The Australian domain community is still reeling from a controversy that emerged in late September. Haven’t heard? Then you’re not an Aussie. But if private bids are shared to attract competing bidders, then that matters everywhere.
In order to understand this upside-down story, let’s visit the “Land Down Under”. You’ll want to pack this background info:
Australia’s ccTLD is .AU – most commonly registered as .COM.AU.
Outside the USA, country codes are a significant part of the online landscape.
While international drop catchers such as NameJet, SnapNames, Pheenix, and DropCatch deal mainly in gTLDs, many ccTLD markets have evolved specialized auction platforms of their own.
For expired .AU domains, one of the most important venues is NetFleet.
Today NetFleet reportedly functions as a joint venture between founder Mark Lye and Melbourne IT, which is currently listed as the world’s 6th largest domain registrar.
Here’s the crucial bit: NetFleet auctions rely on sealed bids. Customers are told that “this is a blind auction” in which “you cannot see any other bids except your own”. However, “other clients may have placed a higher bid than you”. Anxious not to lose out but totally in the dark regarding other bids, you are encouraged to submit “the maximum amount you are prepared to pay” – let’s say $5000. If you’re the high bidder, then you’ll pay the full bid amount, never knowing if the next highest bid was $4900 or $800 or $75 or nonexistent. Meanwhile, if you’re outbid, then you’ll tend to bid higher in the future.
Nothing wrong with that. The various auction systems all have their pros and cons. Wearing a blindfold is frustrating, but avoiding bidding wars is a relief. Yes, in the dark you might fall short of other bidders or overshoot them. But as long as your bid is well and truly sealed, then you can safely bid without drawing further attention to the auction; and you can disclose your maximum budget without spurring others to outbid you. It’s a fair tradeoff.