What should I do about my lost domain name?
November 19, 2009 7:26 PM   Subscribe

So I lost my domain name. Now what?

For a few years, I had a personal blog. Then the super cheap hosting service I used (Vizaweb) suddenly vanished, charging my credit card one more time before becoming a eerie and apparently deserted spam-trap.

My blog disappeared, but the domain continued to be registered to Vizaweb (I hadn't registered it in my own name).

So, I watched patiently over the course of a few months, as the name expired and went into pending deletion, thinking I'd buy it when it came up again. I figured that my very low traffic blog address (not a name that seems very marketable, either) wouldn't be worth anyone's effort to steal.

However today the name apparently became available and someone managed to buy it before I could register it again. Now it is owned by "c/o eNom, Inc. on behalf of eNom, Inc. Customer." It also says, "Expiration Date: 19-nov-2010." I've already visited the site on line (which perhaps was a bad idea?). It's now just a spamy set of links to hotels, ring tones, etc.

So, as I see it, I have 4 options:
1) wait till the name expires next year, then buy it.
2) email the owner and ask to buy it
3) buy the .net version and use that
4) forget about the old domain entirely

However, there are problems with each option:
1) they might renew it
2) he will probably ask a huge price for it, and I'm poor. I'm also not sure if, on principle, I'd want to pay more than maybe $50 to this domain name squatter
3) this would be ok, but .com is better known, and would probably encourage the new owner to renew the domain next year and/or to charge more for it if I ask him to sell it
4) this will really annoy me, as the name has some personal importance. But it is an option.

Anyway, I know that there's no great solution here, but I guess I'd be interested in what you'd recommend. (As a secondary question, how could I have avoided this? How could I have reserved the name that was held by my defunct hosting company?)

Thanks for any advice.
posted by doubtless to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I registered my domain, the .com belonged to a law firm with no one sharing my name listed on the site. Years later, an author with my name apparently bought the domain from the law firm, but my little .net website still out ranks her in Google searches.

Lesson - buying the .net isn't fatal.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:45 PM on November 19, 2009

The person who bought the domain might just be a little guy hoping to make a small amount of money by flipping it. So, if you figure they probably bought it for $10, maybe they'd be happy to double their money. It couldn't hurt to ask.
posted by snailparade at 8:04 PM on November 19, 2009

They almost certainly will renew it.

I let one domain I owned lapse years ago. Like, 2003ish. It was only ever notable because of the forum I hosted on that site that moved to a more appropriate domain name; those people will never type in the old domain name again now, most of them I suspect have forgotten it, and the name is meaningless in any other context.

All this time later, the original domain is still hosting one of those spam fake search engine sites like yours. I can't believe they've gotten even a single click off of it since then, but they're still holding it.

If it's got a way to contact them, and you can offer a small sum of money for it, I might do that. Otherwise, I'd assume it's lost and either get the .net or something totally different.
posted by larkspur at 8:40 PM on November 19, 2009

Do not visit the site. It is being "tasted" I had this happen to me. I followed some great advice from a previous askme question on this exact issue which I have failed to find. Look for it. Again, do not visit the site or contact them until you have read the previous askme and followed the links.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:41 PM on November 19, 2009

I think I found it. Yeah for favorites.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:44 PM on November 19, 2009

I have been trying to buy a domain for a couple of years. Some spamcraptastic company has it now (and 300000000 other domains), I did contact them, minimum offer considered is $500. It's not worth that to me. Bugs me that they can get away with this. I don't know what to tell you that will fix this.
posted by defcom1 at 8:56 PM on November 19, 2009

How could I have reserved the name that was held by my defunct hosting company?)

There is a whole cottage industry built up around acquiring expiring domains. You are competing with tons of schemers and scammers and they have massive resources at their disposal. For example they get the list of expiring domains (the so-called drop list) and then flood the registration servers with hundreds of simultaneous requests the millisecond it becomes available, often using multiple shell-registrars to get around traffic flood restrictions.

And they don't really care if the expiring domain is worth anything or not, they register everything and then thanks to the 'tasting' practice, they can just sample how much traffic it receives for up to five days before having to commit. (I think I read that ICANN is moving to abolish tasting, hallelujah.) The registrars themselves have gotten into this game as well, which means that sometimes they hold on to expired domains and try to auction them to the highest bidder before letting them drop (return to the available pool.)

The result of all this is that if you want to try to get an expiring domain you can't reasonably do it yourself, you need to enlist the services of one of these brokers (e.g. snapnames.com, namejet.com, pool.com) to do it on your behalf. And as already mentioned, if the domain is really not a high traffic asset then there's always a chance that after the taste period they'll let it lapse and you can acquire it normally without all the drama.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:15 AM on November 20, 2009

I had something similar happen with a domain I had for years. I got it back almost 18 months later. Just had to wait and not visit it. YMMV, I wasn't using mine as a web site so it probably got next to no visits.
posted by bh at 2:08 AM on November 20, 2009

JohnnyGunn may be right about it being 'tasted' eNom are (or at least used to be) big into that.
Check back in five days from the registration date to see if its been released (tasting is 5 days maximum).
In the meantime, check out namejet.com which would be the winning 'drop catcher' if the WHOIS is showing as eNom. eNom may have it listed there- and you might be able to reclaim the name for about $60.
(Feel free to send me a MeFi mail if you need help with the NameJet part- I've bought from there before.)
Don't post the name anywhere public, and as posters above have said stop visiting the page- it's just generating hits and making the name more valuable to the taster/owner. (To check status use a WHOIS service)

If it's saying "on behalf of an eNom customer" in the WHOIS, then I fear it may already be registered by someone who's opted to pay extra for the WHOIS privacy, a 'reseller', who as you fear may want a big price for it...
posted by sid.tv at 3:23 AM on November 20, 2009

JohnnyGunn: "Do not visit the site. It is being "tasted" I had this happen to me. I followed some great advice from a previous askme question on this exact issue which I have failed to find. Look for it. Again, do not visit the site or contact them until you have read the previous askme and followed the links."

Spot on. A bot automatically bought it up when it expired. They are just trying to trick you into contacting them and making an offer. Wait for the tasting period to be up and buy it back.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:44 AM on November 20, 2009

Tasting doesn't exist any longer. It will not drop in a short period of time.

For the record - when tasting was an option it was a five day period. Now that it's no longer financially feasible to do this name was almost certainly picked up for resale. Which is not to say that it doesn't make the new owner money - but that he or she liked the looks or the history of it enough to register/back order it on looks alone.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2009

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