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01|01|2009 01:34 pm EDT

Innovative Mystery Domain Auction Site Launches

by Adam Strong in Categories: Miscellaneous

UPDATE : has been taken down by the owner.  All money has been refunded to bidders.

John Motson, the domainer behind and the ebook Domaining Manifesto has concocted a new domain auction site with a twist that should get people talking. The recipe?  Take 1 high value domain, mix in a little buzz, a dash of Million Dollar Home Page ingenuity and a dash of  entrepreneurial spirit and you get (updated note: this is now NOT an affiliate link).

Motson’s Mystery Domain Auction is auctioning off one mystery domain name valued at $10,000 over the course of 100 days.  The mystery domain will be revealed on day 50.  Bidding starts at .01 and Motson has a goal to reach a total take of $1,000,000.

$1 million for a $10,000 domain ?  You heard me right.  The trick here is that the domain will sell to 1 person for $10,000 whatever the final price is on the last day, but everyone else having paid in their bids prior in an all-pay auction format means that the total sum will be $1 million before Motson even reaches a bid of $150.  Pretty smart.

The accumulating auction process is explained on the sites FAQ page:

. . .the auction bid amount is incremented by $0.01 every time a new bid is placed (*). Because this is an all pay auction, the bids accumulate into a bulk total which by the time bidding reaches $147 will have passed $1,000,000.

Below is a projection of the minimum value accumulated as a result of bids reaching various amounts.
High bid Minimum accumulated value
$0.10 -> $0.55
$1 -> $50.50
$10 -> $5005
$20 -> $20,010
$30 -> $45,015
$40 -> $80,020
$50 -> $125,025
$147 -> $1,080,523

Each bidder also receives a link on the site in the “past bids” section .  We tossed in .64 and by the time we got this written up the auction was at .85 .  By the looks of it the links can be used for any sort of promotion and current links appear to be targeted to just about anything except adult sites.  This is a great idea and John’s creativity will likely be greatly rewarded.  I predict a slew of copy-cats coming on the heels of this as well. Hopefully for John 100 days is a long enough lead on any potential competitors.

Good luck bidders !  Check it out at

UPDATE : Just realized, if the auction reaches that $147 mark that means over 14,000 bids will have come in for the mystery name.  He’s got a long way to go.



John Motson

January 1, 2009 @ 1:50 pm EDT

Hi Adam,

Thanks for mentioning this on your blog!

I would like to make one correction, you said “The trick here is that the domain will sell to 1 person for $10,000″ … but in actual fact, if the final bid is as low as $11.47 or $23.45 or anything else, that is all the last bidder will end up paying to get the domain name.

They can however decide to take the $10,000 cash instead of the domain name if they so wish.


Adam Strong

January 1, 2009 @ 1:52 pm EDT

Thanks John I’ve corrected that.

Donna Mahony

January 1, 2009 @ 2:01 pm EDT

Fun stuff, I’m in!

John Motson

January 1, 2009 @ 2:15 pm EDT

Glad to see domainboardroom on there Donna!


[…] Just a word of caution prior to starting any of the natural treatments discuss with your health Innovative Mystery Domain Auction Site Launches – 01/01/2009 John Motson, the domainer behind and the ebook […]

Donna Mahony

January 1, 2009 @ 2:32 pm EDT

@John Thanks! I see some of the Boardroom members made the roll call to!


January 1, 2009 @ 2:45 pm EDT

Wait… let me get this straight…

This person wrote and charged people for an ebook about domain investing, yet he needs to run a contest to pay for a ticket to TRAFFIC?

I would think a “Domain expert” could afford a trip to a domain conference.

David Parr

January 1, 2009 @ 2:47 pm EDT

This is a pretty refreshing idea. Nice to see somebody brave enough to try something original. Im in.

