The Domain Name Life Cycle

While originally domain names were registered for a fixed period of 2 years, most Registrars now offer the option of registering a domain name for a period of 1-10 years, often with substantial discounts for extended registrations

A domain name that is approaching its renewal date is said to be “expiring soon” and a domain name that has passed its renewal date (also known as its “expiry date”) without the renewal fee being paid is said to have “expired”.

The domain expiration cycle (the process by which the domain name expires, and then is made available for re-registration) differs significantly from Registrar to Registrar. Knowing what’s happening behind the scenes might give you a better understanding of what happens to a domain name once it has expired.

Here is a typical path a domain name will take during its “life-cycle”:

    1. A domain name is registered for a fixed period of 1-10 years
      • The user pays the Registrar $xx.xx for the usage of the domain for that time.
      • The Registrar pays the Registry a smaller amount and enters your information as the owner of the domain.


    1. As the expiration/renewal date approaches, the owner of the domain name is sent one or more reminders that they must pay the domain name renewal fee.


    1. If the domain name owner renews the name, then the domain name returns to its status in Stage 1.


    1. At the renewal date, if the domain name has not been paid for and the registration expires, several things happen at once:
      • The Registry automatically charges the Registrar a certain amount of money to keep the domain for a short period of time.
      • The Registrar puts the domain on hold, sometimes deleting the domain’s old nameserver information or modifying it. If the Registrar modifies the domain’s nameservers, the new information usually points browsers to either the Registrar’s website or to a page explaining that the site is expired.
      • The user (as a result of being put on hold) loses the ability to transfer the domain name to another Registrar.


  1. Most Registrars have a “grace period” (sometimes detailed explicitly on their website or by email, often times applied without comment) after domain names have expired.

During that grace period, the original owner of the domain name can sometimes pay to renew their domain name and hence remove it from “expired” status and reactivated. Some Registrars may impose an additional administrative “penalty fee” to renew domain names during their grace period. If the domain name owner renews the name during the grace period, then the name returns to Stage 1.

For .com domain names, after the grace period expires and the name has still not been renewed, it enters the redemption period. During this period, domain owners must pay a fee, often several hundred dollars, to renew the domain and return it to active status.
At the end of this cycle, the existing owner can no longer renew their domain name and has lost all control over it.

  1. The domain name enters the ‘pending delete’ status for five days. Once a domain name has reached Stage 7, it is about to return to the domain market (i.e. it will once more become available for registration). If the domain name is considered valuable, there may be many interested parties lining up to try and “snap” it up (i.e. to attempt to secure it as soon as it is deleted.) often through a backordering service.
  2. After the domain name has returned to the market, the Registry refunds the ‘holding charge’ they had automatically charged to the Registrar.
    The key to successful recovery of an expired domain name is two-fold:

    • Awareness of which domain names are about to expire, and when they are going to do so – since this varies significantly from Registrar to Registrar.
    • Mastery of the tools and services available to assist in securing dropping domain names.