What is Drop Catching

When a domain is first registered, the customer is usually given the option of registering the domain for one year or longer, with automatic renewal as a possible option. Although some registrars often make multiple attempts to notify a registrant of a domain name’s impending expiration, a failure on the part of the original registrant to provide the registrar with accurate contact information makes an unintended registration lapse possible. Practices also vary, and registrars are not required to notify customers of impending expiration. Unless the original registrant holds a trademark or other legal entitlement to the name, they are often left without any form of recourse in getting their domain name back. It is incumbent on registrants to be proactive in managing their name registrations and to be good stewards of their domain names. By law there are no perpetual rights to domain names after payment of registration fees lapses, aside from trademark rights granted by common law

Redemption Grace Period 

The Redemption Grace Period is an addition to ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) which allows a registrant to reclaim their domain name for a number of days after it expires. This length of time varies by domain, and is usually around 30 to 90 days. Prior to the RGP, individuals could easily engage in domain sniping to extort money from the original registrant to buy their domain name back.

Once time is up, the domain status changes to a “redemption period” when an owner may be required to pay a fee (usually around $70 – $250 (enom)) to re-activate and re-register the domain. ICANN’s requires registrars to delete domain registrations once a second notice has been given and the RGP has elapsed. At the end of the deletion phase of 5 days, the domain will be dropped from the ICANN database.

Drop Catch Services

For particularly popular domain names, there are often multiple parties anticipating the expiration. Competition for expiring domain names has since become a purview of drop catching services. These services offer to dedicate their servers to securing a domain name upon its availability, usually at an auction price. Individuals with their limited resources find it difficult to compete with these drop catching firms for highly desirable domain names.

Contrary to popular belief, domains do not expire when they say they do. If the owner of a domain does not renew by the expiration date of the domain, the domain goes into “expired” status. For 40 days, the domain is in a grace period where all services are shut off, but the domain owner may still renew the domain for a standard renewal fee. If a domain enters this period, it is a good first indicator that it may not be renewed, but since the owner can re-register without penalty, it can also just be a sign of laziness or procrastination.

After 40 days are up, the domain’s status changes to “redemption period”. During this phase, all WhoIs information begins disappearing, and more importantly, it now costs the owner an additional fee to re-activate and re-register the domain. Last time fee was around $100 that depends on registrar. When a domain enters its redemption period, it’s a good bet the owner has decided not to renew.

Finally, after the redemption period, the domain’s status will change to “locked” as it enters the deletion phase. The deletion phase is 5 days long, and on the last day between 11am and 2pm Pacific time, the name will officially drop from the ICANN database and will be available for registration by anybody.

So basically domains are available to the general public after 75 days of expiration.

“The Drop” is the unpredictable three hour period of time in which the domain is deleted from VeriSign’s database and released back into the ecosystem.

So how do Drop catch website works –

They use a network of registrars to hit the servers at frequent intervals (but not too frequent to get banned) and snatch as many requested names as possible. If you don’t get your name, you don’t pay. But that’s where the drop-catch services begin to differ.

Some famous drop catch sites are –

Snapnames.com

Enom.com

Pool.com

They all follow same basic logic but there is difference in implementation , size of “network of registrars” , auction phases etc. Apart from that nowadays domain catch websites have tied up with various registration companies which give them an advantage to hatch the fresh-drop. Eg -Snapnames (a newcomer) has improved their success rate after there tie-up with “Network Solutions”.

Mason Cole of Snapnames and Chris Ambler of Enom have written few points to clarify the process which I’d like to include in this post —

  1. Snapnames has an exclusive partnership with Network Solutions which allows them first shot at any and all expiring domains that are currently held by Network Solutions. The domain I got was not held by Network Solutions but a great many are. If yours is, Snapnames is your best bet. You’ll still have to bid against any others who may be after the same domain, but the auction process at Snapnames is pretty fair and straightforward.
  2. According to Chris at Enom, some less than savory registrars have been known to actually cut the initial 40 day grace period down manually with the intent of repossessing the domain for resale. While this is technically against ICANN guidelines, ICANN has a hard time enforcing its rules on registrars, so just beware when watching for a domain that it may enter the redemption period quicker than you expect. It’s rare, but it can happen, especially with a non-established registrar. This could shrink the 75-day window down to potentially 35 days, and it could also screw you out of your own domain should it expire on you.

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