[…] to embrace Twitter on her ebook (the title btw is telling): Rude Awakening – Opening The Eyes Innovative Mystery Domain Auction Site Launches – 01/01/2009 John Motson, the domainer behind and the ebook […]

Reece Berg

January 1, 2009 @ 3:41 pm EDT

I really like the idea and sincerely wish John all the best with it. It really is something original — I think Adam summed it up best. Hope John gets the cool million. If my math is correct, it looks like bidding only has to reach about $14.20 for John to break-even on the $10,000 domain.


January 1, 2009 @ 7:13 pm EDT

Nothing new here. Everyone is talking about Swoopo now-a-days!

I wonder how much does it costs for having a scheme like this posted here on dnn?

Warning: This might be ilegal in the USA. Read more about it on Wikipedia.

Just me

January 1, 2009 @ 8:13 pm EDT

Is this legal? Is he licensed to hold such an auction, giveaway or sweepstakes? Or is the advertisement of your link what you are paying for and the Domain is the gift? If not, will the winner be paid if heor she chooses cash or will the winnings be seized? I am not trying to pour water on the fire. I love the creativity it brings to the domaining industry. However, I am just curious about the legalities of this before I invest my pennies.

John Motson

January 1, 2009 @ 9:01 pm EDT

Hi Just me,

Folks are bidding to have their link appear in the High Bidder section in the middle of the page – the mystery domain auction is not a lottery or sweepstake of any kind.

The last bidder standing at the end of the auction will get their choice of the mystery domain name valued at $10,000 or $10,000 cash equivalent as a gift.

All links purchased as a result of the simulated “all-pay” auction will remain on the site for a minium of 5 years on the past links page and or on the main page – depending on how high up they are placed.

I will reiterate, bidders are paying for the right to have their link appear in the high bidder section in the middle of the main page until out-bid.

I hope that clears things up,


Adam Strong

January 1, 2009 @ 9:53 pm EDT

David. I had never heard of Swoopo before today, just learned of it from another email sending this article :

Thanks for asking if we got paid. We didn’t get paid to talk about this. Our paid posts are clearly marked as such. However, there is an affiliate program which we linked up to and I forgot to put in the disclosure up in the article. I may take this down. Either way I stand by the post. It seemed like a creative idea to me.

Feel free to send us any info on any new product or service that you might launch and if we think it’s worth talking about, we will.

John Motson

January 1, 2009 @ 10:10 pm EDT

In all honesty, this is the first time I have heard of Swoopo too. I modeled the mystery domain auction on the wikipedia definition of an all pay auction: mainly for the purposes of creating a buzz around the auctioning off of the mystery domain name – which is working a treat in my opinion.

I have also made it clear that folks are getting something back – they are getting back links and traffic as opposed to the article Adam points to where people are disappointed because they get absolutely zilch and pay over the value of the item being auction off.

Just me

January 1, 2009 @ 11:09 pm EDT

Thanks John for the clarification of things. I love the concept. Unlike swoopo, I believe that this auction provides you something in exchange. That something is targeted advertisement in exchange for your money. Undoubtedly, as the bid/link ads increase there will be more auction watchers and increased site visits. Therefore, it creates a WIN (domain or cash winner) WIN (advertisers gain increased traffic) WIN (host/creator of the giveaway) situation. As long as everyone understands. accepts and agrees to the terms of participation I do not see anything wrong with it. If I were to bid $146.99 and did not receive the top giveaway I would undoubtedly benefit from the increased traffic to my site generated as a result of advertising my link. A special thanks to Adam for posting the article.

PC memoirs

January 2, 2009 @ 12:56 am EDT

I paid only a couple of bucks and I’m seeing a considerable difference in traffic to my site. It’s a good investment, even if I don’t win the grand prize. Good luck John!

Jeff Geaney

January 2, 2009 @ 1:45 am EDT

This scam looks dodgy and John Motson looks like he is about to be handed a prison sentence. why would you even bother reporting on a scam like this and why would anyone want their name associated with this crap.

Typo error as well Ed. Bidding starts at .01 and Motson has a goal to reach a total take of $1,00,000. Maybe you should have put the total take at $1.

This will be the biggest scam to hit the Internet of 2009.

