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Domain life cycle - all you need to know

The Domain Life Cycle Explained

Domains are the addresses that help people find our websites online. Unlike physical addresses, however, these can expire. That’s because domains have a life cycle that they go through.

If you pay attention to your domain’s life cycle, you won’t have to worry about losing it. In other words, you get to keep the specific address to your website.


What is a domain life cycle?

A domain life cycle is the period from when the domain becomes active to being expired, to becoming available again. There are five stages that a domain will typically go through in its lifetime.

These are:

  1. Available
  2. Registered/Active
  3. Expired
  4. Redemption grace period
  5. Pending delete
A chart showing the domain life cycle of a .com domain from when it's available to when it's deleted
The life cycle of a .com domain

To avoid your domain expiring, you should make sure your billing account is up to date. If you plan to keep it for a long time, it’s a good idea to set the domain to auto-renew. That way you won’t have to fuss over an expiry date and possibly lose your domain name.

Usually, there’s still a chance to recover your domain name even if it expires. If that happens, you’ll have to pay an extra fee besides the renewal cost. So, it’s better to stay on top of your domain’s lifespan or set it to renew automatically.


How long does a domain last?

This depends on a variety of things, but the biggest determining factor will be in your hands. You can buy a domain for different periods of time. The shortest period you can commit to a domain is one year. The longest can go up to ten years.

That doesn’t mean you can’t cancel your domain ownership during that time. It means you’re able to secure it for that duration before it expires. In other words, you can choose how long you want the domain to stay active.

Hence, you’re the biggest determining factor of your domain life cycle. Of course, the longer you want to hold onto the domain the more it’ll cost. 

Quick example: Let’s say you buy a domain for a year and let it run its life cycle course without renewing it. The time period will look something like this:

  • Active: The domain is active for one year
  • Expired: Your subscription ended and can stay expired for up to 45 days
  • Grace period: Your domain is expired but you can still retain it. You have up to 30 days.
  • Pending delete: The domain will be deleted within five days.
  • Available: The domain no longer belongs to you and is available to anyone for purchase.

The life cycle of a domain

The example above gives you a general look at how the life cycle goes. Those numbers aren’t set in stone, however. Different registrars will keep it in certain stages for a varying amount of time.

This is especially the case with TLDs. Sometimes the grace period can be skipped and it goes straight to a pending delete stage. It may even skip the expired period as well.

Check out the table below showing some of the popular TLDs and their usual life cycle process.

A table showing the domain life cycle of different TLDS, including .com, .org, and .net.

Let’s go into a little more detail on each of the stages of the domain life cycle.

Available

Every domain life cycle starts with it first being available for purchase. If you have a domain name in mind, use our domain search tool to see if it’s available. 

Active/Registered

Once you buy a domain it becomes active. Basically, you own it for the active period and it’ll link to your website. A domain can stay active for a minimum of one year. You can also secure a domain for a period of up to ten years.

After that you’ll have to renew the domain for it to stay in your stable. Your website and email will work fine as long as your domain is active.

Two charts showing that 40% of all domains have country extensions and that Gabon has the fastest growing internet population.

Expired

When your domain expires you enter the danger zone. This phase usually lasts about 30 days, but some registrars push it up to 45 days.

Your email will stop working and your website will show a page that shows the domain is expired. Any business owner knows this is basically a disaster and can cause lost revenue.

To make things worse, when your domain expires it is available to be bought or bid on. That means people lurking could snap up your domain if you don’t renew it in time.

The good news is that even though buy attempts or bids are placed by third parties, you still have first preference. So, if you decide to renew during your expiration date, you’ll still own your domain. If you don’t, you lose out.

This only works for domains that have an expiration date in their life cycle. Some TLDs skip this stage and go straight to a pending delete.

Redemption grace period

The redemption grace period is where the domain is still vaguely owned by you, but not really. It can be bought by someone else freely, but you can also renew it if you choose to.

Once the domain is in this phase, you’ll need to pay for the renewal fee as well as redemption penalty fee. The TLD you own will determine how much the penalty usually is.

This stage also lasts 30 days usually.

Pending deletion

The final stage is pending deletion. At this phase in the domain life cycle, it’s too late to save. It’ll be in this phase for up to six days before it’s released back into the wild for public purchase.

Not you or a third party will be able to buy or renew it. The massive blow with this phase is that all data related to the domain name will be wiped. So, letting your domain name go through deletion and then buying it again is not a good strategy.

Domain released

Once they delete the domain, anyone can buy it again. No redemption fee or penalty charges will be attached to it, but also no data. It’ll be like a completely new domain name.


Conclusion

Now that you know the domain life cycle, you’ll be able to plan and renew your domain without fear of losing it. Like we mentioned earlier, an excellent solution is to ensure your auto renew is active on your domain.

This way you prevent the problem from ever occurring in the first place.


The Author

Ashwin S.

Alphabets are a random collection of symbols that, when put in a certain order, convey a specific meaning. We use our senses to understand this meaning. When we become immersed in the symbols' meaning, we're under the illusion that it's real - we hallucinate after looking at the symbols. Thus, I create hallucinations, using arbitrary symbols. In other words, I'm a writer. I've been a part of the Marketing Team since 2021 and am responsible for much of the text content HOSTAFRICA produces.

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