The great Domain Name Wire survey fraud

Someone went through quite a bit of effort to game this year’s survey.

The 8th annual Domain Name Wire survey has now closed.

I do the survey every year, and I think it provides a pretty good snapshot of what’s going on in the domain industry: how domainers are doing, what they think of various domain companies, etc.

Of course, every year there’s a bit of ballot stuffing. It’s not a scientific survey and anyone can respond. Companies sometimes ask their customers to vote for them, just like they do in any web voting.

It’s no big deal and it’s all in fun.

But this year someone took it to the extreme. It was fairly sophisticated, yet also clumsy.

Someone submitted about 1,500 entries designed to sway the results.

They either used a computer system or something like mechanical turk.

I’m guessing the former for a few reasons.

They quickly submitted surveys from various blocks of IP addresses. The IP addresses were different, but the same blocks and countries. The system they used filled out the surveys in about 90 seconds start to finish and one every three minutes, like clock work.

Each survey had some varying answers, but also some commonalities. For example, on the question where people were asked to submit a list of all parking companies they used over the past year, the first three were identical on almost all of them.

Very clumsy.

The best parking company answer rotated between two companies.

But the best part was the domain broker part. As I reviewed the results, I saw that two domain brokers rotated pretty much evenly in the results.

Here’s the kicker. When I looked at the first couple hundred automated submissions, here’s what the best domain broker line said:

“Put 50% Broker One, Put 50% Broker Two”


I’m not going to disclose the names of the brokers, because I suspect at least one (or maybe both) were unwitting participants.

The good thing is the automated submissions were so obvious when looked at in totality that I was able to clean them out of the survey. It was a pain, but I was left with about 550 good entries that will be used as the basis for the survey results.

Although I have my suspicions, if anyone knows who was behind this I’d certainly appreciate you dropping a line.

Next year the survey will be handled differently for sure.

For this year, look for the survey results to come out over the next few weeks — with the bogus submissions removed.


  1. says

    That is too bad but it shows you one thing: Somebody really values your survey and knows it has influence on the domain industry. You don’t get into so much troubled if you don’t care.

    I have been participating for a few years and did so this year. Looking forward for the results.

  2. SL says

    Argh, yes, a doh moment on my part. My instructions were supposed to say “Put 50% Broker Two, Put 50% Broker One”.

    Thanks for catching that.

  3. says

    “I’m not going to disclose the names of the brokers, because I suspect at least one (or maybe both) were unwitting participants”

    TBH I’d think that at least one of them must have had to do with this.

  4. says

    Andrew – I do hope you engage the brokers to alert them to the shenanigans. I have mixed feelings on disclosing their names, but if you find out who masterminded it I vote you expose them. Otherwise they get the message that rules of society do not apply to them and they will in all likelihood fine tune their program. And soon your survey will have no value, for fun or not. They tried to cheat your readers out of a fair result. They took the chance, they need to be held accountable, or at least exposed. This comment and 50 cents might get you a cup of coffee, for what it’s worth. Keep up the good reporting!

  5. Rob says

    @andrew: i do hope that there was more evidence pointing to this “fraud” than what you have disclosed. it seems that you have given far too much detail to them so that they can improve their methods next time.

    as for disclosing who they are, it’s a tough one. first i find it difficult to believe that they were unwilling participants, although there are nasty people out there capable of sabotaging someone else’s reputation. they say even bad publicity is good publicity, but considering that this site is aimed at domainers who know a fair bit about the industry it will probably alert many of us as to who to watch out for. next year you might want to add a question for our most hated brokers, and for sure many of your readers may put these two brokers in there for their shenanigans in this survey. that would teach them a lesson!

  6. says

    Hey. Why not just say who the two “brokers” were, with the caveat you already mentioned. Let everyone sweat it out on either of those names, see which ones “post” the most requests to help “save them” from being wrongfully accused.

    Come on, Andrew, sir. be a journalist and report what you find, unless, of course, both of the culprits — ahem — innocently mentioned honorees, advertise with you.

    Just let readers know what you found, and allow the bullets to fly where they may. You’re not scared, are you?

  7. Raider says

    It’s amazing how many domain companies, brokers, etc resort to cheating as a means of winning something so insignificant, Recognition has a lot to do with it, but I also think it’s driven by fear, fear of losing to competitors… At any rate, looking forward to a fraud free survey in 2014 :)

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