All the best.

Jeff Geaney


January 2, 2009 @ 4:19 am EDT


PC memoirs

January 2, 2009 @ 5:46 am EDT

This is a scam only if the highest/last bidder doesn’t get the prize in the end. We’ll see in April…


January 2, 2009 @ 6:03 am EDT

The problem with keeping it legal & making a statement like this on the site “By purchasing a “bid” in the Mystery Domain Auction you are buying the right to have your website link or name and bid amount displayed on the front page ” is that this goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines – every link there is openly a paid link and every site runs the risk of a Google penalty including the site itself. According to Google “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”

John Motson

January 2, 2009 @ 6:47 am EDT

Thanks for pointing that out Scott, I have adjusted the text.

[…] world at large is split between the fans and detractors of the mystery domain auction idea. Various domaining blogs have covered the topic while there is a discussion going on at NamePros […]


January 2, 2009 @ 9:24 am EDT

I have known John since before DNXpert even was started, so it’s been a long time. He is a credible man and this is definitely not a scam.

JUst Me

January 2, 2009 @ 2:21 pm EDT

My only other suggestion would be to add a way for bidders/buyers to monitor the time and date of the last post/purchase.


David McAllister

January 2, 2009 @ 2:41 pm EDT

I just bid $2.20 at the This is my fourth bid. Even if I don’t win, this is still extremely inexpensive advertising for me. If the domain really stays online for 5 years as claimed, even a larger bid will be worth the money. :)

John Motson

January 2, 2009 @ 3:10 pm EDT

I have just made the affiliate program available to the general public:


Chris Nielsen

January 2, 2009 @ 4:07 pm EDT

This may not be illegal, but it should be. Those at the bottom don’t lose much by bidding, but as the bid amount grows you will loss more. A bid of $120.00 can be outbid by $120.01 and if you are serious about wanting to get the domain you have to bid another $120.02…! So everyone only bids once? Is this like a charity? It looks like a pyramid to me, even if it’s a legal one.

And why is the domain kept secret? So more suckers will bid? Even if the domain really is worth that much, which I doubt, he says that you can take the cash if you don’t want the domain. Again, this sounds like a variation on the Ponzi scheme. Those at the top win, everyone else loses…!

Frankly, I am disappointed that this story got the kind of coverage that it has. I had been expecting more from DNN,and up to know I was getting it.

Chris Nielsen

January 2, 2009 @ 4:32 pm EDT

Oh GREAT! This “innovative” idea now needs help bringing in the suckers. Hey, all you “bidders”: you sould NOT be bidding until the END of this questionable “auction”. Save your money for the end when all you have to do is bid $0.01 more than the last bid and you win!!! Oh yeah, unless someone else outbids you before the end of the auction.

I don’t get what is “innovative” about taking somthing worth $10k and selling it for $1M. You know, I thought the Million Dollar Home Page was a stupid idea, but in that case I wish I had thought of it. But this is just preying on the stupidity and greed of people that don’t realize they have no chance of “winning” unless they are the last bidder.

Why not have a raffle or drawing for the domain? If you arn’t so GREEDY and set a requirement that you have to have 1,000 tickets sold at $100 each, you can raise $100k. Not a bad profit for a possible $10,000 value domain. And everybody had an EQUAL CHANCE to win.

Chris Nielsen

January 2, 2009 @ 4:38 pm EDT

And as far as inexpensive advertising goes… well, let me just say this: When you add your link, add some code to the end of the url such as “”. This will allow you to better track any traffic you get from what I suspect will just appear to be another “Link Farm”. But it should help you to see what traffic/sales you are getting for your “investment”.

John Motson

January 2, 2009 @ 5:12 pm EDT

Chris – where were you when the milliondollarhomepage was launched – the guy sold fake/virtual boxes 100 pixels in size for $100 a pop and noone complained.

