This week I got an email notice that the domain flashlightwiki.com (I originally misspelled it in case this post affected the renewal process) would be expiring soon. The sender noticed that I had a similar domain, flashlight-wiki.com, and thought I would be interested in entering an auction for the hyphenless domain name. It was written as if it came from a person, but it had to be automated. My wiki has done pretty well since I started it almost a year ago, just a couple of months after the flashlightwiki.com domain had been registered by someone else but never used (honestly, how many people are interested in a flashlight wiki?). I put some minimal ads on my wiki, but despite 12,000 page views a month, I get maybe $1 a month from the ads.
Right now I pay about $8 per year to register the domain name. Other than that cost, WikiMedia’s software is free and I am hosting the domain on my igirder account that I was already paying for. I don’t really want to pay much more and I am wary of changing the domain after the debacle of changing my ipod battery site from its original home on speedfactory’s personal web pages to my own igirder domain and losing my page rank and essentially all the money I had been making at Amazon and AdSense. However, it might be worth an extra $8 a year to keep this new domain registered and make the switch someday.
So I looked up the domain by going to Network Solution’s WHOIS page. WHOIS is a way of pulling up registration information on any domain name on the internet, whether it is google.com or fiveforks.com. All domains have registration information (though some people use fake names and addresses).
It turns out that the flashlightwiki domain expired September 4, one year after it was registered. But it isn’t entirely expired. Instead there is a 40-day grace period where the original owner can renew the domain. After 40 days (which is where we are now) the domain enters a “redemption period” of 30 days. During this time the domain can’t be taken over by anyone else, but now the owner can renew after paying a substantial ($135?) penalty. Because of the penalty, if an owner was just speculating and parking the domain, they probably really are letting it go once it enters the redemption period (otherwise they would just renew it before the redemption period and avoid the penalty). After the 30-day redemption period, there is a 5-day deletion period after which the domain no longer exists and it is available for anyone to register.
There is a whole market of buying, selling, and speculating domain names. People will buy a name that they think someone else might want and then “park” the domain (creating a generic web page, maybe with a couple of ads), hoping someone will want it and then have to buy it from them (beer.com sold for $7 million in 2004). They can charge whatever they want, though if I registered coke.com, the Coca Cola Company could take me to court to force me to give it up for some reasonable amount of money, since they own “Coke” as a registered trademark.
There is also a big market for expiring domains and you can pay services to snatch up the domain the minute the 5-day deletion period is over. Companies that are very good at snatching up domains will take competing bids from different people and snatch up the domain for whoever bids the highest.
The process is described very well at Mike Industries. This guy was able to get an expiring domain (eventually revealed to be newsvine.com), but he wound up paying $369 to do so and still isn’t sure if he was actually bidding against anyone or if the bidding service was just taking him to the cleaners. Mike did just fine in the end because he was able to sell the site he built on that domain to Microsoft (via MSNBC) just a couple of years later.
So I’m not going to try and get one of these companies to buy this domain for me. But if it becomes available on November 18, I might pay 8 bucks for it.