Domain Name Goldrush Part 2 – Securing The Best Names

In the ’6.30 AM Domain Gold-Rush’ article I set about trying to explain the buzz currently surrounding the expired domains business. This follow-up article will attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that resulted from the first article:

Q) If some of the names are so valuable, why do people give them up rather than renew them?

A) There are many reasons why people don’t renew valuable names. Sometimes the owner is bankrupt, or just loses interest in the online world. Other times they have no idea of the value of the name, and just give it up to save the renewal fee. Many names are lost because the registrant doesn’t keep his domain name registration details up-to-date. In particular, e-mail addresses have a habit of becoming ‘out-of-date’ due to the owner changing his/her ISP or other reason. If the registrant is not easily contacted by e-mail, many registrars won’t try to contact them at all. The end result: the registrant doesn’t know the domain name is about to expire, and loses it. It then gets put back into the ‘expired name’ pool. Incarceration and death are some more permanent reasons why people don’t renew domain names. The list is practically endless.

Q) Can I create my own expiring names list?

A) In theory, yes, it is possible. You need to start by downloading the zone files. These files contain a complete list of all the dot coms, dot nets, and dot orgs currently registered. You can get them free from Verisign, once they have approved you:

Be warned, though. These files are huge – 500 megabytes in size between them. This is just the start. Once downloaded, you have to decompress them. These files are several gigabytes in size. You must analyze them to find out which names are currently ‘on hold’. Once you have a list of domains on-hold, then you have to scan them everyday to see which ones are about to expire. As of now, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of names to scan each week.

So that’s the theory. In practice, it is much easier to find a company specializing in doing this, week in and week out. There are several such ‘expired domain’ services out there, but be careful. Many of these services ‘leave out’ the best names, so they can sell them to private customers or keep them for themselves. DomainsBot provides an excellent service, and were just recently featured in the NY Times

Q) I want to register names for resale. How do I maximize my chances of registering several of the best names?

Not surprisingly, this was the most popular question asked! The bad news is that you are competing with thousands of other people, some of whom are professionals and have been doing this for years. The good news is there are NO SECRETS to registering the best expiring names. If your request is the first one to hit the registry after the name has become available, you WILL GET the name. To maximize your chances of getting as many good names as possible, there is plenty you need to do first.

The basis for all these techniques is that in the end, what you are dealing with is a simple probability problem i.e. the more requests you can send to the registry around the time the name drops, the better your chances of getting the name.

1) Use several different registrars
On any given day, one registrar might be working slowly, and a different one working at full efficiency. On another day, one registrar might be down completely. Set up accounts with several different registrars and try and register names with all of them, at the same time!

2) Use several browser windows
With many registrars, it is possible to open multiple browser windows using a single account. This way, you can send them multiple requests in a short time interval.

3) Use several computers
For the really serious domain grabbers, this is a must. It’s even rumored that Korean professionals have rooms full of PCs just being utilized to grab falling domains….

4) Use a fast Internet connection
It makes sense that the faster your connection to the Internet, the quicker you can send requests to the registry and the quicker you get the reply. If you are serious about grabbing names, trade-up your 56k dial-up line ;)

5) Use registrars with ‘bulk registration’ facilities
If the registrar you are using has a ‘slow’ interface (which means it takes several minutes to send a single registration request through to the registry), chances are you aren’t going to grab any decent names. You need to find registrars with bulk-registration facilities, and best of all, single-click bulk-registration facilities.

6) Use a feedback mechanism
Every week there is a big drop going down; make a list of the top ten names dropping. The next day, go to a WHOIS tool like PowerWHOIS (http://www.powerwhois.com) and write down which domain registrar was used to register the best names. If you do this over a period of days, you will develop a good feeling for which registrars have really got it together when it comes to registering the names being dropped.

Warning: Of course the ultimate way to send through as many registration requests as possible is to use custom-written scripts. This way, it is possible to send hundreds of requests through in a single minute. This is a very anti-social practice which, if widely adopted, will only lead to the whole registration system collapsing on a regular basis. Most domain registrars also explicitly ban it, and if you are caught, you will have your account closed. Don’t do it.

Q) I don’t want to register names for resale; I am just interested in registering one particular name for a site. How do I maximize my chances of grabbing it before the speculators?

A) OK, first the bad news. You might know the name is for ‘proper use’ but the registry doesn’t. To them, every request is as valid as the next one. Therefore you have no special advantage trying to register a name about to drop. The good news comes in two parts:

(i) Most names, 90% or more, are not valuable to resellers. If your name falls into this category, you won’t have any problem getting the name registered. You can use any domain registration site to do so.
ii) A company called SnapNames has a new service called ‘Snap-Back’, which gives you a great chance of getting names during the drop. The fee is $35 per name, but this is refunded if SnapNames don’t get the name for you. So how do SnapNames manage to grab names before speculators? Didn’t you just say that ‘every request is as valid as the next one’? Absolutely true. But SnapNames have advantages over most speculators, notably that they are a very well organized and financed team and are very closely connected to several domain registrars. They use many of the same techniques speculators use to grab names. They simply implement them better.

Q) What time do names drop exactly?

A) No names drop before 6.30 AM EST. But most names actually seem to drop a few minutes after that. Names never seem to drop later than 6.45 – 6.50 AM EST.

Read on! See Part 3…

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