Hundreds of new domain name extensions, or top level domains (TLDs), have been released over the past five years. 

While .com is the popular option, you now have lots of other choices. Someone showcasing their web design portfolio might use .DESIGN. A home builder can pick .BUILD. And developers might like .DEV, a top level domain operated by Google.

The registries that release these new domain choices have different processes for their launches. There can be a lot of demand for certain second level domains (the personalized part of the domain, left of the dot) when these domains launch. To address the rush for new domains, the registries offer a unique way to get the domain you really want.

A Phased Launch

There are at least two phases to each new TLD launch.

  • The first phase is called Sunrise. During this time, companies that have trademarks get first dibs on domains that match their brands. 
  • The final phase is called General Availability. This is a first-come, first-served period when anyone can register a domain.

Most registries, including Namecheap, do something a bit unique between these two phases. It’s called Early Access.

Early Access

Early Access gives companies and people that really want a particular second-level domain for a new TLD to snag it before General Availability by paying an extra fee.

Most registries structure the Early Access phase as a Dutch auction. A Dutch auction is the opposite of a typical auction. Instead of starting with a low bid and increasing it until there’s only one bidder left, a Dutch auction starts with a high bid that goes lower. Anyone can win the auction by buying the item at the current auction price.

The Early Access phase typically lasts five to seven days. Here’s an example of what you might pay during an Early Access Dutch auction:

  • Day One fee: $10,000
  • Day Two: $5,000
  • Day Three: $2,000
  • Day Four: $500
  • Day Five: $150

(Note that prices depend on how much the registry charges. Some have higher prices and others charge less.)

These are the prices customers pay to register a domain during this phase and are in addition to the regular annual fee.

If a person really, really wants a particular domain and thinks other people might have their eyes on it, they might pay the extra $10,000 to get the domain before the price drops on the second day. 

If the person thinks there won’t be much competition for the domain but still want to get it before General Availability, they might pay extra during day four or five.

The psychology of Early Access is interesting. People who buy domains during this time have to guess if there will be demand for the domain they want and pick a day based on this guess. It’s entirely possible that a person will pay the first-day price when they could have waited for the fifth-day price and the domain still would have been available.

Get to the Front of the Line

Early Access is a unique way to get in the front of the line when new domains launch. Many people register new domains the second they enter General Availability, so it might be worth spending a bit extra for the peace of mind of locking up a domain during Early Access.

Stay tuned for more top level domain name launches at Namecheap and details about how to participate in the Early Access phase of the launch.