I have worked with many startup founders and businesses in need of acquiring a specific domain name. Something that often comes up is they waited for the domain to expire to register it, but it never expired.
Is it a good idea just to wait for a domain name to expire and then try to register it?
The short answer is no!
The longer answer:
Domain names do not expire and become available for registration on the date of the expiration. There are many steps and processes that take place and fancy ICANN status code names a domain name follows from the date of expiry until it may be available to the public again for registration.
Are there are factors that come into play?
Yes, there are many different factors that can come into play when a domain name is at or near its expiration date, and one of the most common one is called auto-renewal. The domain's owner essentially turns on an automated feature to renew the domain name on or near the expiration date. Another factor is when a domain name registrar has a partnership with an expired domain name auction service and will send expiry inventory to auction. The expired domain name inventory often flows to the expiry auction service well before becoming available to register.
For example, Uniregistry's expired .com domain names can be renewed by the past owner for about 25 days beyond the expiration date. If the domain is still not renewed at that time, a 10-day "expired domain name" auction takes place at auctions.godaddy.com. If somebody bids and acquires the domain name during that expiry auction, the domain will technically not expire nor be released from the registry, but rather change ownership to the winning bidder of the expiry auction. During this expired auction practice (and after the expiration date), one of those fancy ICANN status codes I mentioned earlier is happening. Auto-Renew Grace Period and the expire to resale process is a precisely timed one so the domain registrar doesn’t have to pay the registry renewal fee until a new owner acquires the domain.
Interestingly, all this takes place as someone may be waiting for it to “expire”.
Each TLD is somewhat different, and each domain name registrar is a little bit different depending on their terms of service, so there isn’t one perfect answer as to when a specific domain name may expire and be released from the registry. In general, it's about 3 months from expiration date, but not all expired domains will be released from the registry.
Released from the registry, what is that?
The registry is the entity operating the entire TLD. For an example, the registry for .com domain names is Verisign. They also own the right to provide registrations for .net and .tv domain names. When a domain name expires and requires a renewal, the registrar pays a wholesale amount to Verisign and a fee to ICANN for each domain name on an annual basis. The registrar manages the domain name and allows you, the registrant, to register and manage domain names.
The drop process:
If a domain name expires, it may go to a partner registrar expiry auction (not all registrars have expiry partners or in-house auctions) and if it doesn’t sell at auction, then the domain name will move to a couple more of those fancy ICANN status codes mentioned earlier. Redemption Period and PendingDelete are two of those status codes. In all honesty, unless the status is PendingDelete, it’s still a guessing game. Once a domain name reaches PendingDelete status, it is released from the registry on the 6th day of the status. Approximately at 1:00-2:15 PM Central Standard Time for .com and .net.
Are there services with super technical and precision-timed processes to help you register these domain names the second they are released from the registry? Yes, and it’s often a very competitive market. GoDaddy does offer a domain name backordering service but I wouldn’t say it’s a specialty of the company. In general, DropCatch.com is a leader in the dropcatching field. Interestingly, about 70,000-100,000 domain names are released from several different registries every day. You can place a backorder for any PendingDelete status domain name at DropCatch.com for supported TLDs.
Timing is important and things can change, so it may be best that you utilize a service like Uniregisty’s Domain Buy Service or GoDaddy offers a domain name monitor service as well if you have an eye or need a specific domain. Best option? I’d hire the Domain Buy Service team for the affordable fee and efficiency myself. They do this every day and have the tools needed to closely monitor and understand what is going to happen with the domain.
Everything follows a specific, stepped process.
I wish I could say that a domain name will follow a specific process each and every time, but domain names can get a bit crazy, and a lot of unknowns can happen when trying to figure out if or when a domain name may expire. The fact is, the processes are all different based on registrar, TLD, and even other factors not foreseen, so it is your best option to work with a professional and not wait for a domain name to expire because its much more likely that you will miss out on the domain name or the price may drastically increase due to new ownership.