Feeds

Swoopo - eBay's (more) evil twin

How much would you bid for a bid?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

I have never expected much out of a Silicon Valley startup with a name that sounds like a baby word, but Swoopo is a rare exception. It's an online auction site with a dastardly twist.

When you bid on products at Swoopo, you don't specify a price. You pay 75 cents for the bid, and that bid increases the price of the item by 15 cents, while extending the auction for around 20 seconds. When the clock runs out, the auction is over. By this mechanism, the winning bidder can buy, for example, a brand new Nintendo DS game system for around $30, when the item is valued at well over $100.

And Swoopo cashes in on all of the losing bidders who drop 75 cents every time they fail to win. If you don't want to spend your time giving this company your money, you can activate their automatic Bid Butler, as lightening your wallet is a task best left to machines (a fundamental law of the internet first proven by Google).

Most of the items up for bidding are real products like TVs, computers, and iPods. But to make things interesting, Swoopo has some specialty auctions, such as “FreeBids,” where bidders bid on bids. Since they're valued at 75 cents a piece, Swoopo can sell bids like real products. Even better than that, they run auctions for cash – where users spend their money trying to win a couple hundred dollars.

This is very close to gambling, but the nondeterminism comes directly from the actions of other users, not the randomness of a dice roll or a deck of cards, so while Swoopo hasn't quite crossed the line, they can see it from where they stand.

This alone doesn't amount to a hustle, it's simply a slick business plan. While there's no evidence of Swoopo doing it, if they wanted to run a scam, it would be awful easy. It's a good thing that we fine, upstanding citizens at El Reg have put our collective minds toward delivering an insightful and balanced view of the news, because if we were running the show at Swoopo, here's how we'd do it.

Since there's no verification to the rest of the community that the winning bidder actually collected the item he or she won, we would write a program that automatically up-bids the auctions, to keep the paying customers paying. Keep upbidding until the meatspace users give up and "collect" the item. We wouldn't even need inventory. If users start to get wise to the swindle, plant a few fake bloggers to talk about how they got an awesome deal on a plasma TV from Swoopo or simply dial back the bot and let a few users win the auctions.

Again, it doesn't appear as if Swoopo is doing this, but until then, happy bidding. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
Was ist das? Eine neue Suse Linux Enterprise? Ausgezeichnet!
Version 12 first major-number Suse release since 2009
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.