Saturday, March 15, 2014

Small Victories

After a few years of half-hearted, very occasional efforts, I’m now the proud owner of the domain name! I don’t have any particular plans for it at the moment, so it’s just pointing to this blog for the time being. Still, as one of my two online handles, it feels kinda nice to have claimed it for myself.

Getting domains can be weird. If you just want ANY domain, it’s pretty simple: just find one that hasn’t been registered yet, and register it. This is relatively cheap (usually around $15/year, depending on the domain extension, usually with a discount for the first year), but since all the short and memorable ones have already been claimed, you’ll probably need to use a long name, punctuation, and/or numbers.

There’s a massive market in domain name resales, not unlike flipping properties in a housing boom market. Marquee domains like can sell for tens of millions of dollars. A far vaster market exists for pure speculation, claiming domains that aren’t popular now, but might be in the future. It’s a bit of a gamble: speculators might be paying thousands of dollars a year to maintain a portfolio of domains that they aren’t actually using, in the hopes that one day they’ll be able to sell one for a big payday. “Cybersquatting” isn’t as big a problem as it was in the past, thanks to the new prices associated with domains, but it continues to be an annoyance.

One of the domains I would love to own is most likely forever beyond my reach: it’s actively being used by a for-profit company, who are unlikely to ever want to sell it. However, was an unusual case. It was registered by a person or entity located in the Ukraine, but was not pointing to any valid IP address. It was both owned and abandoned. Now, if I was a hot-shot entrepreneur who needed to wanted to claim the domain as part of an elaborate business scheme, there was a route to success I could have followed: reach out to the domain owner, either directly or through a lawyer/agent, indicate my interest in purchasing, and negotiate a price. Needless to say, this didn’t apply to me and my vague, fairly indifferent desires.

Since the domain wasn’t being actively used, it seemed somewhat likely that it would become available sooner or later: after all, it’s a bit of a waste to keep paying for renewing something that you aren’t using. So, a year or so ago, I did some research into the wonderful world of domain backorders. Whenever a domain registration expires without being renewed, it is “released” and comes up for grabs to the first person willing to re-register it. However, because there are always more speculators around, there’s a good chance that another person might snap it up. After doing some research, I decided to create an account at, a backordering service. This allows you to list all the domain names you’re interested in acquiring; once the domain becomes available, their servers will attempt to auto-register you as quickly as you can. It’s a bit pricey at $60, but far less expensive than purchasing directly from a current owner would be, and probably cheaper than acquiring in an auction. Plus, there’s no cost unless they actually acquire the domain.

I learned a fair amount during the process. I was initially excited when the expiration date passed and the registrant hadn’t renewed. However, it turns out that in many cases a domain doesn’t revert the instant it expires. Instead, there’s a grace period for re-registration; then it goes into “pending delete” status, whereupon interested parties can start to compete for it. Before entered Pending Delete, it was re-registered. I was very slightly bummed to have gotten my hopes up, but at the time time I’m glad for the system, since it would presumably protect me from having a domain “stolen” if I forgot to update my credit card information or whatever.

I took the domain off the backorder list, and set a recurring calendar reminder to check on it each year. Given the lengthy period between expiring and deleting, I figured I could check the status and re-add the backorder sometime in the week after the official expiration date.

Well, much to my surprise and delight, the next time I checked on it, it was available! Not in an auction, not pending deletion, just straight-up unclaimed. I happily grabbed the rights and set it up to point to my blog, at least until and unless I decide to do something else with it.

I’ve been feeling weirdly guilty since then - I doubt that there’s any connection between the current situation in the Ukraine and the domain becoming available, but I would hate to think that I benefited from a result of the chaos there. Most likely, though, whoever had it before decided to save a few bucks each year, and I am happy to add a little trophy to my online collection of vanities.


  1. Wow, didn't know about any of this stuff. It's like the kind of thing I'd learn in a Neal Stephenson novel. Of course, at this point we'd discover that 'Seberin" is some kind of Ukrainian oligarch and hijinx would ensue.

  2. Yeah, I can't entirely discount the possibility that I've stumbled into the center of a honeypot operation, inadvertently revealing my identity as a notorious opposition leader, and now paramilitary forces will use the WHOIS database to track me down for extrajudicial rendition.