Since the dawn of the internet, businesses have been trying to stake a permanent claim to their highly coveted domain names. The organization that oversees domain names, ICANN, limits a domain name’s registration and renewal period to a maximum of 10 years. If you’re asking yourself why, keep reading.
Who actually owns a domain name?
A domain registry is the organization contracted by ICANN to operate a given domain extension. Think of each registry as an apartment complex. You can lease an apartment from them for various term lengths, but you can’t purchase one outright. A domain registry operates in a similar fashion; they lease you a domain name for a fixed period of time. You never truly own your domain. Individual domain registries can each specify what combination of registration and renewal periods they wish to support. This can be anything from 1 to 10 years, so long as the domain’s expiration date does not exceed 10 years into the future.
Reasons why domain registration periods are limited
There are a number of legitimate reasons as to why ICANN has limited domain registration and renewals. The costs of owning and operating a domain registry will increase with inflation or company growth. Likewise, as the number of domains under management increases, operational costs are expected to increase. Over time, it’s expected that the registry will need to account for these increased costs by raising their extension’s price. By limiting the renewal period, ICANN is protecting businesses from shooting themselves in the foot. In addition to this, ICANN collects a yearly $.18 fee for each domain name, begrudgingly referred to as a “domain tax” in the industry. In the event ICANN were to increase this amount, it would be to their benefit that domain expiration dates are sooner than later.
So is there a way to own a domain name for life?
The short answer is no, not for someone else’s domain extension. If you have deep pockets and the urge to start your own domain registry, there’s always an opportunity to create your own brand TLD. Hundreds of large corporations have already done so, including Google (.google, .youtube, .goog, .plus), Apple (.apple), BMW (.bmw), IBM (.ibm), and many more.
A limited set of companies have opted to support 20 year and 100 year domain registrations, but the details are entirely in the legalese. In a case such as this, the registrar is effectively agreeing to register a domain name for the maximum term allowed by the extension (i.e. 10 years) and continue to automatically renewal it until the target expiration date is achieved. The downside to such an agreement is that initiating a domain transfer breaks the contractual agreement and you would lose the remainder of the money you pre-paid.
For the rest of us, we’re stuck with selecting the longest possible domain registration period available and ensuring that auto renewal is enabled within our domain’s settings. This could feasibly ensure that you always have 10 years remaining on your domain renewal, leaving you plenty of leeway if your billing information were to expire!