[…] MysteryDomainAuction/DomainingRevolution has caused an incredible amount of blogging action over the past 24 hours that I thought I should answer some of the questions […]

Dwayne Rowland

January 2, 2009 @ 10:06 pm EDT

Hey. I think this is a great idea. I think value is created and this case proves it hands down. I have a couple of bucks to bid for the value of a link. Also the page is not all just paid links. The content is the “last bid amount and date-time”. May fit on a iphone perfect. How could you lose when you are having this much fun. Thanks John. Wish you the best.

Adam Strong

January 2, 2009 @ 10:21 pm EDT

Chris. Sorry to disappoint you. I write about things that are news and/or interesting in the domain space. I found this one to be innovative because I hadn’t seen a concept like this before. I get that you don’t like the idea. The bids are past $2.00 which means 200 people have ‘voted’ and made that decision. I’m sure a large percentage of them have at least 1/2 a brain and if not they probably have read the comments and have made their own call. I bid .64 just for the heck of it and to drop a link.

Jeff Geaney

January 3, 2009 @ 7:03 am EDT

Could some one with a slight bit of Intelligence please explain to the group and myself, which Authority is regulating and governing this concept, as to make it compliant with all World Internet Laws.

By the way are you guys making up this verbal diarrhoea as you think of it?

As I said before. Scam! Scam! Scam!

Jeff Geaney

Dwayne Rowland

January 3, 2009 @ 8:33 am EDT

Jeff, I’ll do my best on this. It’s called internet commerce. It occurs when one offers and another accepts an offer for a value. The value may be a complete entertainment as with many MicroSoft Games or something of vaule to the buyer that is not apparent to a person of unknowing levels of value. The value in this case clearly is the entertainment of the “chase” to possibly attain a mystery domain and the very real value to have hundreds of persons see ones link on the home page. Each and every person posting a bid is listed on this site and was at one time posted as the top link, and has a clear and informed awareness as to the rules and offers. If you read the site very closely you will see that if a bid sticks for two weeks the winner takes the mystery domain. There is a real possibility that John will lose his mystery domain for little or no value, however with all the comments like yours I believe the bids will continue to roll in and the value of this “chase” will increase. It’s good for everyone. Just do me one big favor. Don’t try to bid on this because I will surely outbid you which will cause the site to have more and more hits that will increase the value of all the links which will cause more bids to roll in which will put “the chase” into a fever pitch. Please continue your “this is a scam” postings for the value increases on each one. Now to try to answer the question of who is the regulating and governing Authority. Well it’s not a lottery, bet, sweepstake, etc…. The outcome is not known and the winner will be transparent for all to see. I guess this is as close as it gets to “internet chicken”. If you post a $10.00 bid and it sticks for two weeks you will be “the winner”. I’m betting that someone is writting code now to check the status and post a bid just before the two week period is over. I really love this idea. To bad you and I didn’t think of it. Yes this is a new and “innovative” idea for creating value out of thin air. Now for the disclaimer. I have only a small bit of Intelligence and disclaim any notion that my posting sponsors or endorses this site. Anyone considering spending valueable money on this site should read all the information to the fullest before making a bid. I simply like the idea and the value I receive my making my bid on the site. Jeff, I hope this helps a bit.


January 3, 2009 @ 8:40 am EDT

have also bid for it

Donna Mahony

January 3, 2009 @ 8:42 am EDT

Great post Dwayne and nice to see you again! (You probably remember me better as winfreecash) Knowing you all these years, this line “Now for the disclaimer. I have only a small bit of Intelligence” gave me a bit of a giggle!

Dwayne Rowland

January 3, 2009 @ 9:02 am EDT

Hey Donna, Oh yes … All these years… Isn’t this the wildest idea since sliced bread or grits? I hope all is well your way. John has answered my prayer as to how to motivate someone to help me build a mega site. I would go into detail but you know! Anyway it was great to hear from you and do hope to see you in person one day. Also Adam thanks for the book. Was great to read it.

Dave Zan

January 3, 2009 @ 10:23 am EDT

Could some one with a slight bit of Intelligence please explain to the group and myself, which Authority is regulating and governing this concept, as to make it compliant with all World Internet Laws.

