So you have your eye on a domain name, but someone else owns it. Maybe you’ve been watching it for years…maybe it’s your last name, an upgrade for your business, or something that would be really fun to use as an email address. Then one day, you see the good news! It’s finally expired, the owner didn’t renew it, and you can’t wait to buy it. Oh, if only it were that easy. Expired domains go through several stages before they’re available to the public again.
The process for expired domains varies by top-level domain (TLD) — what’s to the right of the dot, such as .com or .net. However, for the sake of this article, we’ll specifically focus on the path for .com. Fortunately, many other TLDs follow the same process, and you’ll get the background info you need to have the best chance at acquiring your new domain name.
Working with expired domains
When a domain name initially expires, the owner receives notification for renewal. They’re also given some leeway to renew post-expiration since expirations aren’t always intentional. For example, let’s say you set a domain name to automatically renew, but your credit card expires. When the automated system goes to renew, it can’t because your payment information isn’t accurate. You’ll be contacted and given some time to rectify the situation.
Registry redemption is at least a 30-day period for expired domains mandated by the company that runs the TLD (like Verisign for .com). During this time, the original owner can redeem (renew) the domain after expiration at an additional cost.
The easiest way to see if a domain name is in redemption is to check the WHOIS database and read “How the WHOIS database helps prioritize and value domain names” on how best to use WHOIS. On the WHOIS, look for a line that says “domain status.”
If the domain name is in redemption, the status will reflect that. The “expiration date” line in the WHOIS can be misleading — it often automatically shows an additional year of registration on expired domains until the last phases of expiration occur. Pay attention to the domain status instead.
Backordering to boost your chances
Post redemption, can I finally register the domain? Not quite.
There’s a five-day status called “pend delete,” which is a temporary hold before the domain name is released back to the public. The original owner can no longer renew, but no one else can register it, either.
Once this period is over, potential buyers who have purchased a backorder will have the opportunity to secure the domain.
If more than one company holds a backorder, the expired domain will go to whichever company’s backorder service was lucky enough to catch the domain when it released.
Think along the lines of a popular concert with tickets going for sale at 10 a.m. You try to buy tickets and are awarded a place in line based on how quickly you clicked your mouse. You were competing against other buyers for that spot. The backorder service does this automatically for you and tries to grab the expired domain.
Coincidentally, if more than one person owns a backorder for the same domain at the same company, then an auction amongst the potential buyers will likely take place. If no one backordered the domain anywhere, then you could register the domain through standard procedure on a website such as GoDaddy. At this point, it’s no different than registering an already-available domain.
Almost all companies who register domains also auction expired domains to the general public. They usually appear some time between the original owner’s expiration date and the registry release date post the “pend delete” status.
In most cases, an expired domain will only get to the “pend delete” stage — and thus able to be picked up via backorder — if there were no auction winners. The two biggest auction houses for expired domain names are GoDaddy Auctions and NameJet.
Let’s recap. When looking to acquire expired domains, keep these things in mind:
- Watch the auction houses. This is your best chance to win the domain name.
- Order a backorder. If the domain doesn’t go to auction, then you want a company on your side to secure the name in record time. Consider purchasing backorders from multiple places to boost your chances.
- Register as normal. If the domain doesn’t go to auction or doesn’t have a backorder in place, then you can register it like you would any other domain.
It’s important to note that the total cost for the domain typically decreases as it progresses along this path. It would be most expensive in the auction and least expensive during normal registration. But the more popular the domain is, the less likely it is to progress past the auction or backorder stages. If it’s important to you, don’t take the risk of waiting for regular registration.