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The Domain Name Circle of Life

Domain names. We are a domain name registrar. There are top level registrars. There are registrants. This is a small piece on the lifecycle of a domain – specifically a GTLD – one of the old school ones … so .com .org .uk and so on.

Today I saw a diagram that illustrated superbly how a domain name works. I had never really seen it drawn out before – so this was a thing. It is one of those things you pick up … and then explain to others. It struck me that for the majority of customers never really veer off of the beaten track to¬†witness the life and times of our more common domain friends.

(image courtesy of ICANN)

The majority of you will experience domains while registered and possibly expired if they are not renewed. However, there is an entire life cycle before dropping back into the pool – and even to be fair beyond this.

All of the TLD’s differ in the way that they handle time periods and grace – however, generally speaking, they look like this:


The domain is not registered, it is not attached to anyone, it does not exist.

Grace Period

Some domains have an initial grace period, and they can be dropped for little or no cost.


Once a domain is registered, some TLD’s have a period within which you can release the domain again at a reduced or at no cost. The majority of the domains life is spent as REGISTERED. This is a good thing. When you do a WHOIS lookup against a domain you can see three important facts there Registered date, modified date (changes to contents or NS), and Expiry date. The chunk¬†between registered and expiry is the registered period.

On registration, or on a change to the details of the WHOIS contacts – the domain will be locked for 60 days before you are able to move it anywhere.

Upon registration and renewal, the details on the account will be checked for accuracy. The top level controllers will contact the registrant by email (and require a response), and they will check the validity of the address. No more poor-mans-whois-privacy living at “999 Let’s Be ‘Avin’You” alas.


Once the expiry date is reached the domain with be marked as expired.

This is a transition of the state as opposed to a period – a line in the sand if you will. For many domain types, they will cease to work at this point. This is the point at which your email stops, your website is gone, and the wheels come off. While the services continue – they have no means of finding out where your services live.

We will usually raise invoices a month in advance of this point, and then attempt to take payment a few days before the expiry date. We do this to ensure that if there are any issues, they can be ironed out before the expiry date.

Auto Renew Grace Period

During this period the domain can be renewed. Depending on the TLD it may function – it may not. Again WHOIS is your friend, and you can usually get this recovered for the usual renewal fee at this point.

Redemption Grace Period

Redemption period is the period where it moves from the control of the registrar to renew, and is preparing for the drop back into an available state. A long time has passed since the expiry. We can no longer simply renew the domain at this point. We have to pay a recovery fee to the top level registrar. This is significantly more than the amount we usually would – and – we pass that on to you. This is the last chance to recover the domain without further delay. After this point, or if you do not wish to pay the redemption recovery fee (usually a few hundred pounds) – then you need to wait this out, and the steps that follow. The redemption period is around a month.

Pending Delete

The domain can no longer be recovered, and a deletion mechanism has been kicked off. Please do not send flowers, all contributions to ICANN, dress code – black. Once in this window, the domain is in the process of ending. It will be a week before dropping back to being available again and registration for the usual rate (assuming you are the first one to it).


And so the circle of life has completed – your domain is showing up in searches as available again. Anyone can register it – first come first serve. You, or someone else. A dawn of a new era for your little .com .

Grace Period & Drop Catching

The circle of life has completed and a group known as ‘speculative registrars’ make full use of this window to “rescue” your domain – in the hope that you want it. This process is known as “Drop Catching”. Monitor how much traffic it gets, how much email, and so on. They will return the domain to the pool if they get no interest or traffic is low. Nine times out of ten they will beat you to your domain. This is worthy of a mention here as if you were planning to wait out Redemption Period… and purchase once it drops – this is a likely outcome. This may work its way down through many speculative registrars if this is a popular sounding name. On the upside, I take solace from the number of cold calls they must receive about web design and SEO >:D


So there we have it – this is the lifecycle of a domain. UK domains are controlled by Nominet as the top level controller – and are very very different from other domains in almost every way including a lack of redemption and no charge to transfer. FR domains – you need a French postal address to register – the same for IT domains. These are just three. So they are all created differently – but fall within a similar kind of pattern. The same can be said of the timelines of the stages.

Should you have any further questions regarding domains – do not hesitate to let us know.

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