Domain locking: which locking periods are there for which domains?

Various top-level domains (TLDs) have a lock-up period, which is a period of time when the web address may not change hands. Domain locking doesn’t prevent the website from working; it prevents the domain from being sold. A lock-up period begins after an internet address is purchased or deleted. But it isn’t just those active in the domain trade that should be aware of these protective measures; a lock-up period might affect you when you want to change the provider of your newly-acquired domain. Whether an address is locked and for how long, depends on its extension. We reveal which current TLDs are affected and what you should know about domain locking.

What is a registrar-lock and why do they exist?

Registrar locks are primarily a response to the domain trade: the goal of blocking domains for a limited period is to reduce the misuse of domains as speculative objects. Upon purchasing the domain, the operator is then bound to the web address for a certain period.

A registrar lock is used in the following two scenarios:

  • Domain transfer lock: if a domain is subject to transfer locking, the ban goes into effect immediately after the web address has been bought. This applies to new registrations as well as domains taken on from a previous owners.
  • Lock after deleting a domain: some addresses are locked for a period after they’ve been deleted. This can also provide protection for domain operators if they fail to renew their website. They then receive an e-mail informing them about the deletion. Domains can be re-activated for a fee.

The duration of a domain lock can vary. However, locks don’t only prevent rapid resales; a domain transfer is also prohibited during this period. Locks also stop you from changing internet service providers soon after acquiring new internet addresses. This can prove problematic if you don’t want your new domain to be hosted by the current provider.

How long are specific domains blocked?

The respective TLD registry determines how long a web address is locked – no matter which provider or domain name registrar you registered the domain with.

TLDs are commonly divided into two main groups: generic top-level domains (‘generic TLDs’ or gTLDs) and country-specific top-level domains (‘country code TLDs’ or ccTLDs). There are differences between these two kinds of TLDs when it comes to domain transfer locks and lock-up periods after an address is deleted.

Locking generic TLDs

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has control over many known gTLDs and manages the following extensions:

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .info
  • .biz
  • .mobi

For internet addresses with these TLDs, ICANN has established a domain transfer ban of 60 days as well as a 30-day lock after a domain is deleted. It’s not only the well-known gTLDs that are subject to these rules; so are many of the new generic top-level domains such as .international, .film, .restaurant, .support, and .theatre. There are still plenty of registrars for TLDs. These ultimately determine whether the domains (once they have been sold or deleted) are locked and for how long.

Locking country-specific TLDs

Most ccTLDs (.org, .uk, and .ca) don’t transfer locks, although .ca added support for registrar locks in 2010.

The ccTLDs .tv and .cc (assigned to Tuvalu and the Cocos Islands) are governed by a 60-day transfer ban. They are popular internationally and are available on the Verisign registry. Additionally, ccTLDs managed by Verisign have a lock period of 30 days after their deletion, which means it’s the same time period as with gTLDs.

The internationally popular TLD of Montenegro (.me) is an exception when it comes to domain locking: if you buy an existing address with this extension, there is no a lock. It’s different, however, if a .me address is re-registered, you cannot resell the domain within the next 60 days. The Montenegrin TLD is especially sought after, since it allows speaking domains. For example, the American social network, MeetMe, bought the address meet.me from its previous owner for US $450,000 – higher than any other .me domain in history.

The rules differ depending on each TLD

The application and scope of registrar locks vary quite massively. Some domain extensions are subject to a registrar lock, which occurs when an internet address is deleted. The affects gTLDs as well as many ccTLDs. Domain transfer locks can also be found with generic as well as country-specific TLDs. It usually doesn’t matter whether you register an internet address from scratch or buy from the previous owner and have it transferred to your name. There are also exceptions here, just as the Montenegrin TLD example shows.

Furthermore, there are TLDs that are free from any lock-up periods. There is no one-size-fits-all rule, however; you have to find out what conditions apply to which TLD. If you plan to change the internet service provider as soon as possible after acquiring a new domain, it’s best to check the exact lock periods before you purchase it. Generally, the provider or the responsible registrar can aid you further regarding this point.