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What is the domain lifecycle?

The domain lifecycle is a term that refers to the series of stages that a domain name goes through: from its initial registration to its eventual expiration, release and possible re-registration.

Initially, a domain is available for registration. Once registered, it enters an active state where you can use it for a set period, typically one to ten years. To continue using it after this period, you will need to renew the domain before its expiration date. If a domain owner does not renew their domain before this time, the domain will go through various stages of expiration and will eventually be released, if it is not restored during this time. Each phase of the domain lifecycle has its own rules and timelines. Particular rules also often vary between different domain extensions.

What is a domain name? 

If you take a look at the address bar of your browser, the domain is what you see below:

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“Openprovider” is the domain name, and .com is the domain extension or top-level domain (TLD).

Computers, however, can only recognize numbers, not names. The true “names” of websites are therefore their IP addresses, not their domain names. The domain name system (also called DNS) was invented to make browsing the Internet much easier. After all, you likely can’t remember “185.87.187.6”, but you can remember openprovider.com!

The DNS works like the phone book of the internet. All IP addresses on the internet are connected to a unique domain, just like addresses in the real world are connected to particular houses or buildings. After you type in a domain name in your browser and hit Enter, your computer will connect to the DNS to retrieve the IP address of the website you want to visit. Your browser will then lead you to this website. This blog post about the technical side of DNS is a great resource to learn if you want to know more about this.

Besides making it easier to browse the Internet, domain names also serve as a digital identity for brands in our current age. A memorable domain name will help draw attention to your website and enhance your overall brand recognition. This is also why short domain names are in high demand. In recent years, an influx of new, catchy TLDs has opened up opportunities for more people to register short domain names already taken with classic extensions like .net or .com.

The domain lifecycle

The domain lifecycle refers to the series of stages that a domain name goes through: from its initial registration to its eventual expiration, release and possible re-registration. It can include the following actions and phases:

  • Domain registration

  • Domain renewal

  • Domain expiration

  • Domain restore

  • Domain deletion

  • Domain parking

  • Domain transfer

  • Domain trade

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Domain registration

Domain registration is the process of reserving a domain name through a domain registrar of your choice. You choose a name that hasn't been claimed yet and pay a fee to reserve it for a certain period, typically ranging from one to ten years. Once the domain is registered, you can use it to host a website, create email addresses, and establish your online presence. This makes domain registration an important step of creating a business or (personal) brand online.

Active domains

An active domain is a domain that is currently registered and not expired. The owner can use this active domain to host a website, set up email addresses, or redirect users to a specific online location. Active domains are always managed through an intermediary, which can be a domain registrar or a hosting provider, through which the owner can renew, manage, or update their domain settings. As long as the owner does not let the domain expire, it remains active and under the control of the person or entity that registered it.

When you have an active domain, you can perform the following actions on it:

  • Point your domain to a particular website, or park your domain.

  • Update the DNS information.

  • Update the Whois information of your domain or enable Whois privacy.

  • Lock your domain for incoming transfer requests.

  • Transfer your domain to another registrar.

  • Move your domain to another owner (this is called a domain trade).

  • Auction your domain through an aftermarket platform.

Domain transfer

A domain transfer is the process of moving a registered domain name from one domain registrar to another. The exact process works in a slightly different way depending on the extension of the domain name that you are transferring. You may need to fill in a form, verify your transfer request by email, or request an authorization code from your current registrar to initiate a transfer. Depending on the domain extension, the process can take between a few minutes and a few weeks to be completed. Domain transfers usually come at a fee.   

Click here to read in more detail about how the transfer process works.

Domain renewal

Renewing a domain is the act of extending your domain name’s registration period so you can continue using it. If you do not renew your domain name in time, the domain will expire and the website and/or email address associated with it will go offline. As the initial registration period of a domain name can never be more than ten years, you are bound to renew your domain at some point when you are a domain owner.

It is generally not difficult to renew a domain name or to reverse the process of domain expiration if it has already taken place. The exact process will depend on the particular provider that you registered your domain name with, but in general, it can be done in just a few clicks through your provider’s control panel. Usually, your registrar or provider will send you an email notification when the renewal date of your domain name is coming up, so you do not forget to renew it.

Some providers also offer the possibility to renew your domains automatically. In that case, the renewal fee is automatically taken off the bank account or card that you connected to your account, meaning that you never have to worry about domain expiration again.

Another recommended choice is to initially register your domain for as long as possible, so you do not have to worry about renewal fees for multiple years. Most domains can be registered for a period of up to 10 years, although this varies depending on the TLD. Registering your domain for many years in advance also allows you to lock in the current price of this domain for these years, and to not worry about any potential price increases.

Domain expiration and deletion

If a domain reaches its expiration date without being renewed, it will expire. This means that your website and email will not work anymore and users cannot access them. 

An expired domain will go through various phases, although the specific duration of these phases depends on the extension of your domain name. You can find the specifics for each domain extension in the list of extensions in our Knowledge Base. 

The expiration period starts with the auto-renew (grace) period. At this point, you can still restore your domain name and reverse the expiration by paying the regular renewal fee. It depends on your domain extension (such as .com or .net) how long this period will take, but the exact period is always between 0-45 days.

Be aware that some extensions skip this phase entirely and immediately move to the next one: the redemption grace period. Usually, generic top-level domains (such as .com and .net) will have an auto-renew grace period, while many country code top-level domains (such as .nl and .be) will go into a redemption grace period straight away and skip the auto-renew grace period.

During the redemption grace period, you can still restore your domain, but you will have to pay a special restore fee on top of the renewal fee to get your domain name back online. The duration of this period is always 30 days, regardless of the domain extension..

When the redemption grace period ends and you have not reactivated your domain, the so-called pendingDelete period will begin. Restoration is now no longer possible. For gTLDs, this period always lasts 5 days, while for most ccTLDs this period lasts only for one day or is even skipped altogether. 

After the pendingDelete period has passed, your domain is deleted. It immediately goes back onto the market and becomes available for others to register. If you have a particularly valuable domain name, some domain registrars may also choose to hold on to the domain and sell it for a special high price on the domain aftermarket. 

How to keep your domain from expiring?

To prevent your domain name from expiring, you should renew your domain in time. We recommend adding a note or alert about this to your calendar, so you do not accidentally let our domain name expire! Most domain registrars will also send you a notification by email when your domain is due to expire, so you are able to renew it in time.

Renewing a domain is a simple process and should not take a lot of your time. You can find detailed instructions on how it works in our guide on domain renewal.

To avoid the manual work involved in renewing domain names and never worry about domain expiration again, we recommend turning on automatic domain name renewal for all your domains at Openprovider. You can do this in just a few clicks. With automatic domain renewal enabled, your domain name(s) will be renewed automatically as long as there is enough balance on your account. If you want to simplify the process even more, you can turn on automated payments to make sure there is always enough balance on your account. 

Another best practice is to register a domain name multiple years in advance to minimize the risk of accidental expiration. For example, you can register a .com domain for up to 10 years in advance, and renew it for the same amount of years each time. 

Long-term renewals can also be a great way to save money. Most domain prices gradually increase over the years. With a long-term renewal, you lock in the current price of a domain name for a set amount of years. Doing this, you will automatically avoid any price increases that may occur in the meantime.

What is domain forwarding?

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