I pre-registered and didn’t get my domain name. What gives?

Get 'em while they're hot

There are 700 new domain name extensions coming online. Seven. Hundred. If you’re like a lot of people with long .com names, you’re excited to pick up a new, more memorable domain name for your website. You want to be the first in line. And you’re in luck. Domain name registries and registrars (aka, the people who sell domain names) have a process in place for you early birds out there.

It’s called pre-registration.

How complicated is it? It’s a little like getting a seat on a passenger flight. The domain name you want? It’s like your plane ticket. The difference is this: someone else might be interested in your seat. You can pay extra to get yourself a spot in first-class or priority boarding, but only one of you will make it to Paris in seat 13A.

Like seats on a specific flight, only one person gets to own a domain name in the end. Pre-registration takes this into account.

No two airlines do their boarding the exact same way. Same thing with domain handlers, but most of them have three different phases: sunrise (first-class boarding), landrush (priority boarding), and general availability (general boarding).

Don’t let all that confuse you. This is the basic idea: your chances for getting a domain depend on trademark and how much you’re willing to pay.

Sunrise Pre-registration (Trademark Holders)

Surise Pregistration TrademarkSunrise is our first-class phase. It trumps the other pre-registration phases. If you’re worried about someone else getting the name you want, you have a trademark for that name, and you have the money, this is the type of pre-registration you want to buy.

To buy a sunrise pre-registration, you have to make it clear that you have a trademark for a particular name. To do that, you need to register your mark at the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH).

Sunrise typically lasts about 30 days. During that time, someone else might purchase a sunrise pre-registration for the same domain name you want. You buy it day one? They buy it day eight? You buy at GoDaddy and they buy somewhere else? It doesn’t matter.

If everyone who wants it has an existing trademark, the registry (the place that manages all of the names for that domain name extension) will hold an auction between the people who want the name. The highest bidder wins. They’ll get the domain name as soon as pre-registration ends and the extension officially goes live.

Landrush (Priority) Pre-registration

Landrush Priority RegistrationConsider landrush our priority-boarding phase. In fact, that’s what we’re calling landrush these days at GoDaddy: priority pre-registration. Sunrise trumps landrush. If you buy a landrush pre-registration for a domain name but someone else buys a sunrise pre-registration for the same name, they’ll win. Still, it’s an opportunity to increase your chances if you don’t have a trademark for the name, and you’re willing to pay a premium.

If there’s a landrush phase (some registries don’t have one), it typically lasts 30 days. Like the sunrise phase, someone else might buy a landrush pre-registration for the name you want. What happens then? At the end of the 30 days, it goes to auction. The highest bidder wins.

General Availability Pre-registration (and Early Access)

General Availability for RegistrationThe final pre-registration phase is called general availability. If the domain you want has a landrush and sunrise period, they both trump general availability.

Like sunrise and landrush, it’s possible that multiple people will buy a pre-registration from multiple domain companies for the same domain name. Unlike sunrise and landrush, auctions won’t happen at the registry level. The domain company (registrar) will have their own auction. That is, if they managed to get the domain name from the registry for their customers.

Here’s how it works:

When a domain extension officially goes live, all of the domain companies that had customers order a particular name will rush the stage, so to speak. They contact the registry ASAP and make request after request after request. It’s a little like calling in for a radio show contest. They’ll do their best to capture the name, but there’s a chance they might not. If they do get the name, but they have two or more of their customers who want it, they’ll hold their own auction.

Note: Some registries have an early access general availability phase. It works the same as a general availability pre-registration, except the go-live date is a few days sooner and costs you a little more.

Wrapping Up

Fun, huh? I know, I know. It’s clear as mud. Here’s what you want to remember:

If you want a domain name that you think someone else wants and you have a trademark, buy a sunrise pre-registration. If you’re willing to pay and don’t have a trademark, go landrush or early access. In the end, you might get it, you might not, but at least you’ll know what can happen.

When the dust settles, domain name registration goes back to normal: first-come, first-served. And, in most cases, anyone who bought a pre-registration and didn’t get the domain name will get their money back and another chance to get something awesome when .wtf gets ready for takeoff.

Shawn Pfunder

Shawn’s been working with freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners for more than 20 years. He’s consulted companies large and small on communication, social media, and marketing strategies. At heart he’s a small-business superfan. He believes that working for yourself is one of the most courageous and creative moves anyone can make. Currently, he’s the Editor in Chief for The Garage.

When he’s not hanging out with solopreneurs, Shawn loves to write, run, and travel. He’s passionate about teaching and he’s convinced that a good story is the best way to do it — especially if it involves El Caminos, potato fields, and really loud music.