All too often, domain owners wait until the last minute to renew their registrations, miss expiration notices, or figure the domain name is unlikely to be taken if they let it expire. However, it is extremely important that you never allow your domain name to expire if you have any intention of keeping it.

Understanding Domain Ownership
It is important to understand that domain names are not "owned" in the traditional sense; more accurately, domain names are leased to a person for a specific period of time. If the domain's owner (registrant) decides to allow it to expire, the domain name is deleted and becomes available for re-registration as a completely new domain name.

Because domain names have no "memory" of who owned them previously, registrants run the risk of losing their domain names if they are allowed to expire. The registrant loses all rights to the domain once it expires; if someone else comes along and registers the domain, it rightfully belongs to the new owner, and the old owner has no claim over it. (While it is possible to open a trademark dispute with ICANN, it is a costly, lengthy process that has no guarantee of returning the domain to the initial owner.)

About Expiration Dates
One important thing to remember about domain names is that service periods are strictly regulated by ICANN. Domains can only be renewed in yearly increments; as a result, any action that increases the registration period — renewals and transfers — always extends the existing expiration date by one year. As a result, it isn't possible to "lose" time on a domain by acting early.

The best way to protect your domain name is to renew it well ahead of its expiration date. Domain registrations do not "lose" unused time if they are renewed early, so there is no reason to wait until the last minute to renew. For example, if you purchase a domain on January 15, 2009, it will expire on January 15, 2010. You could renew the domain on January 14, or in the middle of August, and it would still be extended to exactly January 15, 2011. If you receive an expiration notice about your domain, you should act on it immediately, as you lose nothing by acting early (and run the risk of losing the domain entirely if you wait).

Similarly, transferring a domain to a new registrar does not "lose" the time remaining on the service. When transferring domains between ICANN-accredited registrars, the domain name is renewed for one year from its existing expiration date. For example, a domain that expires on January 15, 2010 will be renewed to January 15, 2011 after transfer. Again, it's always best to act early; since transfers can take up to ten days to complete (assuming all goes well on the first try), waiting until the last day to transfer can result in expiration.

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