Domainmonster.com Domain Editorials
Sins of The Internet: Domain Sniper
Author: Richard Lowe
The internet sure makes it possible to do things quickly, sometimes so quickly it will make your head spin. One day your site is selling lots of product or is very popular, and the next no one is visiting. Perhaps your site got kicked out of a major search engine or some competitor hijacked your page and your listing. Or perhaps someone just brought a new site online which is simply gaining all of your traffic.
Or perhaps you just forgot to renew your domain name. Maybe you changed your email address and forgot to update your domains contact information. Or your spam filters automatically deleted that renewal message that you got. Maybe you deleted it yourself, thinking it was just another piece of junk email. It could simply be that your domain registrar had a glitch in their reminder software, meaning you didn't get the reminder email.
Whatever happened, your domain name expired. You have to understand that domains are only leased or rented for a certain period of time. You do not own them forever, and you must renew them in advance of their expiration - or you risk losing them forever.
You mentally kick yourself, load your browser and enter the URL for your registrar's site. After you log in, you enter the information to renew. If you are lucky, they take your money and your name is reactivated within a few days. All is well, just remember to renew beforehand next time.
Quite often, however, you will not be able to renew your domain because in the meantime someone else purchased it out from under your nose. This most often happens if your name is very desirable (likely to be typed by someone) or has very high traffic, but it can occur with any domain name.
Why did this happen? Oftentimes, someone just happened to buy it for honest reasons. More often, however, there are shady motivations behind the purchase.
Someone may have sniped your domain.
This simply means they've been watching your Domain Name, waiting for it to expire. They waited through the hold period until the name became available, then quickly purchased the domain the second it was deleted from the internet databases.
These people generally have no intention of creating a web site, selling a product or doing anything you'd normally expected with a domain name. What they want to do is sell the name back to you, or to anyone else who is interested.
They will not be charging standard registrar rates either. They might want a few hundred dollars or a few thousand or even more, depending upon their estimate of the value of the name.
In the meantime, in order to attempt to force you to become very desperate, they will often set up a page of pornographic banners (which also makes them a few dollars). This has the effect of tarnishing your image and making you want to get the domain back at any price.
What can you do about this? Unless you happen to have a trademark on the domain name (in which case you might be able to sue for cybersquatting), there is nothing that you can do. You see, nothing illegal has been done. Someone is simply taking advantage of your mistake.
The only thing you can do is (a) negotiate with the domain sniper, or (b) get a different domain name. You can be sure he will make it easy to contact him (the email address or phone number will be either in the WHOIS record or on a page at the domain name.
You don't, however, need to take his first offer. Unless your domain is extremely desirable it's very likely that you are the only customer for the name. In which case, the sniper as the choice of making a few dollars a year from his pornographic banners or selling it back to you. He may also put the domain name up for sale on eBay or domain name auction sites.
He wants to get your money as fast as he can, and he wants to get as much as he can. He's also going to ask you for as much as possible to begin with, so don't take his first offer.
Be careful when handing the money over to the sniper. He's already proven himself unethical, so be sure to use some method of payment, such as a credit card, which can be revoked if necessary.
Once you've got your domain name back, remember to renew it on time next year. Set up a reminder so you don't forget, and don't depend upon your registrar to send you an email. It's your responsibility to remember to renew.
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