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When I host sites, I have a line item in my contract to specify whether they will renew or if they want me to handle it.
I have had four clients in the past three months that have let it expire. Then I just met with someone today that almost completely lost their domain because their previous designer handled the registration and he died and they didn't know how to renew it.
Just because it's cheap, it doesn't mean it doesn't have value.
The other is as you say, many business owners are simply intimidated by the Internet and allow a less than mindful or even nefarious developer to "handle everything." When the site is built, the checks stop coming, the developer has no reason to remember this project, so poof it goes. Ultimately in this situation the developer is to blame or at least responsible, as they should have set the domain owner as the administrative and billing contact.
Lastly, related to the above, a project is poorly constructed and doesn't effectively provide the site owner with sufficient leads or sales to make them even notice, so they just give up.
I also have a database with all our registered domain names, sorted in order of expiry. I sent 1 message about it to the person in charge a couple of months before the expiration, then promptly forgot the issue. But of course I didn't follow-up after that, so I don't have much of a leg to stand on for complaining about it. It's my fault, pure and simple, for not following up further.
Oh, and we've also had clients to whom we've sent numerous reminders and called several times, but would never give us a decision about renewing. If they were good clients, we went ahead and renewed and just billed them. We had one client who went with another company for hosting, but their new company never got around to transfering the domain before the expiratation, so we renwed another year for them. One year later, their new hosting company still couldn't get their act together, and no one seemed to care, so we just gave up and let it expire.
[edited by: LifeinAsia at 5:19 pm (utc) on July 11, 2007]
I always re-register my domains as that way I know they never expire.
I've learnt my lesson the hard way. Now all my domains are handled by either myself personally or by someone that I know personally and can trust.