Domain Investor’s Wish List 2021

As someone who has been a domain investor for nearly two decades, 2020 was my absolute best year in terms of domain sales. Due to Covid-19, people and businesses have realised that an online presence is essential. And that starts with a good domain name.

I have also seen many changes in the .au domain name space over the years. None more so than recent times!

So I thought I’d bullet point my wish list for the coming year. This covers auDA, Drop Catching, the Aftermarket and “Parking”. Many of these suggestions have been echoed by others. Please view this as a conversation starter – you may or may not agree with everything I suggest! If you have additional or alternate points of view, please share them in the comments below.

auDA Wish List

  • Less red tape and better communication has been promised for years. Is it going to happen this year?
  • Easy to understand information sheets regarding do’s and don’ts of policies and rules. E.g. most normal people don’t want to wade through screeds and screeds of legalese.
  • Less overt and subliminal prejudice shown towards domain investors. After all, we are a vital part of the .au eco system.
  • True transparency and accountability from auDA – Board, Management and Staff. There have been some issues that have not been dealt with satisfactorily. An independent Ombudsman is an absolute necessity in the opinion of many.
  • Better education and oversight of foreign based registrars / resellers. There are some who simply don’t follow the rules (perhaps not purposely – it is just their systems are not geared for .au idiosyncrasies).
  • Consistency in decision making.
  • Education first – “punishment” as a last resort. i.e. Help registrants comply with policy and rules – allow them time for rectification.
  • Find a way to discourage vexatious and anonymous complaints. Some people or businesses who don’t want to legitimately purchase a domain name on the aftermarket decide to make a complaint to auDA. Why? Because it is easy to do, and costs them nothing. Currently, anyone can look for a supposed breach of policy, and file an online complaint with a fictitious name and a throwaway email address. A genuine complainant should not have a problem in paying a small fee to lodge a complaint. And if people start mentioning “privacy concerns”, let me remind them that if you lodge an auDRP, not only do you give your details, but you have to stump up real fees! Minimum of $2k.
  • The above point is going to be made more complex given that auDA is proposing to delegate complaint handling to registrars.

Drop Catching

  • Now that there is only one expired auction platform, this in my opinion is not healthy. Monopolies never are (in any industry). Competition and choice provide for a healthy and respectful eco system, so hopefully we will see new entrants coming onto the scene.
  • The other thing that has been missing in recent years is transparency with the bidding process. Currently, no one knows who bid what and how much. This diminishes faith / trust in my opinion. Over two decades, there have been a few eyebrow raising events in the drop catching environment!
  • A proper proxy bidding platform with usernames would be great. In the early days of Drop, you could put you maximum bid in, and, if you were the highest, you would only ever pay $1 more than the highest bid.
  • Most good auction platforms let you know if you have been outbid, and give you an opportunity to increase your bid. This is a win for “the house”; and a win for the punters. In my opinion of course.

Aftermarket Platform

  • The lack of a properly functioning / effective aftermarket platform in Australia is a crying shame waiting to be rectified. I know Drop purchased Netfleet to fix this, so hopefully this will happen soon.
  • Once again though, competition and choice is paramount in my opinion. I believe there is room for more than one platform.
  • Many domain investors I have spoken to have also want the ability to have aftermarket auctions. Whichever provider nails this (sooner rather than later) will have a distinct advantage.

An Australian “Parking” Platform

Because of current auDA policy, registrants using domain monetisation as their eligibility criteria need to have a landing page with appropriate links related to the domain name.

Unfortunately, the “parking providers” are all overseas based, and sometimes they create changes that don’t take into account our need for proper links! There is nothing worse than when you think you have your page monetised properly, and suddenly you get a complaint because changes have been made in the background.

So, once again, any Aussie provider that can offer compliant and financially rewarding landing pages will make a motza. 🙂

What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree?

I’m also sure there are many other things that I have missed – so please let me know in the comments.

43 thoughts on “Domain Investor’s Wish List 2021

  • Avatar
    January 8, 2021 at 7:39 am
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    I’ve always wondered why VentraIP or Synergy Wholesale haven’t got into dropcatching? Or offer a marketplace for their many customers?

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    • Neddy
      January 8, 2021 at 9:12 am
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      I remember asking Angelo this a few years ago, but he simply said it wasn’t their core business. But who knows – things may change.

