2007.03.03

DNS Swindling

15.12.47 - Mark

or, Never let a domain name you want to keep go into "Redemption Period"

I'm doing some web work for a local business, and when I met with them a couple days ago I quickly learned that they already had a domain name. I've actually found it pretty common for small business to have domain names but lack anything more than a place holder, if anything.

Anyways, I start checking to see what needs to be done to start building a usable site. Well it turns out, the domain name registration didn't get renewed, and the domain in question is locked into a special state of hell known as a "redemption period".

In theory, redemption periods are a good thing. Recently expired domain names don't instantly fall back into the public pool, but they also fail to work and are gradually removed from the system. If you forget to renew, didn't get the notices because of an out of control spam filter, failed to keep your DNS records perfectly up to sate, or some other semi-legitimate reason, you get the shock of learning your domain no longer works, but have the ability to buy redemption by paying a fee (all of this applies for the next phase "pending deletion", a more expensive period of hell I'm not going to delve into)

Now, what would be an appropriate fee? Most domain names on the web are registered at discount registrars, like GoDaddy, Yahoo, and others who sell domains for a little more than the wholesale cost of the domains. For most domains, wholesale cost is under $10. Looking into the Redemption Fee, it started out as being $85, with a goal of $40 after development costs were recovered. Seems fair enough, it's enough that if I'm ever hit with it, I'll be sure to renew in time. Except, that's not the pricing I'm seeing.

When I figured out my client's Registrar, iPowerWeb (who are only a domain name reseller for TuCows), and after finding nothing useful on their site, I called their tech support (in a word, miserable) and after half a hour of waiting learned that their redemption fee is $160! As far as I can tell, this is actually a pretty common number, but its eight times what my client probably paid to register the domain for three years, and four times what ICANN's wholesale target price is for redemption renewals, and twice what GoDaddy charges. Hell, it might be cheaper to let it expire and use various services to play the drop market (Good article about snatching up expiring domain names)

I'm not sure what my client is going to do. I laid out the options, but in all honesty I'm not sure what I'd do. This is lose, lose for the consumer.

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