Expired Domains? How To Approach The Problem of Expiring Domain Names
by Kevin Sullivan
All of a sudden, you're getting phone calls. When someone types in your web address, they're going to a web site other than yours. It may even be an adult website now...
This is not a nightmare - it's reality. It happens every day. As a consultant for ItsYourDomain.com, I've noticed a lot of people calling in to complain that someone has "stolen" their domain name. Click here
A little research turns up the fact that the current owner of the domain name did nothing wrong. The domain was available for registration because the former owner forgot to renew it, and the domain name had been deleted from the central database - meaning anyone can register the domain.
Unless your domain name is a registered trademark and/or the other party registered it in bad faith with the intent of selling the domain back to you at a profit, you stand little chance of regaining your domain name. The new owners might sell the domain name back to you, but then again, they might not...
What exactly happens when a domain name expires?
Why do some names get taken out of the database immediately while other domain names remain there for months?
Back in the "bad ole days" of the Internet, when someone registered a domain name, they only had one registrar they could go to - Network Solutions. After a few years of such a monopoly, there came to be a number of registrars, each with their own policies and pricing structures.
When someone registers a domain name today, it doesn't matter which registrar they go through. Once the domain name is registered, it is included in the central domain database that you access using any whois tool. Each registrar accesses the central database so folks don't look up a domain such as "Microsoft.com" using whois and see it come back as being "available" when it was actually registered by another registrar.
Although they share information from each others' domain databases, each registrar's policies concerning expired domains are different. One registrar may give the owner of a domain name up to 45 days after the domain has expired to renew it, while others don't provide any grace period. Network Solutions even allows the domain to stay in their database for months - even years - before they take the time to delete it.
Expired Domain Names - the new system
For a while, Network Solutions wasn't releasing many dropped domains, and other registrars hadn't been in business long enough to have any dropped domain names, so there weren't as many expired domains to choose from.
Recently, however, Network Solutions began dropping the domain names on a more regular basis, and other registrars have passed their initial registration period (as the minimum registration period is a year).
That means that many good domain names are being released each day. Another reason for an increased number of dropped domains is because the domain name industry, much like other Internet businesses, took a big hit from the economy. Big money domains are not selling as often as they did in the past, and like the stock market, the domain name industry had to be "adjusted" to reflect a more accurate valuation.
This means that a lot of domain name speculators are releasing their coveted domains instead of renewing them, so these domain names are now available to be registered.
Since each registrar's expiration policies are different, you must approach the problem of expiring domains in several ways. You should:
* try to view your domain names' whois records at least once a month to verify their accuracy, contact information, etc.
* make sure your domain contacts' email addresses are valid and working
* consider registering your domain names for five or more years, so the maintenance fee won't come up each year
One last thing you can do is to register all of your domain names - or transfer your domains - to one registrar, preferably one with a publicly stated expiration policy as well as a domain management system, which allows you to keep track of your domain names and their expiration dates. I recommend this policy above all others.
What about services that send subscribers a weekly list of recently dropped domain names? The service is popular because of the notion that previously registered domains are likely to be more valuable - they may already be getting traffic volume.
I have also heard of programmers who scour the lists with bots that determine a domain name's potential value. With variables such as length of the domain, key words that might promote goods or services, recent traffic patterns for the domain, etc., these bots auto-register any domain names they feel might have some value.
Therefore, if you are the slightest bit negligent about renewing your domain(s), you stand a good chance of losing them forever.
Make sure this doesn't happen to you. Stay on top of your domain names. Register your names, renew them early, and renew them often...
Kevin Sullivan has been a technical support and customer service consultant for ItsYourDomain.com for 4 years. ItsYourDomain.com, through DomainsNow4U.com, offers an unparalleled domain name online renewal management system for your convenience.
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