Bidding in web domain auctions is not for the faint of heart
NET RESULTS:IT BEGAN with an e-mail from a scam artist. Would I be interested in buying a domain he owned, closely related to a domain I already had? He would send me an image purporting to show he owned the domain. If I wanted it, we could then discuss a price.
Normally, an e-mail like that would go straight into the trash or the spam folder. What made me stop was that I have routinely checked on the availability of that domain for years.
I also knew who the owner was. The site had not been updated since the late 1990s, left in a kind of cold online storage, but he hadn’t been inclined to drop the registration.
So when I saw the e-mail my heart sank – it seemed I had taken my eye off the ball, the domain had at last come up for sale and I had failed to nab it. I clicked through to see what was on the web at the domain address; and it was clearly for sale.
But then I looked a little closer. The domain was not owned by an individual at all – it was going to auction.
And thus did I get a very fast education in what happens to domains people fail to renew. Depending on the domain registrar, there is a period of about a month in which the domain is held in reserve while the registrar tries to contact the owner.
If that fails, either the domain is just dropped, and goes back into general availability, or it can go to auction. There are a few permutations on these options but that’s basically the picture.
The scammer who e-mailed me was, of course, trying to see how much I would be willing to pay for a domain, and then he would bid for it. But there was no way I was letting that happen – I was going to jump into that auction myself.
In my case, I was dealing with a company called NameJet, which takes domain names from several registries directly but will also bid to obtain a domain available elsewhere on behalf of a customer. It had directly acquired the domain I wanted.
Anyone could place an initial bid of $69 or more over a three-day period to indicate interest and thereby go into the group that would be able to bid in a final, private, three-day auction. The high bid in the public period becomes the starting bid for the private auction.
I was the high bidder when the auction rolled over to the three-day private auction, with 54 potential bidders . . . 54!