Welcome to the number 1 source for famous domain name expirations. If a famous domain name expired, it’s probably listed here. Others decided to make a list of their own because of our list, which has been carefully curated since 2018. They say copying is the highest form of flattery. So what is it about domain expirations that are worth talking about?
Well, one of the worst things that you can do as a website owner is let your domain expire. A domain name is a copyrighted web address that directs users to a website. Domain name registrations are big business, and with a great domain name, it’s much easier for visitors to find a website on the web.
If you are wondering how in the world someone would forget to renew the domain name since there are auto-renew options and options to register a domain 10 years in advance… Well, we created a video and wrote an article about that as well. This is why domain names don’t get renewed on time.
Domain names expire (almost) all the time
Before I list the greatest unintentional domain expirations of all time, first a little surprising story.
I consider WhoAPI as a data company, and when working with data, you find all sorts of interesting Internet statistics. In one of WhoAPI’s domain research on the 1000 most visited websites, we found some incredible data.
At the time of the research (back in 2015), the 78th most visited (according to Alexa) website on the Internet, www.adobe.com was 28 years old! Let me reveal a little secret, that domain name was about to expire on 17th May 2015. This was just days after the research! We were sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering if they would renew the great adobe .com on time. We even created this cute warning on Twitter so our followers can tag along.
Lucky for Adobe, the autorenewal kicked in, and they were saved!
— WhoAPI.com (@whoapi) April 30, 2015
Popular domain names, like google.com, have multiple variations registered as companies will buy the rights to multiple domains based on geographical locations as well as to make sure that they update their pages regularly and attract new visitors. By using resources such as WHOIS, it’s reasonably easy to look up when domains were registered and when they are going to expire.
Can I buy an expired domain?
Anyone can buy an expired domain name only once it is released for registration to the general public. What exactly does this mean, and when does a domain name really expire? As we have described in great detail in our white paper, domain names are going through different cycles. It is especially interesting what happens after the expiration date. A domain name can be active (when it’s registered), and if it is not renewed on time, it then proceeds to the “expired” status. This is also known as the on-hold status. During this expired status, an owner still holds the domain name and can safely renew it. Most of the companies mentioned in this list were in this situation. A domain name expired, and it was then renewed, as they say, better late than never.
After that, we have a pending status (some domain registrars call this the redemption period) where it is in some sort of limbo status. Some domain registrars still allow current owners to renew the domain name (sometimes for a greater fee) before it goes into deletion. Delete status lasts for around 5 days, after which it is released to the general public. This means that anybody can then register this domain name.
Some domain registrars keep the domain name for themselves, and then they try to sell it in the aftermarket. Sometimes, there’s a great interest in an expired domain name, that there are potential buyers standing in line, and the domain registrar that operates the domain name has to set up an auction where the best offer wins the domain name. Sometimes these bidding wars go above thousands of dollars.
Why do domain names expire?
5. Yatra forgets to renew its domain name
In April of 2012, the second largest online travel site for Indian tourists, responsible for up to 30% of the online travel-related transactions in India, forgot to renew their domain name. This Rs.370 billion (USD 5.7 billion) industry lost countless customers and lost its partnership with the State Bank of India, which produced a custom travel credit card with the company. It has not been as successful since.
4. Regions Bank forgets to renew its domain name
The 22nd largest bank in the United States, Regions Bank, which contains over 1700 branches and 2400 ATMs, forgot to renew its domain name in April 2013. Customers lost the ability to access online banking, online services, and access to the main bank website. The bank was forced to make a public apology, and Web services were down for close to a week. A similar problem happened to a bank in Serbia (mentioned later in this article).
3. Dallas Cowboys forget to renew its domain name
Perhaps one of the most famous examples comes from the Dallas Cowboys. The team forgot to renew their domain name in 2010 during a major news brief where they fired their head coach. The domain name that was purchased just years earlier expired, and the website was replaced by the image of two boys playing soccer and contact information for an opportunity to purchase the domain name. The organization had to pay out the registrar of the domain name, and the website was down for several days. Please don’t tell me the head coach registered the domain…
2. Microsoft forgets to renew two of their major domain names
This one was a biggie back in 1999 when: “Microsoft forgets to pay for domain renewal causing Hotmail (among other sites) to be impossible to reach for many users.” You read that right, about 15 years ago, Microsoft forgot to renew their domain name passport.com and made the headlines, especially in the Linux community that was waking up at that time. As if that wasn’t bad enough, in 2003, again Microsoft forgot to renew an important domain, this time hotmail.co.uk!
