I recently tried my hand at buying a previously-owned domain name. There was a domain that I had wanted for years, but it had already been taken. On a whim, I ran a whois search on it a couple weeks ago for some reason or another. I was surprised when I saw that it had expired back in November, and immediately began researching the domain name expiry process.
I found a good article on the subject, How to Snatch an Expiring Domain, from which I refreshed my memory on how the crazy business known as “Drop Catching” works. When a domain expires, it is marked as expired in VeriSign’s database. It remains in that deactivated state for forty days, unless the owner pays the usual fee to renew it. After that initial forty-day period is over, the owner still has a final chance to save the name before it is deleted, but they have to pay a $100 fee to do so. Seventy days after the expiration date, it’s status is changed to “locked” and it will be deleted from the ICANN database five days later during a three-hour window between 2:00pm and 5:00pm EST. As soon as it drops from the database, the name is available for registration.
Unfortunately, snatching a domain isn’t always a sure thing. Previously-owned domains are often snapped-up right away by squatters who hope to resell it. I didn’t want to risk that happening, so I decided to hire a Drop Catcher to snipe the domain as soon as it became available.
I went with SnapNames, who charges a minimum of $69 upon delivery. If you don’t get the name, you pay nothing. If SnapNames is able to acquire the domain after it drops, they schedule it for auction. Your $69 fee is the starting bid, and if anyone else joins the battle, you’re going to have to pay more. It uses a proxy bidding system like eBay, where it ups the current bid until either you’re the high bidder or you hit your maximum. SnapNames collects the money from the high bidder, and sends you login details for the domain’s registrar.
After days of impatient waiting, with much checking of my SnapNames account on the Saturday of the auction, I found that I had won while getting a mint milkshake at McDonalds. I only ended up having to pay the $69 minimum, as nobody else had bid on the unusual domain. SnapNames sent me the login details for a Moniker account that holds the domain, and that was the end of the hard part. All that was left was the usual boring wait for the DNS to update.
I finally am in possession of Harzewski.com, and have moved my much-neglected personal blog over to matt.harzewski.com. I intend to revive the blog, after a hiatus of more than two years, now that I have a fresh theme and a spiffy new URL.