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Privacy Laws Could Make Domain Investing More Difficult

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Andrew Allemann wrote about the changing privacy laws that could mark the end of public Whois information. If Whois information is no longer available to the general public (domain investors), I think the business of domain name investing is going to become much more challenging.

I acquire the majority of high value domain names my company owns via email with the owner. The contact information is almost always found via Whois lookup, and if the information is private, I might use a tool like DomainTools Whois History Tool or DomainIQ to find the correct owner information. If Whois information is no longer accessible, it will be far more difficult to acquire domain names in private.

If a domain name doesn’t resolve and the Whois information is not listed anywhere, it will become much harder to contact the owner of a domain name.

Domain sale platforms will likely be the beneficiaries of disappearing Whois lookups. Domain owners will need to be more proactive with the sale of their domain names, as the Whois inquiries will likely slow down and potentially disappear if the information is no longer accessible. People interested in selling domain names may be more inclined to list their names on a domain sale platform so people know they are available.

Domain name brokers will also likely see their services in higher demand. People who receive unsolicited inquiries may need to connect with a broker to sell their domain names rather than wait for the right offer.

Parking services and “for sale” landing page companies may also see an uptick in listings from customers who want to ensure people know their domain names are for sale.

I don’t receive a great deal of purchase inquiries via Whois lookup, but I do receive them from time to time. My guess is that this is because the domain names I am willing to sell pretty much all have some sort of “for sale” messaging on them to let prospective buyers know they are for sale. Because of this, I don’t think my sales will be impacted all that much. I do think it will be hard to buy domain names to improve my portfolio. Oftentimes, domain owners aren’t actively looking to sell a domain name I want to buy, but after receiving a fair offer, they are willing to sell. Without being able to contact the owners, I won’t be able to present an offer.

For the most part, domain names I am looking to buy either resolve to a website or forward to another website. This means it will probably still be possible to find out who owns a domain name. The process of emailing the right person will become more difficult.

If public Whois information is impacted, I am hopeful services like DomainTools will still offer historical Whois lookups from its database. The entries may become dated, but high value domain names don’t sell at a high velocity. Having access to this service would still be helpful.

I am admittedly not all that knowledgable about the forthcoming changes, so this is all speculation. I invite others with more knowledge to share their insight, and I invite readers to share what they feel might happen if Whois information disappears.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (21)

    Konstantinos Zournas

    Selling domains will pretty much be the same as privacy with have an opt-out option.

    Buying from Europeans (that are not domainers) could be trickier.

    August 29th, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Matt

    Could lead to more fraud too. When you can see the whois it’s an indicator of who you’re dealing with even if the negotiation initiated somewhere other than the whois.

    Another thought is how will market places like Sedo verify ownership, and if there was a sudden introduction, it may mean a purging of names from marketplaces if they were previously verified by whois as technically the moment whois becomes hidden is the moment that previously verified by whois cannot be trusted.

    One further thought is that some TLDs (e.g. .NYC) prevent domain privacy – I wonder how they would be affected.

    August 29th, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      Elliot Silver

      Yes – 100%, and I didn’t even think about that when I wrote this. It could be much harder to prove ownership and provenance.

      In reply to Matt | August 29th, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      Rod

      Exactly my thoughts when reading this. No way to verify ownership through whois. Or to track unauthorized transfers and changes/theft. If any argument could be made to derail such laws, it would be the fraud/theft argument.

      In reply to Elliot Silver | August 29th, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      JZ

      Also escrow.com uses whois to start the inspection period. Stupid privacy laws will make things very messy it seems. If you don’t want your information out there, use whois privacy. i don’t see why this is an issue.

      In reply to Matt | August 29th, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Jackie

      Proving ownership to marketplaces like Sedo should not be a problem. We would default to what a now a secondary/alternative method of proving owner – adding a TXT records to the DNS file.

      In reply to Elliot Silver | August 31st, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Elliot Silver

      The issue is that a person who steals a domain name would be able to “prove” that they are the current registrant but not that they are the rightful owner of the domain name. I use DomainTools Whois History tool for that.

      In reply to Jackie | August 31st, 2017 at 8:46 am

    John Doe

    Great news. Always used privacy where it was available for free or low cost. Buyers contact me through the landing page anyway. I understand some don’t care about their own privacy, but I do.

    JZ- Escrow would contact me if privacy was enabled or whois didn’t change to confirm if this was ok, so not a problem. And depending on the registrar, privacy options can be expensive ($10/name), or like Dynadot, not offer a properly functioning service with automatic email forwarding like with e.g. Uniregistry.

    And I always transfer domains with privacy enabled throughout the process if possible, and avoid platforms that require privacy be disabled before tranferring in, such as with Hover.

    August 29th, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      JZ

      Regarding escrow, sure that is fine as long as the other party responds but I’ve had transactions where they don’t once they get the domain and if not for visable whois changes, it would sit in limbo.

      In reply to John Doe | August 30th, 2017 at 8:10 am

      JZ

      personally, i don’t use privacy and don’t want to. I want people to be able to contact me through whois. If view is, if you want to own domains its something you need to put up with. Personally I use a PO box, not my home address and it works well.

      In reply to JZ | August 30th, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Scott

    It’s hard to imagine a world without Public WHOIS records. As you wrote, this will spell disaster for the current methods employed by most domainers. Having said that, should we live to see the end of Public WHOIS, this will no doubt spur ingenuity within the industry and no doubt will lead to some brand new data scraping techniques.