Well, which authority do you want to govern this? Jeff is bound by whatever applicable laws in his jurisdiction at the very least, and he could try to comply with whatever applicable law in whatever jurisdiction as well.

At the risk of sounding maybe off-topic, what so-called “world internet laws” are there, given there’s not even any “international law” requiring countries around the world to govern themselves accordingly on certain issues? While we have the United Nations, when should they stay away and when should they intervene on a non-member country’s affairs?

Then again, could you yourself comply with all world internet laws? Your site doesn’t have a terms of use or a disclaimer, for one thing.

Oh, and kindly define scam please, given that John’s site is trying to be as…hmmm…”upfront” as possible? A scam is not providing service after being paid the last I checked, unless someone’s seeking to maybe redefine the word.

Dave Zan

January 3, 2009 @ 10:27 am EDT

Ooops, I meant John is bound by whatever applicable laws in his jurisdiction, although aren’t we all in our respective countries anyway?


January 3, 2009 @ 11:14 pm EDT

It looks to me like the only reason you’d “enter” the auction before the last day is to buy a link from his page to your own through the “Past Bids” list. So, you’d think that the bids will taper out when the bid amount equals the market value of a link from his site. What is a 5 year link worth? Say $20? So, that’s $20,010. Still double the value of the domain he’s offering up. Maybe a 5 year link is worth $50. In which case he’ll get $125,025, and all the bidders will have gotten a 5 year link each. The last guy to join gets the domain or $10k, which is just a bonus give-away, not really the point of the exercise.

Domain Offerings

January 3, 2009 @ 11:19 pm EDT

I just can’t see how this is going to reach $150. Sure people will bid $2 or $3 or $5 for advertising and novelty value but when it gets a little higher there will probably only be a couple of bids right before the 2 weeks expire and a few more right before April 10th. It may still provide well in excess of the $10K investment for Adam. It is a pretty bright idea to try and see if it works. If it does, it may start a whole new craze.


January 4, 2009 @ 2:46 am EDT


can any1 inform where to get that auction script ? thanks ,2w

January 5, 2009 @ 7:56 am EDT is now terminated.

Dwayne Rowland

January 5, 2009 @ 8:59 am EDT

Darn… I would use a stronger word … I’m returning all my refunds back to John if he will accept them for he has earned every penny. Can you refund a refund on PayPal? It’s just a #@$%$%#@ shame that someone would post a bid on this site and request a refund when their top link rolled off the home page. That’s the only scam I see on this. Maybe a members only auction is in order.
Thanks John. I really enjoyed the site.

Donna Mahony

January 5, 2009 @ 9:09 am EDT

ditto Dwaynes post

David McAllister

January 5, 2009 @ 9:14 am EDT

Too bad. I was having a good time with this auction. I’m not in the USA. I really don’t care what US Law says.

Dwayne Rowland

January 5, 2009 @ 9:35 am EDT

John, Please consider restarting the site without the prize but do have a winner at the end of 100 days or two weeks. Also if anyone request an unearned refund please make that public to us all for a full transparent play. John figure something out! I have to have this! I’m hooked! I have to have my fix for the day.

Dave Zan

January 7, 2009 @ 7:04 am EDT

I really don’t care what US Law says.

Maybe not, considering you’re not in the U.S. as you said. But it seems John Motson does if he took U.S. laws into consideration prior to shutting down his site.

Oh well, he tried. At the end of the day, it’s solely up to him to decide what’s best for those he chooses to be concerned about.

[…] have been voiced by participants and others, John Motson has taken his (DNN reported earlier) offline. The money has been refunded for all bidders and John will be paying affilliates out of […]

Is It Crazy Im Sharing This Idea

January 11, 2009 @ 1:16 am EDT

[…] Take a look at this recent ‘auction/raffle’ event attempt: Innovative Mystery Domain Auction Site Launches | Domain Name News How about running a contest instead? You can promote your contest through the following sites

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