Highly desirable… Diamonds? Willy Wonka’s “Golden Ticket”? Contested by multiple parties… The Iron Throne? Gone in seconds… Glastonbury tickets? In fact, we are talking about attractive expiring .uk domain names, for example, generic or short domains that score highly in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

A .uk domain name can be registered with Nominet (the registrar for the .uk domain) for between 1 and 10 years – if a renewal request is not received within 30 days of a domain's renewal date then the domain is suspended, and if it has been suspended for 60 days without renewal, then it is cancelled at a random time and available for re-registration. The problem is that highly desirable domains tend to be re-registered within a fraction of a second by specialist registrars (companies with systems and resources designed to out-compete members of the public when cancelled domains are released). In 2018, approximately 0.7% (12,109) of expiring domain names were re-registered within a second of cancellation.

In response, Nominet has launched a new policy consultation on expiring domains. The consultation follows on from previous policy discussions on “drop lists” (publicly accessible databases of dates and times when non-renewed domains are to become available to register). As discussed here in the Lens, Nominet’s current practice in this area is inconsistent with other prominent registrars, most notably ICANN. Having considered the issue and options available, Nominet believes it is necessary to change the process by which expiring domains will become available for registration in conjunction with publishing the exact date and time that expiring domains will become available for re-registration.

The consultation asks for input on two areas:

1) whether domains should be made available for re-registration throughout the day at a specific point in time, based on the time stamp for the original registration, or be released at specified single point in time (e.g. 2pm every day); and

2) since a very small minority of domains are intensely contested with multiple parties interested in re-registration, whether to alter the way in which these domains are released. Nominet has suggested that two viable methods are registry auctions or economically controlled access to expiring domains.

The deadline for responses is 14 August 2020. We will wait to see what changes (if any) Nominet decides to make to the current system, but for now, fingers on buttons…