Catching expired .uk domains may become more common, as Nominet is considering making the drop schedule public.

Two days ago, Nominet published their 2019 Policy Consultation, requesting public comment on three changes, including the publication of the drop list.  Here’s their description of the proposed change:

Information on the date and time an expired domain name will become available for registration could be provided to registrars and the general public, via Registrar Resources or public list of domains scheduled to be released on any given day.

The wording is a bit awkward, but we believe this means that there will be a public list limited to the current day’s drops, whereas Nominet-accredited registrars will have access to a list that spans multiple days.

Not only will the drop date be published, but the time as well.  This would represent the only new data for dropcatching services, as it has never been too hard to obtain estimated drop dates.  Nominet makes the zone file available to registrars, from which a drop schedule can be deduced by adding 90 days to the expiry date.

Nominet says that this will “level the playing field” among registrars, which makes sense. Any registrar can set a routine to check availability at regular intervals, until finally detecting that the domain has dropped.  When multiple registrars are trying to catch a domain, the one that’s checking most frequently has an advantage.

If all registrars are scheduling their commands for the same time, then presumably the domain allocation will not depend as much on technological advantages and become more random.

Although less relevant to the end user, Nominet also cites lowering the strain on its systems as an advantage to a transparent drop time.  The volume of availability checks sent by dropcatching services on the drop day must be enormous.

Eliminating both the need to send so many checks and to produce a droplist from the zone file means that operating a dropcatching service for .uk will consume fewer resources than ever before.  In theory, that should bring lower prices to the end user.  This is the principal benefit that one can envision arising from the policy change.

On the other hand, the more level playing field complicates things for the registrant that wants to catch a highly-desirable domain.  Currently, this user can place orders with a handful of the top services and expect a reasonable probability that one will catch the domain.  With a higher number of services offering a similar catch probability, the exercise becomes more random.

Nominet is accepting comment on this policy until December 16.  If you’d like to make your opinion known, this form can be used.  We will publish a short note to confirm if and when the policy regarding the drop list goes into effect.

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