Source: Slashdot: Microsoft forgets to renew their domain name passport.com (Source available through web archive)
Source 2: The guy that captured the domain passport.com auctioned the $500 check it got from Microsoft for the domain and donated the money he got
Source 3: Microsoft forgets to renew hotmail.co.uk domain
1. Top domain expiration in the history goes to – Foursquare
Our number one domain expiration goes to a company that, at that time, raised $10 million in funding and then dropped the ball. The only reason Microsoft didn’t make #1 is that passport.com is not their main domain. Foursquare.com, on the other hand, is the most valuable equity of that digital company. Foursquare entire service stopped working, until they realized that their domain name has expired!
8 Notable mentions:
1. Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks forget to renew their domain names
These two major UK banks forgot to renew their domain name, and as a result, their banking services were delayed by days as they reclaimed their website domain. The good news for the bank is that their domain was not snatched up by another party after the registration expired, but the loss and services caused a customer service nightmare.
Source: Confirmed Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks forgot to renew domain name
2. Sitemeter forgets to renew its domain name.
Tens of thousands of websites rely upon Sitemeter to provide website monitoring capabilities: On April 4th, 2013, they forgot to renew their domain. It’s another case similar to Foursquare (see above), where a technology company with a digital product forgot to protect one of its main assets. Sitemeter was listed as Alexa’s Top 1,000 website, but on July 1st, 2017 shut down its operation.
Source: Sitemeter forgets to renew the domain name
3. Marketo, yes that Marketo, fails to renew their domain name on time.
Just when you thought domain expirations were the thing of the past and everybody learned the auto-renew function with a credit card on file on 10-year renewals, according to The Register, “hilarity ensues”. In July 2017, marketing giant Marketo (yes, the organization that was once valued at over $1 billion) failed to renew its domain name. Let’s welcome them to the club.
Source: Marketo’s main domain name expires
4. Sorenson Communications unable to deliver 911 call services due to domain name expiration
Moving on, we have Sorenson Communications, a large US telco that will have to pay a fine of 3 million dollars (that is no typo, you can read the settlement here). Because their domain name expired, their service suffered a three-day outage. Since they are getting paid a lot of money for critical services such as 911, the fine was within that range.
“These requirements ensure that persons with hearing or speech disabilities are able to stay connected with friends and family, and access critical services such as 911 in a manner similar to persons without hearing or speech disabilities”
If Sorensen had happened before we posted the original post, they would have made our TOP 5 section easily! I have a hard time understanding why it took them three days to renew their domain name. Whatever the reason was, we have our nine all-time domain expirations, and by the look of it, we will have more high-profile domain expirations in the future.
5. Parker Hannifin forgets about tema.com, which sells for $43,805 dollars as soon as it expires
Back in 2007, Rectus and its subsidiary Tema announced they were being bought by the giant Parker Hannifin. In the deal worth perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars, Parker Hannifin also got the domain name tema.com. In 2020 the domain wasn’t renewed, and there were multiple drop-catchers waiting. Dropcatch.com announced an auction where the domain name tema.com reached a nice $128,938 dollars.
However, a few days after, this situation took another turn! 888bbb, the highest bidder in the auction, failed to show up with the money, so the auction was restarted!
The highest bid in the second auction was $43,805.
6. Serbian bank forgets to renew the domain name
As it often happens, a big bank acquires a small bank. With that bank, along comes a domain name that controls the website, net banking, and mobile application. However, as Startit.rs reported, someone forgot to take over that domain name.
Telenor Serbia acquired KBC Bank, which later became Mobi Bank. So when Mobi Bank services went down, there was a frenzy to find out what exactly happened. Turns out, some systems were running on an old domain name that expired and then quickly renewed on the day of the debacle.
Tracking domain name expirations and domain age are easy to track with a simple Whois API. You can even track domain names that you don’t own!
7. Maryland license plates point to an online gambling website
Well, if you are going to put a domain name on roughly 800,000 license plates, then maybe don’t let the domain name expire? Vice broke this news in May 2023.
What makes this situation even worse, is that unlike some of the domain expiration blunders I’ve listed here, this domain name not only expired, it was released for registration on the open market. If you need a reminder on how that actually works, and what are the domain name life cycles, we wrote about that here.
8. Google Domains sell google.com
Google is a big company, so just like Microsoft, if there’s a top 10 list of any kind, Google is going to appear. However, I am giving them just a worthy mention because they did not let domain name expire. If you want to know what really happened, I wrote a comprehensive technical explanation that the media didn’t have time to write. Even the person that broke the news on LinkedIn, wrote that he registered the domain name google.com, which isn’t technically possible because you can only transfer a domain name if it’s already registered.
But I do have to admit that the news gave me a chuckle when I saw that Google sold google.com.