We've been lusting after a dashless domain name for a long time. It's registered to someone else who doesn't use it as a public website, the whois data says it expires in a few years.

What should I do to acquire this domain, what should I avoid doing so as not to shoot myself in the foot or jack the price up and what does a domain backordering service do?

  • Long story short, he wants 10,000 bucks for it! – Peter Turner Aug 3 '09 at 21:14

If you do file a domain name registration dispute with ICANN, be absolutely certain your claim is ironclad. Also keep in mind that this will (last I looked) cost you around $1500, which is often way more than the person who owns the domain would ask to sell it to you.

If you do intend to file a dispute, see if you can get the person who currently has the domain to make an offer to sell it to you first. This generally helps prove bad faith if they're also not using it (it's parked or something).

If it expires in a few years, don't even think about messing with the domain backordering services. Their function is to register the domain for you faster than the other domain backordering services, and/or the type-in public. They're generally a waste of time to begin with, since they can only help you after both the registrant and the current registrar have allowed the name to drop. If it's a good name, many registrars these days don't allow the name to drop to the public level at all, instead keeping it and putting it on auction.

Also, if you haven't already, stop going and visiting the domain name in your browser. Any kind of typin traffic increases the value of the domain name significantly. If your customers are also typing in the domain, do your best to get them to type your current one properly. If you can lower the amount of traffic to the domain before you make an offer, you'll almost certainly get a better deal.

If you do plan to make an offer, try checking to see what other domains the owner has, and start by inquiring about some other one. When they quote you a really high price, act uninterested, and inquire about several others, including the actual one you want. As others have said, avoid any association with your real domain.

If you do get in touch with the owner, and they're willing to sell, usually they'll quote some astronomical starting figure (often 5-10k for middling-bad domains). This is fine, offer them a lot less. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a final selling price of 10% of the initial request.

  • Very good advice, I couldn't find the estimated price of a dispute anywhere on ICANN's website. – Peter Turner Jul 15 '09 at 13:19
  • Is there a service to see what other domains a particular owner has? – Peter Turner Jul 15 '09 at 13:23
  • The best way to is to do a search based on their contact info. Most large-scale owners have the registration all set to the same office or drop-box location. The price of the dispute is mainly related to the fee charged by whoever does your arbitration. As I said, I haven't looked at it in a while, but it's not cheap. – Paul McMillan Jul 16 '09 at 1:12

There are only a couple of ways you're going to be able to acquire that domain. Firstly, by getting the owner to sell it to you. Alternatively, if you can prove that there is a legitimate reason why you should own that domain rather than the present owner, such as a trademark, you can file a Domain Name Registration Dispute with ICANN and let them decide who should own it.

However, if the only reason you want this domain is because you like it, and the owner doesn't want to sell it, then you're pretty out of luck. The owner may not be using it, but that's his choice.

  • 2
    Convincing the owner to give it up is usually the hardest part. – DanBig Jul 14 '09 at 18:21
  • I like this method. It never occurred to me to file a dispute. – egorgry Jul 14 '09 at 19:00
  • Be very careful with filing a dispute. The famous Nissan Cars vs Nissan Computer is a classic case: digest.com - Nissan Computers existed well before Nissan Cars (they were called Datsun). Nissan is the guy's name. Nissan Cars have been suing him for years to get his domain name with limited success. It's expensive, and painful for everyone. – Mark Henderson Jul 14 '09 at 22:19

Try emailing the email in the whois address.

I occasionally do this for my employer and about 75% of the time, we receive a reply back with someone willing to sell. If you're worried about using your company's domain in the email, make a gmail account. That's what we do, but I can't say whether it affects the price.

  • Any idea whether whois telling me their lock status is clientTransferProhibited makes any difference regarding contacting them to sell it? – Peter Turner Jul 15 '09 at 13:37
  • Generally, all domains are in clientTransferProhibited unless they're being prepared for transfer. It won't make any difference as far as contacting the owner or if they have any interest in selling it. – David Jul 15 '09 at 22:14

Most registrars will offer the services of attempting to obtain the domain for you. When you do a WhoIS lookup on Network Solutions, and the domain returns as being registered, they will offer you options on how to obtain it.

  • For a commission, of course. I did this once; it worked out well. We used escrow.com to handle the financial end of things. – tomjedrz Jul 14 '09 at 20:19

I have found that it is good to work through a domain name lawyer. There are several ways of obtaining a domain name that is registered by someone else.

If the owner is not using it for a business purpose (other than getting pay per click from a parking page) then there is a good chance that they would be considered to be a cybersquatter. If so, then a UDRP can be filed or court action can get the domain name.


as for your "what should I avoid doing so as not to shoot myself in the foot or jack the price up and what does a domain backordering service do?" part of the question: I just did the "backordering" thing for the first time with GoDaddy a month or so ago.

SHORT ANSWER: don't use GoDaddy... use something like SnapNames or Pool.

LONG ANSWER: I saw the name I wanted on one of those "soon to expire" websites, so I went to backorder at GoDaddy. Turns out the domain was registered with GoDaddy, so everything I read said it should be more likely I will get it because we're both at the same registrar. I paid $18 to "backorder it". What did that mean? I COULDN'T TELL because GoDaddy doesn't really explain the details... from what I could determine, as soon as the domain expired then they would put in a bid for $10 on my behalf.

so then I head over to snapnames.com where I realize that other people can put in silent bids for expiring domains... and so here I am with this dumb backorder from GoDaddy that is going to be a measly $10, and people on SnapNames can throw in bids for $100+. Then come to find out there are lots of these sites (like pool.com).

So I call GoDaddy... and I talk forever with some schmuck that kept going in circles. Either he didn't know what he was talking about, or the entire process really is a mystery. I asked him if there was someone there that knew how things worked, and he said "I'm a senior rep here"... ugh, okay... so you don't know

and thus, from what I've learned, you need to go with one of the large "drop auction" sites... like the two I mentioned above... and you'll need to be ready to pony up big cash if it's a good name!

but like the others said, if you can get ahold of the owner and work something out that way... it would probably be best.

  • So those companies wait for the domain to expire, and then place a bid? So they expect somebody else to re-register the domain after expiration (so they expect to be too slow themselves), and then try to buy it from the new owner? Sounds like a good way to keep domain-jacking in business. :-( – Arjan Jul 14 '09 at 20:56
  • I'm sorry that you had a bad experience, but you're confused about how these things work. There is no formal "bidding" process involved in the releasing of a name - either it's released or not. If it is released, it's available to be registered, and one of these third-party companies will attempt to snap it up. If they do, they will then attempt to extort as much money as possible out of all interested parties. – Paul McMillan Jul 16 '09 at 1:13
  • yeah, but when you say "attempt to snap it up"... who's in charge of allowing them to "snap it up"? who is the company that controls it when it's "unregistered"... is it just a computer running somewhere and as soon as it decides the name is released, it's then first-come-first-serve? so perhaps these snapnames and pool sites, they just are hammering away at that registry server at 10x the rate of someone like GoDaddy, so chances are they are going to get in first? – Nick Franceschina Jul 24 '09 at 13:44

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