I received an email from someone who told me that a domain name he owned for a long time is now owned by someone else. This was confusing for him because it seems to have come as a complete surprise and he doesn’t understand what happened to their domain name.
I can think of two scenarios for this to happen.
First is a domain theft or hijacking, which is not very common at all. For people who have lost a domain name to theft, I think Stevan Lieberman’s article about recovering a stolen domain name is a good resource. This includes people and businesses who may have hired a web designer who had possession of the domain name and did not return it for whatever reason.
The second scenario, which is far more common and a topic I want to discuss today, is that the domain name expired and was bought by someone else.
When a domain name is not renewed by its registrant (owner), it goes through an expiration cycle. A great resource to learn about the expiration cycle is ICANN, which has published a helpful graphic. Once the domain name has gone through the cycle, it will likely either go to an auction (NameJet, SnapNames, GoDaddy Auctions, DropCatch.com, Pheenix…etc), expire and become available for anyone to register, or perhaps the domain registrar may add the domain name to its own portfolio.
Regardless of what happened after the domain name expired, it’s very likely that someone else registered or bought the domain name. When that happens, the former owner should realize the owner may have spent a significant sum of money to acquire the domain name.
Ultimately, being honest and respectful will go a long way in trying to recover (aka re-purchase / acquire) a domain name that is owned by someone else. The former owner should consider himself lucky if a domain investor bought it instead of an entrepreneur or startup founder. The later types of people would likely place a higher business value on the asset than a domain investor, and a domain investor would likely be more willing to sell the domain name for a fair price.
Tomorrow, I am going to share some tips about negotiating with a domain investor to try and buy back a domain name. I’ve dealt with too many people who think that threatening or making rude comments is going to be helpful, and I think a better approach can help close a deal.