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.