  • Avatar
    January 8, 2021 at 8:42 am
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    I hate the bidding levels on Drop where it forces you to double up if someone gets in first. I hate the secrecy. Bring on some competition is what I say.

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    • Avatar
      January 8, 2021 at 5:31 pm
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      I have to agree with this comment by Allen. It may be high time someone creates some much needed competition.

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    • Avatar
      January 18, 2021 at 4:48 pm
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      Putting my hands up here to share my time and skills on working out a decent monetisation parking solution for Aussies😶

  • Ed Keay-Smith
    January 8, 2021 at 10:27 am
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    Happy New Year to you Ned.

    I concur with your list.

    Even if we could get just some of them happening in 2021 it would be fantastic.

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    • Neddy
      January 9, 2021 at 7:03 am
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      Same to you Ed. Looking forward to more of your fabulous podcasts in the year ahead. 🙂

      It would be great to get someone like Rosemary Sinclair and/or Bruce Tonkin from auDA on the show! Other interesting guests would be the CEO’s of Drop and Ventra/Synergy ( David Warmuz and Angelo Giuffrida respectively).

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  • Avatar
    January 8, 2021 at 11:06 am
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    Good Points Raised. The need for more than 1 drop catching services is imperative for fair and equal trading. Also, an auction should not need hide any bidders identity nor the biding amount as it happens. Where monetary values are concerned, hiding each behind closed doors will always create concerns of truth and fairness. Thank You. Best Wishes to All for 2021.

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    • Neddy
      January 9, 2021 at 6:51 am
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      Thanks Gary. Preaching to the converted!

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      • Avatar
        January 9, 2021 at 1:56 pm
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        More to concur than to preach. Cheers!

  • Avatar
    January 8, 2021 at 1:53 pm
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    Concur with a lot of the points you make Neddy.

    Netfleet always briefly published auction results each day. Could Drop do this? That would be a small step to transparency.

    Bring on a new beaut aftermarket sales platform. Can’t wait.

    Jeff

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    • Neddy
      January 9, 2021 at 6:49 am
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      Thanks Jeff. Drop could easily publish daily results, but they obviously choose not to for whatever reasons.

      David W of Trellian has told me a few times that he is a great believer in transparency, so we’ll see how things pan out (now that they own Netfleet as well).

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  • Avatar
    January 8, 2021 at 5:30 pm
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    I’m going to spend more time commenting in more detail over the coming days, but in short, I agree with every point you made above Neddy, and if anyone is capable of a “zoomed out” evaluation of the current state of the domain name industry, and where it should head in the future, it’s you!

    More soon…

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  • Scott.L
    January 8, 2021 at 8:41 pm
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    auDA is mandated by the government to ensure competition and fair trade continue. Unfortunately, this board is not achieving these aims. Today, 7 international registrars control all the registrars except for about 3 Aussie registrars. (Perhaps only 2 are truly local) heck, even the current registry operator was bought out by Donuts and Godaddy bought out the previous registry operator Neustar. In other words, Australia can’t even raise its own registry operator, instead, the prize goes offshore.

    The registry revenue goes offshore and the majority of the registration market revenue goes via the registrars goes offshore, very little actually goes into our own local economy. I thought the government and auDA said, its a public resource and critical infrastructure managed on behalf of the Australian people and for benefit of all Aussies. Well, it appears uneconomic to the Australian people and only auDA lawyers and marketing are the true winners here.

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    • Neddy
      January 9, 2021 at 6:41 am
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      Good points Scott. With regards registrars, Trellian (owner of Drop etc) are proudly Australian, as are VentraIP / Synergy Wholesale. They are the bigger players in our market, and I would (and do) support them ahead of overseas owned entities.

      But we need more local competition when it comes to drop-catching, aftermarkets and parking.

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      • Scott.L
        January 9, 2021 at 8:04 am
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        Web.com acquired ARC (formerly Melbourne IT) and Crazy domains (dreamscape) Netregistry, WME, and Domainz. Its a significant take over of the Aussie registration market, what did auDA do? Absolutely nothing, sat on their hands and watched it all unfold.

        It could be assumed, that at this rate of acquisition Drop and Ventra may be tempted to sell out. Leaving the Aussie market with no local choice.

