How long after a domain expires does it become available?

How long after a domain expires does it become available?

As someone who has been registering domain names for over 20 years, I have a fair bit of experience buying, renewing, releasing and transferring domains. Over the years, little has changed with the technical aspects of registering domains, but the same questions and mistakes do keep cropping up.

For instance, in business some people like to pay their invoices late. It’s a practice some finance departments and accountants recommend, as it means you keep your money in the bank a little longer, earning a lit bit more interest. For larger companies dealing with small businesses, this can go on a long time with the smaller business, or sole trader, sometimes facing a serious cashflow issue.

However, with domain names, this practice isn’t something you should be doing. If you pay your domain name renewal late, your domain name will go down. This will affect your website and your email. It could also affect anything tied to your email, such as social media accounts and possibly even banking.

Yet still many people do this. They treat a domain renewal as something they can ‘put off’ as if it were a non-essential bill from a supplier. It really isn’t.

Furthermore, when your domain isn’t renewed, you run the risk of it being registered by someone else. Perhaps a competitor, former employee or someone who just wants it for something unrelated to your business. If this happens, there’s nothing you can do about it. Why take that risk?

So, if you don’t renew your domain name in time, how long is it before it becomes available for someone else to register? The answer depends on the TLD (Top Level Domain) as it varies with each type of domain. For instance, with a .com domain (which stands for ‘commercial’, and isn’t American as many people seem to think) there is typically a ‘grace’ period after the domain expires. This is usually around 30-45 days with the registrar. This means you can renew your domain for up to 30 – 45 days with the registrar. The domain may or may not resolve to your website and email, depending on the registrar.

After this grace period is over, the domain enters a ‘redemption’ period. This is typically another 30 days during which time you are able to renew it, but there is almost certainly going to be an additional fee payable to the registrar. The domain will not resolve to your website and email.
Once the grace period has ended, the domain will enter a ‘pending deletion’ period for five days, where it is waiting to be deleted. Once that period is over, the domain will be released to the general public to register. If the domain has any significant value, such as a high number of links, a lot of history as a successful website, a good keyword or a recognisable brand name, you can expect the domain to be snapped up before this happens due to the many domain sniping tools available. This is where someone will have placed a ‘backorder’ on the domain, to be automatically registered when it becomes available. This is similar to the eBay sniping tools that see high bids placed during the last second of online auctions.

So, depending on the registrar, your domain may be open to the public as soon as 65 days following its expiry date. Some registrars may release it 80 days following expiry.

The UK’s own .uk domains work in a similar way, except that Nominet (the body that governs .uk domains) offers an additional 30 days before releasing the domain, meaning you have 90 days before the domain will be released for the general public. After a domain expires with Nominet, it will stay active for 30 days before it is suspended or renewed. If it reaches the 30 days, the domain is suspended for a further 60 days before it becomes available to the general public.
Again, if the domain is worth anything, it is unlikely to actually become available as it will be ‘sniped’ by someone using an automated domain purchaser.

So, the moral of this story is don’t let your domain expire. If you do, you could lose it forever.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.

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