Domains are honestly some of the coolest pieces of the web that I’ve worked with over the years. There are so many combinations to them. You can work with whatever you want on the beginning (like mine for example, meredithfierro.com) and there are a wide variety of domain extensions as well! Most folks know .com .net .edu .gov .org for example but did you know you can have extensions like .media .photography, even .yachts!
I even found some that I didn’t know existed looking through GoDaddy’s list of extensions (although I would recommend referencing the IANA list through data.iana.org instead) and even Wikipedia has an extensive curated list.
I’d like this post to be some running notes on what I’ve found are weird/procedural with domain names over my last 5 years in web hosting. There are a lot of specifics out there!
Domain Name Regulations
ICANN and Domain Hierarchy
First, domain names can fall under a lot of regulations. They’re overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This group oversees and regulates all domain registrations. They impose options like the 60-day domain lock for all newly registered/transferred domains, domains to be verified within 15 days of registration, and verify any contact information changes via email. I definitely recommend checking out their website to get a look at how domain names work and their plans. I used this several times while I was just starting out in the wide world of web hosting.
So ICANN oversees all different types of domain names right? So it just goes through one company? Not usually, there are so many different domain operators out there! These are different companies that are responsible for the extensions, so for example, .com, .net, and .name are all owned by a company called Verisign.
Each Operator offers different domain extensions to Registrars, which is the next step in the domain hierarchy. Registrars offer each domain extension to the general public. You may know some names, like GoDaddy, NameCheap, eNom, Google Domains, DreamHost among others. You may even have a domain name registered with them! Reclaim Hosting works with eNom, Logicboxes, and OpenSRS to register domains. We are considered resellers of domains which is one level below registrars.
But, even with that registrar hierarchy, users who purchase the domains names own those domain names. They can take those with them to another registrar or adjust their domain nameservers.
Requirements for Domains
So with the hierarchy in place, there must be a lot of rules for domains right? Yes and no– there are requirements set up with Registrars, then the requirements ICANN places on domains. Most of these are to prevent domain theft or spam domains. I’ve come across a couple of rules:
- Domains are locked for 60 days after a major change happens. This can happen after a domain is newly registered or transferred to its current registrar. It is locked after any major contact information change, like changes to the registrant email.
- Email is a primary point of contact for domain names, so you’ll want to make sure to use an email you check regularly.
- Within the 60 day mark, you cannot transfer the domain to another registrar. The domain is locked at it’s current registrar.
- Verify your domain within 15 days of registration: This one is really important for folks just starting out. You need to verify your domain via email after the domain is registered. If you do not verify the domain it’s suspended and pointed away from the current hosting company.
- Tip: Be sure to use an email address that you check regularly to sign up for a domain. Reclaim’s found that users working with their University email, the email from our registrar does not make it to their inboxes. Emails from Gmail or Outlook are more reliable.
- Make sure to use valid contact information. This includes a full billing/mailing address and email for the domain registration.
You can read through ICANNs list of FAQs and questions, they have an extensive list.
Domain Name Lifecycles
So, now that you know the hierarchy of domain names and you’ve registered the domain, what does the lifecycle look like?
Domains can be registered starting at 1 year increments and can register up to 10 years at a time from the date of expiry. After the domain name is first registered, there are a couple of key dates, to keep in mind. There is typically a 24 hour-4 day money-back period (dependent on the registrar). From there, users will have that 15 day verification period I mentioned earlier. Once verified the domain is good to go for its registration period. Once the expiry date is reached, the domain moves into the grace period. During the grace period, the registrant can renew the domain at any time up to 30 days (roughly, again dependent on the registrar, some are longer than 30 days and others are super short) after the expiry date.
After the Grace period, the domain moves into the next phase, redemption, lasting for another 30 days. This phase is a little bit trickier to manage, as the domain name now incurs a fee to renew and bring the domain out of redemption. The redemption phase is preparing the domain for deletion. It’s also important to note that anyone can bring a domain out of redemption and register the domain in their name. So it’s important to keep track of your domain name’s lifecycle and make sure to renew it before it reaches this phase. The fee can range from $15-$200+ and is set by the particular registrar. Some can set the fee by the ICANN regulation or have a flat fee for redemptions where all domain names are the same fee to redeem.
Finally, there’s the deletion phase. After the redemption phase, the domain is moved into deletion where no one can renew or redeem the domain. The deletion lasts for 5 days, where the domain is released back to the public for anyone to register. There is a great graphic on our Domain Lifecycle guide that illustrates this as well.
Domain Name Transfers
Once you register the domain, you can move registrars as needed. But there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the domain must be outside of the 60-day mark (as seen above) this is very important because you can’t transfer your domain within that period.
Second, you’ll want to disable the domain’s registrar lock (sometimes called theft protection). This is enabled by default to prevent the domain from being stolen.
Next, you’ll want to make sure to turn off privacy protection. Reclaim Hosting includes this within our pricing model to help protect our users’ data. Privacy protection masks your information from the public whois.com database for all domain names. Emails are sent out during this transfer process that you need to address to approve the transfer. The transfer uses whatever is listed within the WhoIS database, so it grabs the privacy protection domain as well. So it’s important to have the correct contact information listed to receive the emails.
Obtain a transfer authorization code/ EPP code. This code is unique to your domain and acts like a key to prove ownership. You’ll need to request one from your registrar or through your domain account from there.
After you receive all that information and make sure the domain name meets the requirements you can transfer the domain name. The domain transfer all in all takes 7 days to process from the time the order is placed. You’ll want to make sure to leave enough time for the domain to transfer before it expires.
Also important to note– when transferring a domain name, you are not transferring any content hosted on the domain. You’re only transferring the domain name registration. The content remains where it sits.
Whew ok, hopefully, this gives you a glimpse of what working with domain names looks like! There are some little quirks in place with the registrations but once you know what to look out for you can manage these easily!