With millions of domain names already registered, chances are pretty high that the domain name you want to have is already owned by someone else. So how do you find out who owns a domain name? We can help you find out!
Domain name registration records are kept in a database called the WHOIS database. The database of Whois records is maintained by the registry for that particular extension. For instance, .com domain name Whois records are maintained by Verisign, the company that operates the .com domain registry. ccTLD domain names are maintained by their respective registry operators. In the case of .US domain names, that would be Neustar.
In order to use the Whois database to find out the registrant of a domain name, visitors can search in a number of ways, including:
- Registry operator website
- Domain registrar website (like GoDaddy Whois)
- ICANN website
- Domain tool website like DomainTools or DomainIQ
There are some notable exceptions to this though. Some domain registrants use a Whois privacy proxy service offered by their registrar to keep their contact and ownership details private. GoDaddy, for example, has a domain name privacy proxy service called Domains By Proxy. When that company name is seen in a Whois lookup, it means the customer has privacy enabled.
In addition to Whois proxy services, domain registrants in Europe have their registration details obscured due to the implementation of GDPR. Since the inception of GDPR, some domain registrars have obscured all registration details regardless of where the registrant is located to avoid running afoul of the privacy laws. This makes it impossible for people to find out who owns a domain name without a court order.
Finally, some ccTLD registries do not show ownership or registrant information across the entirety of the extension, regardless of who owns the domain name.
One tip for people trying to contact the registrant of a domain name: sometimes just submitting a comment on the website can help get in touch with the registrant. Also, using Archive.org can be a good way to find out contact information from an old website.