Being able to contact a domain name owner (or website administrator) is important for a variety of reasons. It isn’t always easy, however, and it quite often necessitates a bit of internet savvy and research. Fortunately, Whois, the connection between domain name ownership and the web browsing community, is a free tool that’s commonly used to determine the owner of a particular domain name.
As a worldwide database, Whois stores domain name ownership in the form of contact records. It’s regulated by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and it stores contact information for a domain name’s registrant (the person who purchased a domain) and registrar (the company that registered the domain name on the registrant’s behalf).
Information in a Whois Record
Other information includes dates that a domain was created, the name servers associated with a domain, and the domain name’s expiration date. If any of that information changes between the time the domain was created and will expire, that information is appended to a record as an update. A registrant’s company name, contact information, phone number, mailing address, fax number, and email address are a part of the Whois record for each domain name.
What It’s For
Over the years, people have consulted Whois for a variety of reasons. It was originally purposed to maintain the security and integrity of the Internet. Today, people frequently use it to identify the people behind cybercrimes, like illegal distribution of copyrighted material, copyright and trademark violations, spamming, and malicious virus distribution. These types of activities make Whois an indispensable tool more than ever before. For domain investors, Whois records are often used to contact domain owners to buy or sell domain names.
Accurate Whois information is required to be kept by domain name registrars. In the case where the Whois records are invalid, a person or business may report an invalid Whois record to ICANN using a form on the ICANN website. Many domain registrars also have means to report invalid Whois listings.
Domain registries and registrars offer a tool for people to perform Whois searches or Whois lookups, and the results give contact information for the registrant as well as technical and administrative contacts. Third party paid services like DomainTools offer historical Whois records, and a service called Whoisology allows people to search for
Many registrants prefer to have their domain names registered privately. This means that they are paying the domain registrar to use the contact information for a privacy service, usually affiliated with the domain registrar. The cost for privacy depends on the domain registrar, but it isn’t very expensive. In the case of a court order or a subpoena, the privacy may be removed. Domain registrars have different policies regarding the release of private Whois records.