Buying a domain name does not entitle a person to that domain forever. People register domain names and must renew their registration, similar to how you would lease an apartment or a car. If a domain does not get renewed, then it will go back into the wild where it then has a chance to be snatched up by someone else.
So, what exactly happens when a domain name expires? Here’s the basics of what you need to know:
“Owning” a Domain
To understand where a domain name goes after it expires, you first need to know a little bit about how domain name ownership works.
This is the organization that is responsible for maintaining the database of domain names for a specific top-level domain (or TLD) such as .com, .ca, .photo and so on.
This is an organization (e.g. Tucows) that is authorized to register domain names.
A person or company (e.g. Hover) that deals with the registrar on behalf of a registrant (e.g. you).
The person or company that purchases and “owns” a domain name for the time being (technically you don’t actually own it but it is controlled by you).
In other words, the registrant buys a domain name from the reseller that speaks to the registrar which is authorized by a TLD’s registry. Now say that 5 times fast!
To acquire a domain name, a person must first find an available one from a reseller. Once one is found, a payment is made and the rights to that domain are given to the individual for a finite period of time.
Renewing a Domain
When the registration period is coming to an end, a domain’s owner must renew the domain in order to keep it. Many people will set up their domains to auto-renew with their reseller so they don’t need to worry about renewals; others choose to manually renew their domains because they’re unsure how long they would like to keep them for.
If a person does not renew a domain, a few things will then happen. The specifics will vary from reseller to reseller, but generally they will follow the same steps. Below is the process for how we handle expired domains at Hover.
*Almost* Expired Domains
So, despite all of the warnings and prompts to renew, you’ve decided to ignore all common sense and let your domain expire. Now what happens?
Even though your domain has expired, you still have a chance to reclaim your domain. The length of your grace period will vary from reseller to reseller, but all of them will allow you to change your mind and renew. At Hover, we give you 40 days to do so.
Redemption Grace Period
After your grace period is up, you then enter the redemption grace period, which is required by ICANN. During this 30 day window you can still retrieve your domain, only now there will be an additional fee to do so. This will set you back $175, in addition to the normal price of renewing your domain. This fee is essentially a late penalty charged by the registry, which Hover has no control over.
If you’ve let the grace period and redemption grace period come and go, you’ve now completely given up ownership of your domain. This means that the domain is now available for someone else to purchase. Depending on the particular domain and reseller, a number of things can happen at this point:
If anyone has placed a backorder on your domain, they will be notified as soon as it is available and be able to purchase it.
If there aren’t any backorders, the domain can be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
If no one purchases the domain during the auction period, the reseller can offer it at a closeout price. This will typically provide big savings to anyone wishing to purchase the domain.
Back Into the Wild!
If the domain does not get purchased even after a backorder, auction or closeout, it is then entered back into the registry, where anyone will be able to purchase it just like any other available domain name.
TL;DR — Enable auto-renew so your domain names won’t expire!