Because I get many Google Alerts each day, I am on top of just about every news article mentioning domain names. An article theme that is especially common has a title that goes something like this: “Cybersquatter buys domain name of XXXXXX candidate.” Instead of focusing on the fact that the politician forgot to renew his/her domain name, these articles almost always focus on the domain buyer.
On generic domain names, I have very little sympathy. I don’t think I own any common last name domain names, but I believe those are pretty much fair game since nobody has the rights to claim them as their own with many others sharing the same name. Other types of names can be more of a gray area depending on how common the phrase is, but regardless of my opinion and feelings about cybersquatting is the need to protect domain names from others who might want them for a variety of reasons. The onus should be on the politician for choosing not to renew his domain name.
Here are a few suggestions for political candidates when it comes to domain names:
1) Make sure the domain name is registered in the politican’s name, with privacy if he doesn’t want to give out an email address of an assistant. Campaign managers and workers come and go, and if they are getting the notices, the domain name may not be renewed.
2) Register domain names for several years and check on the registration every now and again. Set Blackberry/iPhone calendar alerts for a few years from now, and assuming the calendar is imported when a new mobile device is purchased, the alert will still be active.
3) Keep an active credit card on file
4) Don’t dump campaign domain names – even if they are time sensitive (Silver2008.org for example). They may not be useful in 2012, but they will have inlinks and perhaps some traffic. Maybe the domain names aren’t valuable to the campaign, but they could be valuable to a competitor or a cybersquatter who will monetize it. For $8, it should be a no brainer.
Just like the family who can’t afford to pay the bank for it’s home loan, a domain name will become available for someone else much like a home becomes the property of the bank if there’s a default. Most registrars give plenty of notice and time to renew, so there shouldn’t be a reason not to do it.
No matter what, a previously used campaign domain name has value to someone, and the politician should do whatever it takes to make sure he/she hangs on to associated domain names.