my album pictures on map based on EXIF GPS data

Originally explicitly asking for a service, it's no longer clear to me whether this one could not be seen as "web-app" request. It's obviously a mix of both, as it requires the images to be "hosted" on the given site.

I have no opinion on this. But I would like to point out that the most of the opinions in other Answers are at odds with what is said here: Are web service recommendations off-topic?

If you want to make a distinction between

  • hosting service recommendations - off-topic

and

  • web service recommendations - on-topic

then there need to be a COHERENT explanation of where you draw the line and why.

Saying that Github and Dropbox are "applications" or "webapps" is circular logic. Github is BOTH an application AND a service, and in reality web hosting services are likewise BOTH applications AND services.

So that distinction boils down to an arbitrary assignment of vaguely defined labels.

  • 1
    Please see my answer for differentiation between a service and a web app. A web hosting service lacks any clearly definable piece of software and is thus outside the scope of our site. – DanteTheEgregore Feb 26 '14 at 17:39
  • @DanteTheEgregore - But GitHub is not just a webapp. In fact it is a network of webapps, and backend services including massive databases, file services, networking and so on. And a web hosting service DOES have a clearly definable set of software ... that implements the services that you (the customer) sees when you use their service. Once again, you are trying to argue a distinction that does not really exist. – Stephen C Feb 26 '14 at 17:46

I will just chime in. It is completely acceptable that recommendations for services be outside scope, as services in general are broad and are susceptible to subjective opinion.

However, for extremely narrow cases, where there may be precisely one solution, or cases where a web service replaces a desktop application, does it not seem against the spirit to not answer them?

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