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What Should Domain Registrars Do with Expired Domain Names?

Perhaps letting domain registrars do as they please is OK.

For the 2009 Domain Name Wire Survey I added a new option for the most important factors when selecting a domain registrar: what they do with expired domains.

With all the commotion over what domain registrars do when domains expire (e.g. GoDaddy and Tucows), I wondered if this affected peoples’ decisions about which registrar to use.

Apparently not; it was ranked the least important factor when choosing a domain registrar. I guess domainers only care about what happens to expired domains when they want to buy them.

So I’m going to pose this question: why shouldn’t domain registrars be allowed to do as they please with their customers’ expired domains?

Perhaps expired domains should be the spoils for a registrar’s hard work getting customers to register domains in the first place.

In the “old days”, expired domains went to whomever had the best drop catching technology.

Now most expired domains are auctioned off through exclusive relationships, sending money back to the domain registrar.

Is one of these more fair than the other? In the first model the registrars get nothing, in the second they get a cut. Someone has to have an advantage getting expired domains. Who should it be?

We also have some registrars that keep domains for themselves. GoDaddy did (past tense) it with Standard Tactics. Tucows currently keeps domains it wants for itself, sells some to an unnamed third party, and then sends the rest to NameJet. Other registrars send their domains to NameJet or SnapNames and then sell off some of the remnants that aren’t sold at auction.

The best reason I can come up with for why registrars should be restricted in how they handle expired domains is that it creates a conflict of interest with customers. A registrar may not push a customer for renewal because it wants to keep or sell the domain itself. In the case of Tucows, its resellers are responsible for pushing renewals, so the company is distanced from the process.

Why are we complaining about what Tucows is doing? Is it really not fair, or is it just that we’d like to use our various advantages to snag the domains for ourselves? Is one system really more fair than another?

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Reader Interactions


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  1. Patrick McDermott says

    “The best reason…why registrars should be restricted in how they handle expired domains …it creates a conflict of interest with customers. A registrar may not push a customer for renewal because it wants to keep or sell the domain itself.”

    That should be more than reason enough.

  2. EM @ KING.NET says

    I see advantage of buying not renewed name through the registrar to build traffic from established links, archive records and search engine love old domains.


  3. Pat Quinn says

    Clearly it’s a conflict of interest.

    But, more importantly, registrars are licensed to administer a resource – domain names.

    They have no ownership rights to names that happen to be registered with them, they merely have a license to administer names and to be paid for providing that service.

    When names expire they should be dropped to the available pool. Period.

    ICANN is a complete joke for allowing this to continue.

  4. Kevin Ohashi says

    Have to agree with the conflict of interest. It’s like having a fox watching over the chicken coop. When a registrar gains a LOT more from a customer’s domain expiring than they do from a renewal it puts way too much temptation to ‘lose’ or ‘forget’ to help customers renew their domains. That should be plenty of reason to be discontent with the current system.

  5. Labrocca says

    I think there is still one party left out. The actual registrant. Why not allow the registrar to auction domain in the two weeks of the expiration and split profit between registrar and registrant. Then the domain won’t drop and everybody wins. The option could be sent to the registrant at a given time and one-click will place it into auction queue at a reasonable minimum bid. I like how tdnam works but the registrant is shafted.

  6. Andrew Allemann says

    @ Labrocca – when Network Solutions began “direct transferring” their names, they paid a small amount (15%) to the domain owner. I think this was because NetSol changed the contract after the domain was originally registered, so it felt like it needed to offer some sort of compensation.

  7. EM @ KING.NET says

    I think this is a discussion we’re not going anywhere. Why the registrar bother to give you 50/50 if they can keep 100%?



  8. wannadevelop.com says

    You don’t pay.. You lose it.

    It’s as simple as that — the registrar can do whatever they want without breaking any rules. They are the ones in control and can do as they please.

    Sure it may be an ethical issue or whatever but who cares about morals. The domain industry was never big on ethics. It is a big time negative score in that department.

    Business is business. They will tap into all avenues in hopes of generating a few bucks here and there.

    All the best,


  9. bernard says

    Icann could delegate a company to do the job of selling the dopped domains with an auctioning system, and keep the money that could benefit to develop some parts of Internet.

    But in this case, the registrars would certainly heavily promote a system to prevent the domain expiration by suggesting the domain owner to sell instead of letting expire.

    Thus, the registrar are certainly in a strong position.

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