When you registered your domain (e.g. yourgroovydomain.com) with WordPress.com, you purchased the right to use that domain name for a year. If you'd like to continue using it after the first year, you'll need to renew it annually.
We strongly urge our users to renew their domains in a timely fashion, because once they expire it can be difficult to regain use of them - they aren't necessarily released back into the pool of available domains, and you may not be able to re-purchase them. Choosing the Auto Renew option on your domain upgrade is the safest route, so you never have to worry about losing control of your domain. See My Upgrades for more information.
If you haven't selected the Auto Renew option, we will notify you of the upcoming expiration several times via email and messages on your blog's Dashboard.
What happens when my domain expires?
Once a domain expires, it goes through a series of steps that make it increasingly difficult (and more expensive) to renew.
For domains registered through WordPress.com, an expired domain falls into a grace period for about 10 days to two weeks. During this short window, the domain can be renewed at the regular price. If you experience difficulty renewing your domain during this time, go to the My Upgrades page. There will be a link to contact Support for further assistance.
After the grace period ends, your domain enters the redemption period, the length of which can vary. This means the domain name can still be renewed, but our registrar imposes an additional $80.00 redemption fee. (This is standard practice for domain registrars.)
It's important to note that once a domain is in redemption, it's also put up for sale at an expired-domain auction, where another party can bid on your domain name.
At the end of the redemption period, if there was a successful bidder in the auction, the registrar will assign the domain name to that party. The domain name is now owned by someone else and cannot be renewed.
If there are no bidders, the domain will be returned to the pool of available domain names. However, it is common for back-order companies to wait for domains to be released and purchase them the moment they become available. There may also be another individual who likes the domain waiting to buy it.
This means that even when your domain is released, another party can purchase it before you get the chance.
Keep in mind that once your domain expires, it can be unavailable for up to 90 days. Once it goes back on the market, anyone can register it. You should never allow a domain to expire unless you are fully done with it and never want to use it again.