Protect Your Domain Name From Drop Catchers

Imagine you’re the owner of a popular website, but every time you try to log in, you get an error message. Worse yet, the domain name now redirects to a commercial website. That’s correct. You’re no longer in business.

This happens every day as a result of a perfectly legal process known as “drop catching,” in which people quickly snare domain names that have been allowed to expire and try to resell them or use the extensive links associated with the names to create ad-laden Web sites. By better understanding how the domain registration system protects your domain name, you can easily avoid becoming a victim of a drop catcher.

Your Web site, complete with all of the content you’ve painstakingly added, is hosted on a computer with a unique address known as an IP address, which is simply a string of numbers. A domain name is an address forwarding service that uses this IP address to direct visitors to a website. Because most people find it easier to remember a name than a series of numbers, domain names are used instead of numbers. It’s as if you could call your friend by his first name rather than his phone number.

You can buy a domain name by registering it with a domain registrar like GoDaddy.com, the largest on the Internet, or any of the other registrars. The name can be registered for as little as $10 for a year or as much as $80 for ten years. Many people only sign up for a year because it is cheaper or because they only need the site for a short time.

The registrar usually sends an email renewal notice to the owner at the end of the year. If the domain name owner does not respond to the renewal notice, it will be made available for purchase by someone else. Every day, about 20,000 domain names become available because their owners let them expire or didn’t realise their domain name was up for renewal.

Domain registrars have 45 days after the expiration date to notify the owner that their domain name will be dropped from the registry, according to the rules established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). If the name is dropped, the guidelines stipulate that the owner has a 30-day grace period to claim the name. The name is dropped from the registry after this grace period and a five-day holding period, and anyone can claim it.

Since 2004, a number of domain service providers, including SnapName.com, have developed an auction process for expired names that bypasses the original drop process and makes the names available in as little as thirty days. Even though GoDaddy.com starts the auction process before the names have officially expired, it warns the auction participants that the owner of the name may still claim it.

These domain service providers all have tools on their websites that make it easier to grab expired domain names. They provide regularly updated lists of expired domain names, as well as various auction services, search engines, and other free tools to help anyone find available domain names quickly and easily. Some websites also sell software that makes finding expired and soon to be expired names even easier.

With the rise in online advertising, drop catchers will continue to look for domain names from high-traffic sites, eager to profit from the existing links. Check the expiration date of your domain name to protect your site and your business. Relying on the registrar to send a renewal notice, which could be sent to an old email address or get caught in the spam filter, could cost you years of hard work.

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