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Back-Order the Name You Want

Updated - 03/26/2003

One of the most fundamental and important steps in building a business identity online is often one of the most futile . . . registering a domain name. So many common spellings and business names have already been taken, in most cases by people who aren't even using them or who just want to sell them to the highest bidder. However, if you're company name or the exact spelling of the .com domain you wanted are already taken, your not entirely out of luck.

Currently, over 750,000 domains expire every month. This fact gives you a chance at acquiring expired domain names as soon as they become available.

There are more than 30 million domain names that have been registered under .com, .net, and .org. Although there are so many domain names taken, only about ten percent of domain name are in active use. The others eventually expire and become available to whoever can claim them first. Clearly, your best chance at a valuable domain name is to "back-order" one that has already been registered.

Services That Help You Protect Your Domain Name

There are online services that specialize in helping companies acquire expired domain names. The most effective and cost efficient of these is Snap Names and their domain 'back-ordering' network.

The way Snap Names works is that you order a "Snap" on a particular domain name that you want to register the moment it expires and is made available to the public. Any expired domains that are registered by one of the 18 major Internet registrars working on behalf of Snap Names are automatically registered in the account details of the person who purchased the "Snap" on that particular name. If a domain expires and drops but is registered by a registrar which is not part of the Snap Names network, you will be the first to be notified by Snap Names and can exchange your domain back-order subscription to another domain.

In addition to Snap Names, there are some other services that basically function as expired domain auction sites. The most well-known of these sites are Name Winner, NIC Genie and Expire Fish. Of course, if the domain name you want is a very common, popular, or is simply a good one, you should certainly expect that other people are out to get that same domain name. Such auctions can obviously turn into small bidding wars. There are basically no absolute guarantees that you can get a specific domain name this way, but at least it offers you a reasonable chance whereas without these services you have none.

Expired Domain Names - The Expiry & Deletion Cycle

To understand how expired domain names become available, you need to understand the typical paths a domain name can take during its "life-cycle":

  1. A domain name is registered for a fixed period of 1-10 years.
  2. As the expiry/renewal date approaches, the owner of the domain name is sent reminders to renew, and that they must pay the domain name renewal fee.
  3. If the domain name owner renews the name, then the domain name returns to its status in Stage 1)
  4. At the renewal date, if the domain name is not renewed it is put on hold. Another effect of the hold period being placed upon a domain name is that the domain name is no longer transferable to another registrar (for example, one with a lower renewal fee!)
  5. Most registrars have a "grace period" (sometimes detailed explicitly on their site or by email, oftentimes applied without comment) after domain names have expired. During that grace period, the original owner of the domain name can pay to renew their domain name (and hence remove it from "on hold" status and reactivate it). Some registrars may impose an additional administrative "penalty fee" to renew domain names during their grace period. If the domain name owner renews during the grace period, then the name returns to Stage 1)
  6. At the end of the grace period, the existing owner can no longer renew their domain name and has lost all control over it. The domain name will return to general availability.

If the domain name is considered valuable, there may be many interested parties lining up to try and grab it, i.e. to attempt to secure it the moment it is deleted. Using one of the services for registering expired domain names listed above can help you to be the winning bidder, or the first in line.

If you'd like to read some more helpful articles on choosing a low cost hosting provider, then please return to our Hosting Guides section.

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