        As for monetisation, i agree, why keep a policy that cannot be effectively maintained at a local level. There are no local link operators for the Aussie market so why allow this policy to continue. Its the same for the new policy rules, which force registrants into third party elements to retain a domain name. (Creating logos, or flyers, or linking to monetisation)

        Other than complting with an out dated policy rule. What incentive is available to actually create a monetisation platform for the Aussie market. Margins are thin and not worth the high effort.

  • Avatar
    January 9, 2021 at 6:26 am
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    I’d like a time machine back to the year 1995.

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    • Neddy
      January 9, 2021 at 6:30 am
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      So would I Paul; so would I! 🙂

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    • Avatar
      January 9, 2021 at 6:11 pm
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      There is one, it’s called reading your opinions on .com Snoopy

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      • Avatar
        January 11, 2021 at 10:31 am
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        Feel free to invest in New TLDs all you want Mark.

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  • Avatar
    January 9, 2021 at 3:44 pm
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    I’ve been away from the industry professionally for a while now, but I still keep tabs on things.

    It’s interesting that out of Ned’s great list of wishes, the one that stands out the most to everyone is the drop catching monopoly.

    I have to agree. In any industry, a monopoly always ends up in bad news for the end user. In our case, it’s not just a monopoly but a secretive one that lacks transparency around bidding and winning. Drop currently has no incentive to change as there’s nowhere else to go.

    If a viable alternative appeared that listened to what customers want, it would be quite popular and great for the health of the market in general across both wholesale & retail.

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    • Avatar
      January 9, 2021 at 3:52 pm
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      Good to hear from you Cam! Too true. There’s no longer any transparency on the one remaining drop platform and everyone is forced to bid either $2500, $5000 or $10,000 in the last few dying minutes every day. Not fair for entrepreneurs or domainers… but good for business if you own a drop catcher.

      And, I’m not specifically saying anything negative about Drop.com.au in this instance.. BUT… How does anyone know, when they make a bid at the moment, if a “friend” of Drop.com.au is being given preference over a normal domain investor or entrepreneur? Does a “friend” get the domain at the same price as someone else? Do they get preferential treatment? How do we know?

      I’M NOT SAYING DROP.com.au is DOING THIS, I’m simply pointing out the obvious that there is no longer ANY transparency on the Australian domain name drop platform system.

      Something needs to change for sure.

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    • Neddy
      January 9, 2021 at 4:57 pm
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      Great to hear from you Cam! Hope Tassie is treating you well.

      The domain industry misses your history, experience and integrity so much. What a CV you have. Dark Blue Sea, Fabulous, Drop etc. You should start up a drop-catcher! There is certainly an opening.

      Your summation of current situation is spot on. But David W is a smart operator who can read the tea leaves. A new entrant to the market would certainly encourage him to revisit the strategy that Anthony P has sold him on. But I might be wrong.

      Please keep in touch.

    • Avatar
      January 10, 2021 at 7:36 am
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      The good old days of drop catching and parking. Drop and Fabulous with great customer service. Mike Robertson, and the two Bells. Cameron and Katherine. Everything transparent with no ducking and diving.

      Parking on the old Fabulous.com platform was a breeze as well. Keywords easy to put in for landing pages, and parking revenue better than today. A company takeover of Fabulous.com and the BIG G soon changed that.

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  • Avatar
    January 11, 2021 at 7:28 am
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    In the Federal Government’s Terms of Endorsement of auDA, one of the bullet points is that auDA must “promote principles of competition, fair trading and consumer protection”.

    auDA is tasked with regulating the Australian domain industry, so why are they not regulating the daily process of purged domain names?

    With just one operator pulling the strings of the expired auctions and doing it in a secretive manner, how can anyone have faith that there is no abuse of market power? If this happened in other industries, there would be squeals of indignation, and people demanding action of their politicians or the ACCC.

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  • Avatar
    January 11, 2021 at 12:08 pm
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    Okay, I’m going through each of your Wish List requests now Ned and will add my 2c opinion to each.

    In regards to the auDA Wish List;

    I agree with every point you make, especially “Find a way to discourage vexatious and anonymous complaints.”

    Domain Investors and Entrepreneurs have been calling for this FOR YEARS.

