The Domain Name System Is A Joke

 In General

Buying A Domain NameWhen you do any form of online marketing it is inevitable that you end up investigating the process of buying domain names.

To the average person, it can be somewhat eye opening about how hard it is now to get a reasonable domain name for a site you want to setup.  For the more experienced person, that surprise eventually just turns to frustration and anger as you try and navigate the stupidity of the registration system.

I had a good example of the way this ridiculously broken system doesn’t work just this past week.

I’m looking at putting together a new product offering and we struggled to come up with a name for it.  After a couple of different brainstorming sessions we hit on one that I really liked and so the effort began to figure out how to acquire the .com domain name.

First thing I checked was to see if there was a site already existing on that domain name and surprisingly there wasn’t, a good start.

I then jumped on “whois” to see if anyone owned the domain and when it expired.  I couldn’t believe my luck, the domain was previously owned, but was now sitting as a “pending deletion”.  For those of you not familiar with the variety of “lifecycle phases” of a domain name, what Pending Deletion means is that the domain’s registration has expired, the redemption period after expiration where the owner can renew exclusively had lapsed and now over the next week or so, the domain would be released and go back into the “available” pool to be registered by someone else.

Sounds straightforward, but of course it isn’t, domain registration companies have stacked the deck in their own favour.  The registrar will actually intercept the expiring domain and auction it off BEFORE it expires to the highest bidder.  Unfortunately for that auction winner, that doesn’t actually mean they’ll get that domain – that would be too easy.  No, the existing owner who let their domain lapse can actually still renew the domain during the redemption period and take it back.  Of course most domain registrars charge a “redemption fee” for people who do this because they are losing out on the often more lucrative money they’d get for selling something they didn’t own at auction.

If the owner doesn’t renew and there’s an auction winner, then that person will get the domain name effectively transferred to them the second the pending deletion period ends bypassing the public.

Then there are “drop catchers” like NameJet and SnapNames that allow you to bid on domains and they scour the registration system and watch for the domain to “drop” and register it on your behalf straightaway.  Of course, this system is owned largely by the big domain registrars and is just another way for them to game the system.  You see, the minimum bid to use these services is generally $69.  It’s far more complicated than that too – there are auctions that don’t end if someone else bids within a certain time, auctions that aren’t really auctions, but are auctions to let you get in on an auction… you get the point.

I used a drop catcher to try and get the domain I was looking to buy and I waited… And waited…

Then one day I checked to see what happened and noticed that my domain had been registered to someone else!  I was annoyed, but that’s the way the system works, but of course, it wasn’t that simple – the DNS registrar who hosted the name had actually BOUGHT IT themselves and immediately turned it around and listed it for sale as a “premium domain” for $1750!

Basically, ICANN, the body in charge of the global domain registration system has allowed the .com space to become the plaything of a few big companies and professional domain squatters.  I keep hearing this analogy to the “wild west” or terms like “homesteading” for people who squat domains with no intention of developing them.

I call bullshit on all of it.

Domain squatting has become a plague of the internet.  The .com TLD is littered with parked domains – by some reports the number is in excess of 25%!  The only ones benefiting from this are the domain name registrars.  Average internet users derive no benefit and it is making the whole .com namespace difficult to work within.  The argument that it’s a “land grab” is nonsense perpetuated by a vocal minority of charlatans and get rich quick types.  The shenanigans the registrars do is effectively a form of short selling domains without having to actually execute the contract – all upside, no risk.

What needs to happen is ICANN needs to overhaul the system and take out all of the backdoors the registrars are using to manipulate and profiteer from an unnecessarily confusing system.  I don’t think it is too much to ask that the most important TLD be managed and run in a fair and transparent way.

If after this, you’re still interested in understanding how to buy expired domains, then check out this post by Jon Haver.

What have your experiences been like with expired/expiring domains?  Leave a comment below and tell me all about it!

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Comments
  • Rich Rojas
    Reply

    Interesting and informative article on a confusing and apparently
    unethical process. I’ve never attempted to purchase an expired domain as
    I can usually find something approximate enough to register. But
    certainly understand the need for getting something more precise for
    branding purposes. A bit off topic, but do you have any posts/advice on
    selling domain names (something else which I’ve never attempted)? I’ve
    noticed in the past some names I’ve let expire have been snatched up
    which leads me to believe there is some value in some of them.

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