ICANN is asking for comments from the public on its post-expiration domain name recovery practices. These policies regulate to what extent and how it should be possible for domain owners to recover their domain names after the expiration date. The public comment period was opened August 20 and ends September 10, 2009. Make sure to submit your comments before that date if you want to participate in the discussion. Comments may be submitted by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments received will be listed on this page.
Specifically, ICANN seeks input on the following questions, as quoted from its website:
- Whether adequate opportunity exists for registrants to redeem their expired domain names;
- Whether expiration-related provisions in typical registration agreements are clear and conspicuous enough;
- Whether adequate notice exists to alert registrants of upcoming expirations;
- Whether additional measures need to be implemented to indicate that once a domain name enters the Auto-Renew Grace Period, it has expired (e.g., hold status, a notice on the site with a link to information on how to renew, or other options to be determined);
- Whether to allow the transfer of a domain name during the Redemption Grace Period (RGP).
I think a lot of this depends not only on ICANN but also on the registrars where the domains are registered at. It is obviously important to have standardized agreements that are binding to all domain registrars, and which regulate the post-expiration recovery of domain names in a way that will benefit domain owners.
Speaking of questions 1 and 3, I would say that the mechanisms in place at good domain registrars today are absolutely sufficient and fair. For example, Moniker sends out several expiration notices via email well in advance of the expiration date, and on top of that it also prominently lists soon-to-expire domains on the dashboard within the customers' accounts. I can't speak for all domain registrar companies, but those I've been using have done a good job of letting me know of domains that were about to expire, so that I had ample time to renew them. It's also important that registrars mark expired domains as being in redemption period and also provide a link to further information to avoid confusion on part of inexperienced domain owners.
The idea formulated in question 4, to put a notice directly on the site of expired domains with a link to information on how to renew or redeem expired domains, would perhaps function as an effective alert to domain holders, especially those who do not fully understand the whole expiration and renewal process. We can observe every day that domain owners do not understand why they have lost a domain name they failed to renew. Providing more detailed information and explaining the domain expiration and redemption process even to the most inexperienced people could benefit not only affected domain owners but also ICANN and the domain community in general, because it would prevent legal conflicts and save money in the long run.
In answer to question 2, this again depends on the individual domain name registrars. Most registrars use transparent terms of service which also inform customers about the concept of domain expirations. But legal agreements are never an easy read, so formulating the agreements as simple as possible would certainly make it easier for customers new to domain names. On the other hand, it is most important that the agreements cover all possible legal aspects of registering, renewing and recovering domain names, and to allow for bilateral legal protection should remain the primary purpose of the agreements between domain registrars and registrants.
Regarding question 5, I strongly dissent the idea of allowing the transfer of a domain away from its owner during the redemption grace period. At the very least, the current domain owner should receive a note by phone and email upon a request to change ownership to the new owner, which he is then allowed to veto within a given time frame. Allowing the transfer of a domain during the RGP would be the same as doing away with the grace period altogether. This may not happen, because the redemption grace period is an important part of the recovery process and resembles the last chance for domain registrants to regain ownership of domain names they let accidentally expire.