One of the more confusing aspects around domain names is how they are released back into the pool of available names once they expire. People mistakenly believe that if a domain name expires on such-and-such a date, then they will be able to just hop on the computer and register it again the next day, or later the same day.
For starters, domain expiries are now a Big Business. Because a certain portion of domain names are actually quite valuable, an entire industry has evolved around grabbing desirable domain names as they expire. Once a domain is released back into the pool of available domains, if it has any marginal value at all, it will likely be scooped by “drop catchers” within milliseconds.
And that is if the domain is released at all. In many cases, the domain registrar through whom the domain is registered will recognize a potentially valuable name as it flows through the expiry cycle (outlined below), and they will end up renewing the domain themselves at their own expense and either keeping it (usually via a related entity), auctioning it off, or selling it to another party via a mechanism they call “direct transfer”.
So when a .COM, .NET, .ORG, .BIZ or .INFO (and now .CA) domain expires, it goes through three distinct stages:
- Expired: The domain has expired and the Registrant’s rights have lapsed. The domain is “on-hold” for a period of 40 to 45 days, during which time it either does not resolve over the internet at all, or the Registrar “parks” the domain: websurfers hit a “Domain Expired” web page which often includes pay-per-click links.
- Redemption Period: Between 40 and 45 days after the domain expiry (it’s up to 45 days, some Registrars may do it immediately after expiry), the Registrar issues a “delete” command to the Registry. The domain then enters another holding period called “Redemption Period”, which is a last-ditch grace period where the domain can still be renewed by the original registrant. The Registry imposes additional fees to do this, and it will cost a lot more to “Redeem” a domain than to initially renew it. The Redemption Period lasts for 30 days.
- Pending-Delete: Finally, if the domain is not “Redeemed” it enters a “Pending Delete” state, which lasts for 5 days. It is now too late to renew or redeem this domain. At the end of the 5-day Pending-Delete period the domain will be “dropped” by the Registry into a maelstrom of “Registration” requests for the domain. It will usually be decided within milliseconds as one of the “drop catching” services like Snapnames, Namejet or Pool grab the name and auction it off to any bidders interested in it.
If it’s somebody else’s domain name you are after, you may be better off trying to contact that person before the domain expires and negotiating a sale. Once the domain expires it enters a much more competitive playing field.