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Don’t let your domain names expire

In July, respectable websites like The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Huffington Post suddenly started showing hard-core adult videos. The culprit for this sudden and unwelcome intrusion was an expired domain name.

A video hosting and advertising platform that these sites previously used shut down and let one of its domains expire. Popular sites had embedded content from the domain in their sites. So when an adult entertainment company bought the expired domain, it had a backdoor into all of the sites that contained embedded links to the domain.

It was a big expired domain name mistake, and it’s more common than you might think.

In another example, Google let the domain name it uses in Argentina expire, taking down the search company’s services there

You can learn from these mistakes by understanding what happens to domains when they expire and taking precautions to prevent your domains from expiring. 

The domain expiration cycle

Domain name expiration cycles vary by top level domain, which is the part to the right of the dot.

Some top level domains require domains to be renewed before the expiration date, but most have a grace period after the domain expires. The domain registrant can renew the domain during this grace period.

Depending on the top level domain and registrar, domains that aren’t renewed during this grace period will be auctioned off to anyone who wants the domain. And if no one wants it, then it goes into pending delete status. Shortly after that, the domain is available for anyone to register. 

Why it matters

If you no longer need your domain, why does it matter if it expires

It’s important to realize that almost all decent domain names will be re-registered when they expire. People hunt through lists of expiring domain names and register anything that might be worth something. Millions of expiring domains are immediately re-registered every year.

Even if you don’t need the domain anymore, how would you feel if someone registered it and used it for something unsavory, such as the case with the video embed links? Do people you know still occasionally visit your old website, and would they be surprised by the content they find?

In some cases, it might not matter, but it’s something to think about before letting a domain expire.

laptop with calendar showing domain expiration

Keep your domains from expiring

While some domains expire on purpose, others lapse by accident. There are a few important things you can do to prevent accidental expirations.

First, renew your domains early. This is something that even Fortune 500 companies sometimes don’t do. Goldman Sachs waited until just days before GoldmanSachs.com expired this year to renew it. As of the end of July, Walmart hadn’t renewed Walmart.com even though it expires in November. Can you imagine the website and email for the world’s largest retailer going down?

Second, set your domains to auto-renew. Your domains will automatically renew when they are expiring if you use this free feature.

Finally, make sure the payment method for your renewal is up-to-date. Some domains expire and aren’t renewed because the credit card on file is expired.

Expired domains can wreak havoc. Give yourself peace of mind by renewing early and setting your domains up for auto-renew.

And while you’re thinking about it, maybe it’s a good time to log into your account and check the status of your domains?

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Andrew Allemann avatar

Andrew Allemann

Andrew is the founder and editor of Domain Name Wire, a publication that has been covering domain names since 2005. He has personally written over 10,000 posts covering domain name sales, policy, and strategies for domain name owners. Andrew has been quoted in stories about domain names in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and Fortune. More articles written by Andrew.

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