What is a domain backorder?

To backorder a domain is to use a backordering service to acquire an expired domain as soon as it becomes available for registration. The real technical term for a backorder is a drop catch.

Backordering services (like NameJet & SnapNames. Comprehensive list available) take a small fee from the user and for this fee try to register a domain as soon as the registry makes the domain available. The process of trying to register a domain as soon as possible is called "catching" and the term to register expired domains is therefore called "drop catching".

A backordering service does not guarantee that they will be able to acquire the domain for you. Since multiple services can try and register the domain, it is possible that the service you use is not able to catch the domain for you. However, if the service is unable to aquire the domain for you, then the fee is fully refunded.
List of Drop Catching / Backordering services
Where does a drop fit in a domain lifecycle?

The above image has been taken from the Icann website with a few addons by us
Can I compete with the backordering services to catch the domain myself?
Can you compete? Yes. Ofcourse.
Will you be successful? Very unlikely, unless this is a domain that no one else cares for.

Every registry gives a fixed number of connections to a single registrar for domain purchasing. Unless you are a registrar, you will need to go through a registrar to purchase a domain. To drop catch a domain you are therefore sharing this fixed number of connection with all the other customers of that registar, making the chance of getting the domain very small.

To add insult to injury, some services like DropCatch.com have 750+ registrars. You really cannot manually compete with a backordering service !

Tips & Tricks for better domain backorders?
  • Since a backordering service only charges you if they are able to catch the domain for you, you can setup backorders for the same domain with multiple backordering services. Doing this, you improve the chances of catching the domain and since you only pay the fee to a single service, there is no cost of doing this
  • If multiple users place a backorder for a domain name, and if the backordering service catches the domain, then the backorder service often places this domain in an auction either between the multiple users who placed the backorder or in a public auction. This can drive the cost of acquiring a good domain into the thousands of dollars. To avoid this, try and place a backorder only when there is very little time left for the domain to drop
Further Reading - Additional Resources