Mac Musings

Why Domain Owners Deserve a Grace Period

Dan Knight - 2002.06.10 - Tip Jar

A week ago we looked at what we could learn from the MacSlash fiasco. We looked at the factors that led to macslash.com expiring and being immediately taken over by a new owner.

I wrote, "I'd like to see ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, set up some enforceable guidelines regarding domain expiration, release, transfer, and reuse." And I made some concrete suggestions.

It turns out that ICANN is already looking into this. They are considering a proposal for a Wait Listing Service (WLS) that would prevent domains from becoming available the moment they expire (see Redemption Grace Periods for Deleted Names) - and it's a process you can participate in by simply registering with ICANN. I've already shared my thoughts with them.

Their proposal calls for a 30 day grace period during which the registered owner may renew a domain and nobody else can buy it. It's a good start, but I think it needs to go further, and some of my suggestions have more to do with registrars than ICANN itself.

The Grace Period

I believe that a 30 day grace period is adequate. I think ICANN should insist that a domain's registrar attempt to contact the domain owner by some method other than email as soon as practical after expiration, whether this is by mail, fax, or telephone.

Avoiding Expiration

The big problem isn't setting up a grace period, but working to make it less necessary. MacSlash ran into problems because their email contact was a single mac.com address, and messages from their registrar were filtered out as spam. Had the registrar made efforts not to become blacklisted, this would not have happened. Had the registrar asked for a second email address for contacting MacSlash, the problem might have been avoided.

Suggestions:

  • Registrars should never use the same domain for sending out unsolicited email as they use for renewal notices.
  • Registrants should be given the opportunity to include an alternate email address, and the registrar should require it to be on a different domain than the primary email address.

A related problem is the unsolicited snail mail sent by a host of registrars as a domain nears expiration. Once a domain owner starts putting these offers to switch (some disguised as renewal notices) in the "circular file," it's likely that a mailed notification from their own registrar may also be discarded. (Registrars, you've brought this problem on yourselves.)

Domain registrants shouldn't depend on receiving email notification from their registrars, since many registrars are known to send unsolicited commercial email (spam) and may be on one or more blacklist services. Domain owners should be proactive and renew early - and consider renewing for more than one year at a time. But registars should still make a better effort to support their customers.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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