How do new domain names get created? And who gets first dibs on registering them? You might be surprised to know that it can take years to get a new domain extension approved. And even then, it’ll be months longer before the general public can buy the things.

Inspired by starting to offer  .co domain names on our website (the .co stands for Colombia), we thought we’d explain how domain extensions get created – and how the different stages of the registration process work.

Who decides there should be a new domain extension?

Often, when a new domain extension becomes available, it’s not actually new at all. The .co extension is a good example of this – Colombians have been able to register domains like for many years. Then, in 2008, the Colombian government decided to open up the .co domain name.

Country code domains like .co aren’t usually run directly by the country’s government. Although they tend to monitor how the domain is administered, the day-to-day management is generally the responsibility of another organisation.

In the UK, Nominet is responsible for the .uk domain name. However, the government can take ultimate control – as demonstrated by recent changes at the organisation.

Not all domain names are country codes. Some, like .tel and .mobi, were created by ICANN, the organisation with overall control of the entire domain name system. There’s a complex approval process for new domain extensions – for evidence of just how complex, look no further than the ongoing tale of .xxx domain names.

Sunrise, landrush and general availability

Once the creation of a new domain extension has been agreed, most domain names go through three registration phases:

  • Sunrise. This is the first chance people have to buy domains ending in the new domain extension. It’s usually only open to trademark holders, who can apply to buy the domain name which is identical to their trademark. Each trademark owner is usually checked individually, to make sure nobody buys domains to which they’re not entitled. Sunrise periods usually run for a couple of months. The .co sunrise runs from 26 April until 10 June.
  • Landrush. Following on from sunrise, the landrush period allows anyone to register the new domains. Premium domains get snapped up at this stage. Most landrush periods are run on a first-come-first-served basis, resulting in a stampede for the best names. Others, like .co, invite applications and auction off the most popular domains. Either way, there’s usually a premium to pay. The .co landrush runs from 21 June until 13 July.
  • General availability. Once the fuss over the landrush is over, domains go on sale as normal. In most cases, this means you can search for and buy them online, becoming the owner instantly. Buying domains during the general availability stage is cheapest, though you might miss out on a few of the most sought after domains. General availability for .co starts on 20 July.

Most new domain names follow these processes, though the details at each stage might vary a bit.

As for .co domains? When you place an order on our site, we’ll get straight in there as soon as the general availability stage opens and try to register the domain for you. This gives you a great chance of securing the domain you want – without paying over the odds.

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4 Responses

  • Matt

    When the Landrush stage of registration is open, is it at this point that you (123-reg) sercure the domain names that have been placed on pre-order with you?

    If not how do you get entry to sercure them earlier?

    And at what cost?

    Regards Matt

    May 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm
  • James

    I found this article very useful and learned about the way it all works. Thanks.

    I have a question though, if you buy a .co domain extension then what happens if the Columbian Goverment decided to close access/rights to the domain name I have purchased. I am in the market for a domain name but am concerned it may not be a long term investment.

    May 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm
  • John

    Thanks for the comments.

    @matt – no, when you pre-order, we get in there right at the start of the general availability period.

    We’re not offering registrations during the landrush – registering domains at that stage is much more expensive and there are still no guarantees, because domains which lots of people want will be auctioned to the highest bidder.

    @James – I think the chances of this happening are absolutely minimal. The decision to open the registrations up wasn’t taken overnight.

    The Colombian government spent a lot of time deciding whether to do it and considering the implications. Lots of organisations in the domain name world have given it their backing too. It’s really in nobody’s interest for this to fail.

    May 19, 2010 at 11:21 am
  • Matt

    Thanks John,

    I hope you guys will be fast at General availability then!!! :-)

    May 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm