Domains do not simply “expire.” The process involves a few steps and understanding them can be important to understanding why there is an additional fee for renewals in certain circumstances.
Domain expiration can be a frustrating experience. The advent of the “redemption period” has caused a lot of sticker shock to unwary domain owners when they seek to renew an expired domain. Understanding the process of domain expiration is a crucial first step in avoiding having to pay additional fees. Understand the steps in the process described will always be the same, but the amount of time each step takes is, with one exception, determined by the individual registrar. Only your registrar can provide the specific amount of time they will start sending renewal notices or keep a domain in hold status, so it is important to know your individual registrar’s policies.
Step 1: Active Status
Domains within their registration dates are generally on “active” status. Some domains may be in a “lock” status as well, either by the registry or the registrar. This means the details of the domain cannot be changed without the lock status being removed. This is generally a security measure to prevent a domain from being tampered with or transferred to another registrar without the owner’s approval. Active status means a domain is live and visible, depending on the status of the server hosting the site. At any point in its active life, a domain can be renewed for an additional term of one or more years for whatever the individual registrar’s going annual rate.
At some point near the end of the current registration period renewal notices will be sent. The exact time is determined by the individual registrar and could be anytime from one to six months in advance of the expiration. The notices will be sent to the contact email on the domain. This is probably the number one cause of unwanted domain expiration, inaccurate contact information. Always make sure the contact information on the domain is up to date. Be aware that making changes to contact information with a hosting company will, in virtually all cases, not update the information on the domain. The contact information on a domain must be kept current via the domain’s registrar.
Step 2: On-Hold
The “registrar-hold” status occurs when the domain expires or shortly after, depending on the discretion of the actual registrar. Domains in the “hold” status will cease functioning and the site they reference will appear to be “down”, even though the webserver hosting them is likely up. Some registrars will provide a short grace period of active functioning after the domain expires and before placing it on hold. When a domain is on hold status, it can be renewed for the standard fee charged by the individual registrar. This is the last point at which renewal at the registrar’s normal rates is possible.
Step 3: Redemption Period
This is a more recent development, one created by ICANN, the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers, ostensively to allow domain owners a “second chance” at renewing their domains and preventing their loss to other parties. Though useful, this “service” doesn’t come free. Like most elements of this timeline, the fee will vary from registrar to registrar, though it will generally be in excess of seventy dollars. Prices can rise up to $150 dollars or more at some registrars. The one difference here is the time period, which is always 30 days. The actual start date can be determined by the registrar, but once initiated, it will be 30 days, unless the customer chooses to pay the fee and redeem the domain.
Step: 4: Pending Delete
The final step prior to complete release of the domain for anyone to register at any registrar. Pending delete status follows the 30 day redemption period and lasts up to 5 days. There is no way to renew the domain once this status is reached, including paying the redemption fee. The only option is to wait for the domain to be purged and then re-register. There are various services from a variety of registrars that claim to offer “backorder” registration services for expiring domains, essentially attempting to pick them up as soon as they are released from the registry. Though none of them provide 100% guarantees of success, it may be worth considering if the domain is in danger of being picked up by other parties.
Always keep domain contact information up-to-date. This point cannot be overemphasized. Keeping that one rule in mind will help avoid having to deal with redemption fees for an important domain. Multi-year registrations are a double-edged sword, useful to lock down a domain for up to a decade, but also making it more likely contact information will change over that long period and requiring further vigilance on the part of the owner. The domain expiration process is not straightforward and can result in a hefty fee. If the domain is important, then it is important to keep track of it and make sure the registrar can provide notification of impending expirations.