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Domain Name Goldrush Part 1 - The Rules of Play

By Lee Hodgson



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Welcome to Lee Hodgson’s epic, The Domain Name Goldrush.

This series spans years and tracks the evolution of the dropping names industry.

This, Part 1, explains the concept of the 6.30AM Domain Name Goldrush – how it came about, and what it means to industry players, both big and small.

In Part 2, Lee not only answers common questions about the domain drop, but also reveals some closely-guarded industry secrets in his explanation of how you can grab the best names.

Part 3 sees Lee reveal the David and Goliath battle for names, as large players in the industry caught onto the boom and did deals with registrars to allow them a greater chance of catching the dropping names. Suddenly, things weren’t so rosy for Average Joe Webmaster.

In Part 4 of the series, as things heated up, the registrars dropped a bombshell, putting the expiring domains industry on hold. There was speculation, there was uncertainty – the industry was in limbo.

Part 5 saw Lee give SitePoint the scoop on the biggest domain drop in history, including tips for catching the best names from the drop.

Part 6 of the series revealed the next step in the continually evolving industry – the introduction of subscriptions to dropping names.

Part 7 announces ICANN’s approval of the long-awaited Waiting List Service. Lee explains what this means for the industry moguls — and the little guys!

Enjoy — and keep and eye out for future updates!

The 6.30AM Domain Name Goldrush

If you’ve tried to register a dot com domain name between 6.30 and 7.00 am (EST) recently, chances are you won’t have been able to. What’s going on? Is it because domain registration companies are too lazy to boot up the registration systems in the morning? No, it’s something a lot more interesting. What’s happening is that the world’s domain speculators are playing a daily game, a game with big stakes; they are attempting to ‘catch’ dropping domains.

Dropping Names

So just what are ‘dropping domains’, and how do you go about ‘catching’ one? To understand fully, we first need to understand how the registration system for global domains (dot com, dot net, dot org) works:

  1. A domain name is registered for a fixed period of time.
  2. If the time period elapses and the original registrant has not paid to renew the registration, the name is put ‘on-hold’. The original registrant is then given up to 60 days to pay for the name’s renewal.
  3. If this grace period expires without payment from the registrant, they lose the right to renew the name. Instead, the name is placed on a six-day countdown, and is given the status of ‘soon to drop’.

  4. At precisely 6.30 AM (EST) or up to 15 minutes thereafter on the 6th day after the name becomes ‘soon to drop’, the name is made available for anyone to register again i.e. it is dropped.

Here is an example from ‘WHOIS‘ of a ‘soon to drop’ name,


[]Whois Server Version 1.3Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to
for detailed information.
Domain Name: SINNERS.COM
Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: NS1.WWIA.NET
Name Server: STAR.WWIA.COM
Updated Date: 30-jan-2001
The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and


Domain not found locally, but Registry points back to local DB.
Local whois DB must be out of date.

Whois Server Version 1.3

Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to
for detailed information.

Domain Name: SINNERS.COM
Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: NS1.WWIA.NET
Name Server: STAR.WWIA.COM
Updated Date: 30-jan-2001

>>> Last update of whois database: Sat, 3 Feb 2001 11:10:57 EST <<<

The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and

The previous information has been obtained either directly from the
registrant or a registrar of the domain name other than Network Solutions.
Network Solutions, therefore, does not guarantee its accuracy or


The giveaway line is ‘Local whois DB must be out of date’. This indicates that the name is ‘soon to drop’. Note also that the previous registrant’s details are not output, because these have now been erased.

The other important line is the one that reads ‘Updated Date: 30-jan-2001’. This shows exactly when the name will be made available again. Just add six days to this date, and bingo, you know exactly when the name will be dropped. In this case, dropped on Monday 5th February 2001 at 6.30 AM.

Why the Demand for Domains

So that’s how it all works, but just why are thousands of domain speculators clogging up the world’s registration systems trying to register domains that the old owners didn’t want?

To try and find that out, I talked to Alex Kovalenko, the founder of, a firm which specializes in tracking on-hold and ‘soon to drop’ domains.

"Although the majority of on-hold domains have little or no resale value, there are tens if not hundreds of names dropping each week that do. What we do at is to track all of the thousands of on-hold domain names, and inform our members when they are going to drop. In particular, we alert our members to particularly valuable names about to drop."

Kovalenko is right when he says that valuable names drop each week. Recently dropped names include valuable three letter dot coms such as, and These types of domains sell in the resale market for anything up to $100,000. In addition, many generic two-word dot coms also become available again. A few recent examples include,,, and, but the list goes on and on.

Currently, the on-hold domain industry is booming. The number of on-hold domains is increasingly weekly, and the number of people interested in registering on-hold domains is also greatly on the increase. Kovalenko offers one explanation for this: "At the beginning of last year there was a massive explosion in the number of people speculatively registering domains. Many of these people registered hundreds of domains because they thought doing so would make them rich. A year later and reality has hit home. Many are choosing to give up the names rather than pay huge renewal bills. All these names come back into the system, and the best ones are picked off by the savvy domain speculator".

So the next time you want to register a domain name and the registration system is taking forever to respond, you might want to glance at the clock. It could well be 6.30 AM in New York.

Now: Read Part 2…

Lee operates DomainGuru, where domain names, industry knowledge, and personal advice come together to help your business secure the best possible home on the Web.

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