Domain life cycle

While preparing to write this article, I realized how different life cycles one domain name has from another. They adhere to the same rules, as I will share here, but no doubt some domain names are registered and have been registered for decades, while some had a brief stint and barely left a mark. What is a typical domain life cycle? When does it start, and when does it end? Does it start when it ends? Let’s dive in.

How does a domain life cycle begin?

A domain name will start the cycle once an individual or a business registers a name. This name will be registered under a top-level domain, often abbreviated to TLD. For example, I registered WhoAPI name, under the most popular TLD, the .com. The important fact to keep in mind is that, just like everybody else, I don’t own this domain name. I am paying a yearly lease. I have the right to use it as long as I keep paying for it.

A long time ago, domain registration was really expensive. Back then, it cost $100 per year to register and renew .com domain names. That’s when $100 was worth a lot more than it is now. It would quickly add up if you owned thousands of domain names as some heavy-hitters domain investors did. I interviewed several of them, so if you are interested to learn more about domain flipping, you can check out the interviews with Rick Schwarts, Mike Mann, Rob Grant, and Frank Schilling.

Domain life cycle starts with domain registration

The domain life cycle starts with domain registration

Domain registration, the first step

Today, a domain life cycle can begin for as low as $1.00. On Namebright, you can register a .com domain name for as low as $9.15. With ICANN raising prices occasionally, Namebright always tries to give the absolute lowest prices. You can see in the image below I was charged $9.15 for renewal in 2023. With most domain registrars, renewals are more expensive than first-time registration costs. Domain registrars often try incentivizing buyers to start their “domain life cycle” with them, by offering lower prices for domain registration. Domain registration is the first year of the domain life cycle. After that, the domain can expire (I’ll get to that in a minute), or you could renew the domain name.

Once you register your domain name, you will enter your details as the owner in the whois record. And if you have a web hosting ready, you will enter your nameservers. That way, when someone opens your domain name, the content published on your web hosting will load on your domain name.

Paying for renewal of a 4-letter .com domain name for $9.15

Paying for renewal of a 4-letter .com domain name for $9.15

Domain status updates during the domain life cycle

Each stage in the domain life cycle is followed by a different domain status. You can check your domain status in the whois record (example in the image below). For a complete description of any domain status, it’s best to consult with the ICANN web page on domain status. Let’s mention briefly the domain statuses that are usually found at this stage, when a domain name is registered, and actively used.

  • clientUpdateProhibited
  • clientTransferProhibited
  • clientDeleteProhibited

This means exactly what you think it means. It is prohibited (forbidden, not possible) to update, transfer or delete this client. This helps prevent unauthorized updates, transfers, and deletions on the domain name. Below you can see an image of a cropped screenshot where the domain status is visible.

Domain status example

Domain status example – obtained with a whois lookup

This right here is proof that the domain name was not sold as many media outlets reported. What did happen was that Google Domains (a domain registrar) mistakenly thought that was available for registration and sold it to the first person who made such a domain availability check. (Explained in greater detail here).

Domain renewal – the second step of the domain life cycle

After the first year, a domain name is registered, and once it is nearing the expiration date, a domain registrar will send a reminder reporting that the domain is about to expire. Some domain owners are sloppy, so unintentional domain expirations still happen (check the video below). If you want to keep the domain life cycle active, you need to renew the domain name. It’s like renewing a lease for your house. Domain renewals are on an annual basis, so you can’t renew monthly or daily.

However, you could go in the other direction. Instead of thinking about how short you can renew the domain name, think about how long you can renew the domain name.

How long can I renew the domain name?

The longest period you can renew the domain name is ten years. That would mean that even if ICANN raised prices or the designated domain registrar raised prices during that period, you would still keep your domain name. The rising prices wouldn’t affect you. Renewing your domain name longer is also a good business practice because you will avoid unintentional expirations. There were some rumors among SEO experts that longer domain renewal dates favor a better position in Google.

The story of and other popular old domains

Very interestingly, the first domain name ever to be registered was With a simple whois lookup, we can learn that it was registered on the 15th of March, back in 1985. There are several reasons why I mentioned Not only because it was the first domain name that started the famous domain life cycle. It is also a domain name that hasn’t ended the domain life cycle. This domain name has been registered and renewed for nearly 40 years in a row! Speaking of old domains, let’s do a bulk whois lookup and check what other popular domains are really old. In alphabetical order:

  • – “date_created”: “1986-11-17”
  • – “date_created”: “1986-04-25”
  • – “date_created”: “1987-02-19”
  • – “date_created”: “1987-05-14”
  • – “date_created”: “1986-03-03”
  • – “date_created”: “1986-03-19”
  • – “date_created“: “1986-03-25”
  • – “date_created”: “1991-05-02”
  • – “date_created”: “1987-04-04”
  • – “date_created”: “1986-01-09”


So this first step in the domain life cycle can keep repeating for as long as the domain name system exists. As you can see, these domain names were registered during the eighties and never expired. That’s right, they never expired! We’ll get to domain expiration in a second. Let’s mention the domain expiration date briefly.

How to check a domain expiration date?

I recently wrote in great detail on how to check a domain expiration date. So I’ll just mention it briefly here, because it’s an important part of the domain life cycle. That’s the date when we decide if we want to change direction or we want to keep the loop active. The loop I am describing is the domain renewal cycle that repeats once every year. Or longer if you want to renew the domain name for a longer period.

Anyway, once we reach this domain expiration date, the domain registrar where we registered this domain name will pull the plug, so to speak. The domain name will no longer display the content we’ve previously published there. How does this happen? If you remember, in the beginning, when you registered the domain name and entered your nameservers, you could display the content and programming code stored on your web hosting, your web server.

When the domain name crosses the domain expiration date, it reaches the next stage of the domain life cycle. The domain registrar takes over, and they put back their own domain registrar nameservers. This looks like this, and if that’s not what you intended to do, it’s considered a fumble in the tech community. The experts get a good chuckle out of it.

Once you decide not to renew a domain name, it will expire

Once you decide not to renew a domain name, it will expire

The domain name expired. What now?

Over the years, my contacts learned I am the domain guy. This usually means they turn to me with questions, comments, and stories about domain names. In my career spanning almost two decades, I’ve learned that many people don’t know that they can’t register the domain name the second it expires. It has to go through several different domain life cycles. Once the domain name expires, the designated domain registrar wants to give the old owner additional time and the benefit of the doubt to reconsider and renew their domain name.

Sometimes this is actually helpful, as we’ve seen in some high-profile unintentional domain expirations. If you are wondering how in the world someone can forget to renew their domain name, I’ve recorded this video explaining 11 reasons why someone might forget to renew their domain name.

Domain registrars have different policies, but this step of the cycle lasts up to 45 days. This stage is also called the Redemption Grace Period (RGP). During this period, you are still able to renew your domain name. It usually lasts around 30 days. After that, we have the…

Pending – Domain life cycle stage

I am sure everyone’s felt like they are pending at least once in their lifetime. Well, so do domain names. Pending typically happens after the expired stage, and this serves as a short limbo period before the domain name enters the deletion stage. This means that nothing can happen during these 30 days.

Domain life cycle pending status

Domain life cycle pending status

Can I renew or transfer my domain name during the pending status?

Once a domain name reaches this pending period, you can’t renew or do anything with the domain name. The domain name is officially in no man’s land. If you wanted to renew the domain name, you had plenty of time to do that. You could have renewed or transferred the domain name during the one-year registration period. And you could have renewed the domain name during the expired period (redemption grace period). Not anymore. The domain name has entered a one-way street, and it’s heading for one last stop.

domain expiration status


Also known as pending delete, it is a domain status when it is pending or awaiting deletion. Deletion from where? Well, deletion from the registry. Once the domain is deleted, it will be ready for new registration. But let’s not run into new registration so fast without establishing deletion.

A domain name is held for 5 days in the deletion period. (image below). Like the pending period, you can’t do anything with the domain name at this stage.

Pending delete status can usually be found with domain names that the owner is not interested in them. They allowed for deletion to take place. Therefore, the domain name will be available for a brand new registration in 5 days. Below you can see a whois record for one such domain name. This domain is in the deletion period, and this is what the whois record looks like. With a whois record, you can always check the domain status and find out in which period the domain name is currently in.

Domain status pending delete example

Domain status pending delete example

Once this period has ended, the domain name will become available for registration. However, sometimes the situation gets complicated. The theory is often different than real life, as I have explained in the Namebright example. Some domain registrars like to be the first to register expiring domain names. Some companies, like GoDaddy, have a backorder service that allows new potential owners with domain registration for these expired domain names as soon as (the second) it becomes available for registration.

Why would someone buy an expired domain name?

There are several reasons why someone would buy an expired domain name, so let’s list a few:

  • The old domain name owner reconsiders in the future and registers the domain name again
  • Someone comes to the conclusion that this is a good name and wants to start a business with that same name
  • SEO experts want the reputation and backlinks the old domain name had
  • Domain investors think they can resell the domain name. Someone thought the domain had value since it was registered
  • Criminals want to use the traffic and reputation old domain name had to divert it to their despicable website

With this stage, the domain name has come full circle, and it is now back in the pool of domain names available for registration. There are no statuses for such domain names, and they are not in the whois record.

The end of domain life cycle, the domain is available for registration

At the end of the domain life cycle, the domain is available for registration.

Here is a quick recap of what you learned

I hope this domain life cycle article was helpful in your journey and that you were able to learn at what domain stage is your domain name. Here’s w

  • If you are looking to buy a domain name that is expired but still not available for registration, now you know how long you will have to wait.
  • There are actually two different domain life cycles. One where a domain name is very valuable and keeps getting renewed (like or And a different domain life cycle where a domain name expires and becomes available for registration
  • You learned that you lease a domain name on an annual basis (up to ten years)
  • There are different domain stages (available, active, expired, pending, and deletion)
  • Unintentional domain expirations still happen.


Goran Duskic has been the Founder and CEO of WhoAPI Inc. since 2011, a company that specializes in developing APIs, including the well-known Whois API. He started his career in internet entrepreneurship in 2006 and has co-founded several online businesses, including a web hosting company that he later sold. Goran's work primarily involves creating practical API solutions to meet technological needs.