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Domain Redemption Period Farce Exposed!

Lee Hodgson

When I first heard about the plans for a redemption period for expired domain names, I thought it was a terrific idea. In the past, too many domains were deleted when, for one reason or another, the owners wanted to continue using them.

What is the Redemption Period?

If you haven’t yet heard about the redemption period, it’s a "grace period" of up to 30 days that begins once a domain registrar deletes a domain name. This deletion normally occurs sometime within the first 45 days after a name expires without being renewed.

Instead of actually being deleted and re-available for registration within a few days, what happens is the central VeriSign registry holds the name in a new "REDEMPTIONPERIOD" status. The grace period basically gives the original domain owner a chance to renew their domain name.

This redemption period is of particular importance, not just because it extends the time available to renew expired domains, but because all names that enter the redemption period are removed from the zone files, which list the domains that are currently in the global DNS.

Under the previous system, some registrars removed names from the zone files, while others allowed names to continue working normally right up until the day they were deleted. In this case, the actual deletion came as a real shock to many domain name owners, who, by the time they realized what was happening, found it was too late to do anything about it.

With the new system, the Website and email services will definitely stop working for at least 30 days before the name is finally deleted. This gives the owner the opportunity to renew, and means they have no excuse now for failing to renew their domain name.

That’s the theory out of the way — and it sounds like a great way to help clean up the domain name industry. So what’s the problem?

Why is it a Farce?

Unfortunately when VeriSign and ICANN get together, they have a habit of taking good opportunities to improve the industry, and reducing them to farces. The redemption period fiasco is one of the most extreme examples to date.

Domain Redemption in Action: Case #1

Take this recent situation. A domain owner (and customer of registrar Network Solutions), whose name had entered the redemption period, contacted me. The domain name in question was vital to his business. In fact, he believed he would lose his job if he couldn’t get the name back.

So it should have been a straightforward matter to pay the renewal fee and recover the name, right? That is the whole point of the new system, after all. But no, every time he’d contacted Network Solutions (and he’d spent several hours on the phone with them) he’d been told the same story: that the name was no longer recoverable and would definitely be deleted!

Domain Redemption in Action: Case #2

I was also contacted by one of my own customers whose name had entered the redemption period. When I made enquiries about getting the name back to the ICANN registrar who held the name, they quoted a charge of $200 to have the name returned to its owner. Presumably I was supposed to add my own percentage on top of this figure, and charge the customer even more…

Another Wasted Opportunity

So there you have it! Customer #1 is told the redemption period is not for recovering names after all. For customer #2, the name is recoverable — but it will cost him at least $200 to do so.

A chance to clean up the industry has been transmuted into a situation that makes the industry look seedier than ever. In fact, it will look to many customers like the new system is just an artifice designed to drain them of more hard-earned bucks.

Designing and implementing a fair redemption period should have been a walk in the park. But for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. One has to seriously wonder about the structure and integrity of an industry where such a farce is allowed to play itself out. Domain name owners, beware!