Purchasing a domain name is one of the first and most important steps new businesses take in the Internet Age. But “purchasing” a domain name does not lead to ownership. In fact, domain names are technically leased from the domain name registry. This is a common misconception to be sure, and it’s important for domain name purchasers to be aware of it.
Domain names have what one might call a “life cycle.” They exist perpetually, and they can be leased by as many websites as are willing and able to pay for them.
“Purchasing” a domain name
All domain names exist in the domain name registry, and can be accessed and searched through using a registrar website like Godaddy.com. These websites will show what domain names are currently available. Available names can then be leased for a period between 1 and 10 years. The buyer of the domain name must keep it in the registrar for at least 60 days, after which it can be transferred to any other registrar if so desired.
Renewing a domain name
The domain name will remain registered for the specified period determined at its purchase. It can be renewed before the period has ended and most registrars will send notice soon before the period closes. It is very important for websites wishing to keep their domain names to know when the period is up, and to renew before the period closes.
Domain names post-registered period
If a domain name is not renewed before the end of the registration period, it will be deactivated within 24 hours of the period’s closing. At this point, the domain name will be considered expired. An expired name will block access to the website, even for the operator, and will be more expensive to renew. A domain name cannot be transferred to another registrar if it is expired, and registrars typically only keep expired names for up to 45 days.
When the expired period is up, the domain name will enter into a grace period of 30 days. This is when most registrars delete all the information concerning the name and will charge significantly more money for its renewal.
After the grace period ends, the domain name is considered deleted. It will remain deleted for 5 days and then be placed back into the registry for anyone to purchase. This means that the purchaser who failed to renew it will have no greater claim to it than anyone else.
Renew, renew, renew
The most important thing to remember about domain names is that they are not owned. They are leased, and they can be lost. If you operate a website and would like to continue operations under the same name, it is important to know when your registration period closes, and to renew the domain name before that date.