    August 30th, 2017 at 1:38 am

    John

    Would it still include email forwarding if you wish to contact the registrant?

    August 30th, 2017 at 2:09 am

    THCNames

    Most don’t know what Whois is, so I doubt many will actually care.

    August 30th, 2017 at 11:20 am

      Elliot Silver

      Who do you mean when you say “most”?

      I think every domain investor knows what Whois is.

      In reply to THCNames | August 30th, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Domain manager

    I believe that dealing with fraudulent registrations and IP infringement will be come more difficult for legal departments.

    August 31st, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Joshua Davis

    Historical Whois is going to become more important for sure. I also agree that brokers will become more valuable to reach out to interested parties. This could also mean that prices could go up for names that are listed on for sale landing pages just because they are easier to make offers on for those that don’t want to hunt down contact info.

    August 31st, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Frank Carson

    This is our crazy world, run by some of the most incompetent thugs money can buy. Corruption and bad motives all the way around. There is much to gain by eliminating privacy all together. Too many scammers, spammers, phishers, defrauders and deplorables hiding behind them. Too many privacy firms setup to hide their own group holding spam bombs and illicit dealings. Not even factoring some being used in mass to protect hundreds of thousands of malware/ransomware browser hijacking redirects (talking to you PrivacyProtect/PublicDomainRegistry – scum of the earth!) On that note, their parental group Endurance will eventually be discovered as creating misleading fraud letters and emails being sent out by the millions to slam accounts, so shouldn’t be surprised. Hold them accountable!!! This industry needs an overhaul from fresh thought leaders that are not tainted by ICANN’s perpetual caviar orgy. Domainers should be up in arms, and this trend of backwards thinking seems set and designed intentionally to undermine common sense and protect abusers. Privacy protection on domains costs tens of billions yearly in associated fraud facilitation. More if you factor the sum total abuse and its direct impact on gross revenue and efficiency values. I recommend a vote for common sense.

    August 31st, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      John Doe

      Not much in the way of stopping anyone from registering a domain using fake details. Will criminals rely on whois privacy to shield them? Of course law enforcement can go to the registrar, web host, etc, and it makes no difference if whois privacy existed or not, because…fake details everywhere.

      Killing personal privacy won’t kill crime. It’s an argument the snakes in govt use to pretend they are winning, without actually making an effort solving fundamental social issues which drive crime in the first place. i.e. Treating symptoms with a band-aid or paracetamol changes nothing. Our leaders are incapable of innovative/creative thinking, and mostly serve their so-called party-dictatorships. Far from democratic.

      One day they’ll stick a microchip up your… Do you assume the same depraved elements–drug pushers, rapists, bankers, and killers–will have difficulty circumventing these technologies?

      We are slowly on our way to establishing a true democracy–a direct democracy. We need to enable forward and humane thinking individuals to create the first transformations, and technology and the internet will speed this up. Killing the freedoms protecting our voice under the guise of security keeps us trapped in the pre-civilised era for longer.

      In reply to Frank Carson | August 31st, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      Frank Carson

      Yeah well this perception goes along way towards maximizing and compounding added damages. Only in America do you get propaganda strategists perched from their nests pushing internal microchip insertions as a false equivalency to common sense transparency on title ownerships that have no need to be hidden. Except by those who are doing wrong. In an industry so wrought with abuse that it takes one week for industry folks to forget and stop talking about NameJet schilling. Even with the gorgeous history of owner related Snap/Web and the rest of the garbage heap past denying it even while being caught. “Hey let’s not give people the ability to hide details for general transparency advantages – it would likely cut down abuse by 70-80% plus improve personal responsibility”. Responded with – “Nah, that sounds like gun control, instead let’s directly support hiding EVERYONE’s information, as the worst-of-the-worst in our society (all of the “pushers, rapists, killers” that register domain names) will still be evil. Sounds like a true democracy of great thinking that really stimulates forward transformation. I hope humanity soon learns that the voice that yells infringement of rights tends to be the same individuals that work to take them away.

      In reply to John Doe | September 1st, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    John Doe

    Not much in the way of stopping anyone from registering a domain using fake details. Will criminals rely on whois privacy to shield them? Of course law enforcement can go to the registrar, web host, etc, and it makes no difference if whois privacy existed or not, because…fake details everywhere.

    Killing personal privacy won’t kill crime. It’s an argument the snakes in govt use to pretend they are winning, without actually making an effort solving fundamental social issues which drive crime in the first place. i.e. Treating symptoms with a band-aid or paracetamol changes nothing. Our leaders are incapable of innovative/creative thinking, and mostly serve their party-dictatorships. Far from democratic.

    One day they’ll stick a microchip up your… Do you assume the same depraved elements–drug pushers, rapists, bankers, and killers–will have difficulty circumventing these technologies?

    We are slowly on our way to establishing a true democracy–a direct democracy. We need to enable forward and humane thinking individuals to create the first transformations, and technology and the internet will speed this up. Killing the freedoms protecting our voice under the guise of security keeps us trapped in the pre-civilised era for longer.

    August 31st, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    John Doe

    Sorry for the double post. Was meant to reply to Frank. The duplicate post had a small correction.

    August 31st, 2017 at 11:45 pm

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