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  • Avatar
    January 11, 2021 at 12:12 pm
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    In regards to your “Drop Catching” wish list section…

    I like the guys who own and run Drop.com.au – and I like how they stick up for and help protect domainers and registrants who use their Registrar service, BUT, blind bidding only serves to drive the price up so the drop platforms make more profit for themselves. This is a great business model for drop platforms, but not good for the domainer or entrepreneur communities.

    I believe we need a competitor drop catcher AS FAST AS POSSIBLE to ensure the Australian domain name drop platform pricing concept becomes fair and transparent once again.

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  • Avatar
    January 13, 2021 at 2:17 pm
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    Hi All,

    Some comment:
    1. @Scott web.com did not acquire ARQ/Webcentral/MelbourneIT.
    5GN did, who is an Australian entity.

    2. Drop transparency and competition. The reason Netfleet and Drop went blind was because the bids on the respective platforms were being used against them. As a domainer I personally never liked the blind bid, but I saw the need as a business owner. Contrary to popular belief blind bids do not drive prices up at Drop, it might have at Netfleet but not at Drop as you can see if you are to top bidder when placing a bid. With Drop and Netfleet under the one owner we are carefully considering the pricing model and opening up the bid values for those that are active in the auctions. Some changes will be made to pricing, and I also agree that alerts should be sent when over bid etc… but as soon as there is another player, expect the bids to go blind again.

    3. Showing end result is actually very bad for everyone in this business and for the Aftermarket. Because Domainer investors are paying cheap wholesale pricing at Drop and having those prices listed and then used by end users to determine a domain value is doing major harm to the industry over all. If the prices paid were end user values, then that would be different and we would be publishing every one, which we do, as that is then beneficial for the industry.

    Ned sells more names than most and those prices are rarely published. Ned, if you are seeking transparency, start there and get all the domainers to start publishing their end user sale prices. Now that will help give the industry the press and exposure it needs to grow and establish higher values for domain names.

    4. Aftermarket
    We are very much committed to work on Netfleet this year to get the existing Aftermarket working again. Our roadmap is already full of great ideas, that we plan to roll out gradually this year.

    Cheers
    David

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    • Neddy
      January 13, 2021 at 3:48 pm
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      I echo Rob’s comments David. It is nice to see you posting here again. I was told that Domainer was “out of bounds” for you guys. 🙂

      My article was sincere – and it was designed to get a reaction from you. So thank you for responding.

      As you know, I have a great respect and liking for you and Drop (having sold it to you originally). I have also gone out of my way to show that support in many different ways over the past couple of years. And like Rob, I have been one of your biggest customers (and an introducer of other buyers).

      But if we as customers and friends can’t respectfully tell you where we believe you are going wrong, then who can?

      As Bill Gates famously said, “Your Most Unhappy Customers Are Your Greatest Source Of Learning”.

      Taking a couple of your points

      There is a big difference between a drop catcher being transparent and publishing auction results for a short period of time (like Netfleet used to do for a 15 minute window) – and a private domainer like me who does not auction domain names. I have never published prices (unless it is a marquee sale and I have permission from buyer).

      I accept that you once told me that you like transparency, but Anthony admitted to me (and you confirmed this), that he sold you on your current model because it makes you so much more money!

      Additional thoughts

      I believe you are leaving money on the table with your current format. Someone who bids $10k level may be reluctant to go to $25k, but if $15k was available (and small increments thereafter), you would have a win / win. More so for the example between $50k and $100k; and $100k and $250K!

      Re transparency, those of us who have been around for a while remember Namewise and the alleged shill bidding done with a laptop. Anthony remembers – he was there (but didn’t approve of it). And then there were the Netfleet telemarketers! Who could forget that! DNW wrote a good article about some “events”. So transparency is good and healthy from wholesale providers like Drop and Netfleet.

      I am a great believer in competition, and for that reason I sincerely hope that other entrants will appear this year. You like a challenge – and you’re obviously the front runner at this stage. But as we’ve seen over the years, things can change quickly.

      Best wishes, Ned

    • Avatar
      January 13, 2021 at 4:41 pm
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      I thought domainers weren’t permitted to be registrars in Australia? Or have I got that wrong?

    • Avatar
      January 13, 2021 at 5:16 pm
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      I totally agree with point 3! It’s the aftermarket sales that are going to give domain values credibility in the public eye and generate the FOMO.

      • Avatar
        January 13, 2021 at 7:45 pm
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        Hi Scott, please fact check, should only take a few searches to see that the web.com deal fell through and 5gnetworks acquired them instead.

