Tag Archives: Drop Catching

Querying The Dac with PHP

I see the same thing over and over, and some people imply or suggest its easy or incredibly hard to connect and query/poll the Nominet DAC (Domain Availability Checker) to get basic data about a domain.

There are a few reasons you would want to do this, the main ones are to build a drop list database or build a drop catching script, but both are built on the same foundations.

Before you can use this, you need to be a Nominet Member, and have a DAC Subscription, but you can access the DAC Testbed for Free without Membership or Subscription.

I’m going to use a high level language for this example, which in this case is PHP, but Perl is faster, and a low level compiled language like C would be way way quicker, but PHP is more than adequate for database building and non-prime drop catching.

Basic Connect to and Poll the Dac

The above code will result in the following output, it really is as simple a half a dozen lines of code,.

You can now act upon the returned $resp variable, explode it into manageable chunks like…

This will return an array of 6 blocks numbered 0-5, which will be…

From here you can put it into a database…

Query a List of Names

Its most likely you would want to add some sort of loop to load a list of names…

Thats the basics covered where most people seem to strugle, its really endless where you can take a script.

I may revisit this code in future and expand on it, but for now, lets see what you do with it.

 

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Nominet to Release Zone File in May 2016

Nominet (the body which operates the .UK family of domain names) has decided to finally release a zone file for the .UK registry in line with most other registries. This appears to be a continuation of Nominets moves to align with ICANN.

For those who don’t know what a zone file is, its a list of every registered domain name under the .TLD (Top Level Domain) which in this case is .UK, so it should include third level .co.uk, .org.uk, .met.uk, .ltd.uk, .plc.uk, .net.uk and finally the second level .uk.

Why so important ?
Well, if you are a copyright holder, and want to see if people are abusing your copyright, a zone file allows you to quickly search for your string and spot any offenders.

More useful in my context and likely yours, is that it makes Drop Lists (a list of each days soon to be released domains) complete. The last time a Zone File were available, were around 2004/2005 which contains approx 2,000,000 names and averages around 800-1,400 drops per day.

Currently, I believe the largest databases out there are around 8.5 million names, which leaves a short fall of 2,000,000 names unaccounted.  On the 8.5m lists, there are around 3,000-4,000 domains per day released, so the amount missing could be 10,000 extra per week. Don’t think these are all heading to drop lists, lots will be renewed.

It could be easier than ever to find the perfect domain name from may onwards

Its not clear yet…
Its not 100% clear, what exactly Nominet are classing as the zone file. Historically, they have protected the zone file data as their IP (Intellectual Property), so its not clear how much they will release.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.

Acquisition Costs v Sale Price

On an almost daily basis, I get email from potential customers looking to buy the domains I hold in my portfolio for pennies or close to standard registration fee, who are then shocked by the counter offers they receive. Domain Names are very much like Car Number plates, when you see your name on a car or number plate dealers site, do you expect it to cost the same as the first person who bought it? There is only 1, and possibly dozens or 100s of people who want that one name, so cash is the great decider.

I thought I’d talk a little bit about costs involved with drop catching, and the significant costs involved.

Nominet Membership
Firstly you need membership to Nominet, which costs £400+vat and then £100+vat per year, additionally you will need DAC membership is £25+vat per year on top again.

You require all of these to gain access to the basic systems which you will need to run a drop catching script.

Once you have your Nominet account, you have 3 main options…

Catching Software
Option 1: You can buy a script at around £10,000 for what is considered the best available to the public. There are cheaper ones often in slower high level languages, but when you’re talking in millisecond speeds, you need as fast a language as you can get. Lower level languages have a steeper learning curve, and thus cost more to have developed.

Option 2: Alternatively you can code your own script and spend months, years honing the intricacies of low level network programming, working out which language is faster for the specific job etc. Those who code their own software are often the fastest and most successful but have many years experience, generally they have been drop catching for 5, 10 or more years.

Additionally with Option 1 and 2, you will need Suitable Dedicated Server hosting. Any old server won’t be “fit for purpose”, you one which is close to the nominet servers, and in general you are looking at £300+ per month, I just checked a reliable provider and the yearly price was £3,651.60 inc basic support. If you are competent with Linux server management, you can save some money there. Server management can be £150-300 per month depending on who, where and how much “support” you need. The support is generally to install software, update software, patch security issues, fix faults, etc.

Option 3: Lastly, you can lease or rent a “catch system”, these can be as high as £1,000 a month for the top catchers, who are usually self coders (Option 2), but the average is around £400 per month for the best chance systems. As with script purchases, there are other options available, I’m working on averages and easy for the context of this post.

Drop Lists and Metrics
In addition to Option 1, 2 and 3, you will need access to “Drop Lists”, which are lists of domains due to drop on specific days and often you need “Metrics” which is information such as how many back links a domain has, what domain authority it has, things like that. Metrics are a whole other category, and not for this post.

Some basic drop lists are free, others are up to £15 per month. Metrics Data can be upto £4o per month but includes drop lists. Again cheaper limited options do exist, DCE.co.uk is once such example.

Drop Lists take some time to go through, and it takes a degree of skill to know what is of value, and what is trash. This again isn’t for this post.

Registration Fees
On top of this are the nominet registration costs, which are £5+.

Sales and Stock
Like all businesses, we have to hold stock, 100s or 1,000s or domain names, at £5ish per year. Sales are not regular, and we expect to sell around 5-10% of our stock per year, which means they need to sell at enough to cover our costs, pay our bills, buy new stock (which is from previous owners, auctions and catching) and pay wages on top.

In Summery
The bottom line is, it isn’t cheap to operate in this niche. I hope this goes some way to explain why drop caught domains are not sold for the price they are purchased for. Its not the domain you are paying for, its the time and costs taken to obtain, the skill learned to recognise it and the money invested up to this point.

Drop Catching IS a business, and as such it has overheads. Above are just a few such overheads. Remember this when you’re looking buy.

A Manchester Based Photographer and Website Developer with interests in Strongman, Fitness and Geekery.