Recap: Domain Name Auction Firestorm

Here’s a look back at the firestorm that hit domain auctions over the past two weeks.

It’s been a busy week at Domain Name Wire. And perhaps a busier week for GoDaddy. Here’s a run down of what took place and what it means for the industry.

It all started when a reader tipped me off to a thread at NamePros. The thread started out benign and was simply about the number of .us domain names going through auction at GoDaddy’s TDNAM and the high prices they were fetching. But then someone noticed that one of the winning bidders was Adam Dicker, who happens to head TDNAM. This ruffled a few feathers.

I got in touch with GoDaddy to see what they thought of Dicker’s bidding, and was surprised to find out the company didn’t have a policy forbidding this. This was the foundation for an article published last Friday. I connected with NameJet and (which owns SnapNames) to find out their policies on employee bidding, and followed up with an article about Sedo’s and Pool’s policies.

This got some juices running in the domain industry. The original article received nearly 100 comments. Michael Berkens blogged about another expired domain auction controversy.

But the issue was still confined to the domain industry for about a week. Then last weekend Slashdot covered the issue. It exploded from there as social news sites Fark, Digg, Reddit, Ycombinator News and others picked up on the story. On Monday I battled to keep the Domain Name Wire server up.

With public pressure mounting and an internal review complete, on Monday GoDaddy announced it had changed its policy. I think this was a smart move.

But the internet news outlets were just getting started. Here’s some other coverage:

GoDaddy Bans Employees From Bidding on Some Domains – Wired

Dicker Caught Dickering – CNET

GoDaddy VP Outbidding Their Customers – PC Magazine

GoDaddy Auction VP Gets Slashdot Treatment – WebProNews

From my perspective, this story was never about Dicker, but about the policies of domain name auction companies to avoid any conflicts of interest with their customers.

What’s next? This story isn’t over. Other domain registrars have controversial practices that are bubbling up to the surface.


  1. Sergio says

    Thanks for the update, Andrew. I listened to a podcast interview of Adam Dicker the other day and he sounds to me like a genuienly good-hearted fella. It was probably poor judgement on his part and it will undoubtedly be a learning experience. Going forward, I believe that the industry should now focus on self-regulation and have an open and transparent approach in the way of which it conducts its business. Tucows, for one, should not be taking back its own domain names from the customers that they sell them to – baaad practice. Network Solutions should consider changing its policy about holding domain names hostage after someone registers it using their sytem. And ICANN should be concerned with doing a better job with what they’re currently responsible for before expanding their responsibilities – this organization refuses to acknowledge their constant failures.

  2. says

    I’m curious to see hear about registrar’s ability to keep unpaid names.

    There are names in’s and Moniker’s unpaid names department.

    Why call it the unpaid names department? Like they are really going to let the previous registrant get the name back for a reg fee.

    Having an unpaid names department is VERY misleading. Those registrars own those domains and I doubt they would let the previous registrant just get the name back.

  3. Lda says

    I remain stunned by the deafening silence from SEDO over questions relating to their outrageous practice of using secret internal ‘brokers’ to acquire domains from their own trusting clients.

    These ‘brokers’ never reveal themselves, and clearly use all of the private and privileged information that SEDO has on file relating to the seller.

    Indeed, SEDO’s tight control over buyer/seller communications means that these faceless ‘brokers’ have total access to the seller’s entire buying/selling history on file, and clearly use it for their commercial benefit and advantage.

    Not only would this borderline/illegal practice not be tolerated in a regulated financial market, where that type of advantage could be worth millions, but they also have the gall to SELL this egregious practice for fee !! Just look at any SEDO sale page to find them touting for paid users.

    As said in a previous post, the potential for abuse by ‘rogue’ SEDO brokers working with outside collaborators is immense and not without precedence in other fields. It makes a mockery of SEDO’s so-called assurances of bans on employees purchasing domains.

    The ONLY way for SEDO to regain any moral validity here is to BAN THEIR USAGE OF INTERNAL PURCHASING BROKERS.

  4. says

    Hi Andrew,

    Everyone I know is watching this issue very very closely. Some heads are probably going to roll.

    The reason this has spread like wildfire is that it is huge news if this domain industry ever wants to be taken seriously, or as “the real deal” by any serious financial institutions, investment bankers, or other reputable industries.

    Never before have I seen anything quite like this and I have been around this technology industry for almost 30 years now.

    What I am afraid of is this … what if this is only the “tip of the iceberg”. If it is, I suggest we all start looking for something else to do.

    George Riddick

  5. Andrew says

    @ LDA – do you have any proof of what you are asserting? It sounds like you’re saying that people pay Sedo to buy domains on their behalf. Sometimes the domains they buy are that of Sedo clients. Is that what you’re saying? And are you suggesting that when they do this they look at their clients’ accounts to figure out what they’ll pay?

    To me the first part is fine. The second part isn’t, but I have no idea how you could figure out they were doing that.

  6. says

    bah. I have so much other stuff to do, so many promising projects to work on with good people, but I am still obsessed with my new phrase I’m inviting all domainers who are sick of being ripped off, to use:

    “PUGNA PRO JUSTICIA” — TATTOO IT ON YOUR RIGHT ARM. I did, to dedicate myself to this goal. It means in Latin: “FIGHT FOR JUSTICE”

    The tattoo indicates your soul’s belief in this cause… you’ve proved to yourself you have the guts to follow this honor and you can pride yourself with conducting yourself with honor. I will publish any domainer who gets this tattoo (with any accompanying images to support the war cry, on my facebook website and link back to their website. I will also list all PUGNA PRO JUSTICIA tattoo domainers website links on my blog article on, reaching about 100 domainers a day.

    I’m sticking to it, no matter what the cost. I will fight any injustice to domainers as long as I am able. And there are surprises coming to those who think they can cheat and win.

    Good work Andrew… as usual.

    Stephen Douglas

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