        • Scott.L
          January 14, 2021 at 4:59 am
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          Thanks David, looks like that deal did get rolled and 5GN made an offer.

  • Avatar
    January 13, 2021 at 3:02 pm
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    Nice to hear from a fellow Domainer, David.

    We’ve missed you! (At least I know, I have 🙂 )

    I admire what you’ve done as a businessman with Drop.com.au and Netfleet, but I can’t agree with you on the “blind bidding” service not driving prices up for domain investors. I am being blindly outbid on your platform all the time lately, in the dying seconds… I would bid much more if the bidding was transparent. No one likes bidding $10k every time just to win and OVERPAY. I don’t think the system is fair or transparent anymore for Domainers. I’m just telling it like it is, as one of Drop.com.au’s biggest customers.

    If Drop.com.au doesn’t change it’s blind bidding system and price jumps soon, all I can do is hope that a competitor comes along to make those changes instead.

    We need what’s best for Domain Investors and Entrepreneurs here.

    PS – much respect to see you posting here. And I hope you pulled out of Crypto last Sunday night like me haha.

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  • Avatar
    January 13, 2021 at 4:05 pm
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    Hi Ned, did you miss the part in my reply:
    “…opening up the bid values..” so yes that is on the road map to make these changes.

    I especially liked seeing the old Drop auctions how it used to be when you could see bids in real time and you can make counter bids in real time and the auctions extended for 5 mins etc.. that was exciting and fun to be part of.

    The old way however suffered greatly to snipe bidding in the last seconds of the auction, as there is a clear end time for a drop auction. I feel that changing from semi blind to a system that is all snipe is not really a fix, as when you do snipe you are effectively blind bidding anyway, with just seconds left you do not have the time to counter and all you are doing is hoping that you were the only one that was snipping….

    So what would be your ideal solution?

    Cheers
    David

    • Scott.L
      January 13, 2021 at 6:37 pm
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      Personally, the drop auction platform doesn’t reflect any real wholesale market price because its controlled by artificial price points.

      Suggestion…$500 dollar ladder might be more accurate and extend the time by 5 minutes for each bid. (Something like that)

    • Neddy
      January 14, 2021 at 9:00 am
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      David, given that you’re involved internationally in the domain market, you know that most overseas drop-catching platforms have varying degrees of transparency. That’s what I’d like to see in Australia (and I’m sure I speak for many others).

      As for your “model”, that is obviously your business decision. I know you and Anthony have talked about opening up bid levels for ages, but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency. 😉

      As for alternatives, I’ve also mentioned to you in the past that I really like Expired Domains from NZ. Take this example of a domain that is being auctioned today.

      Their FAQ is worth a read as well.

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      • Avatar
        January 14, 2021 at 10:22 am
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        Hi Ned,

        We have been planning the changes for some time.

        These changes are planned to go live in April, in line with the new auDA/Registrar policies that go into effect then.

        Our focus will be on addressing:
        – transparency by showing the bids
        – stop snipe bidding by extending auction end times
        – adding other extensions
        – and will be testing different pricing strategies with different increments and proxies…

        But you already know all of this, I know that Anthony has discussed our plans with you once the Netfleet deal was done.

        Cheers
        David

        • Neddy
          January 14, 2021 at 10:32 am
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          No David, Anthony did not discuss all of this with me. He mentioned some things which I thought were encouraging.

          Good to hear that you have all these things planned. Can’t wait to see them in practise.

          That said, I and many others would still like to see some transparency now. Surely it is not hard to publish results after each auction (just like NF did for 15 minutes a day)?

          auDA Complaints

          As to other parts of my article, how do you feel about vexatious and anonymous complaints? Particularly given you as a registrar will have the onus of handling these soon?

          Cheers, Ned

        • Avatar
          January 18, 2021 at 10:06 am
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          I look forward to seeing these changes in April but still believe a competitor drop-catcher is desperately needed.

  • Avatar
    January 14, 2021 at 12:57 pm
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    expireddomains.co.nz portal is transparent, and enjoys the confidence of those of us that bid on it. There are also other overseas (mainly UK) dropcatchers that do well snapping NZ names.

    The auction system on Drop.com.au is smoke and mirrors. Now you see it, now you don’t.

    Any market does better with competitive forces to keep players in check.

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