Whois, as the name implies, is a protocol granting users access to the massive database of registered owners of an internet resource such as an autonomous system, an IP block, and a domain name, among others. In other words, it is a query and response protocol that lets users find out ‘who is’ the registered owner of a domain by simply typing the exact domain name. The protocol, in return, will deliver the response in a format that is readable to the human. A more detailed specification of the Whois protocol can be found in RFC 3912.Whois lookup is widely used today due to its relative importance in various facets of online activities. Here are a few reasons why people are conducting a Whois search:
- Domain buying and trading
- Check domain expiration
- Find out domain owner identity
- Find out location and address of the owner
- Marketing purposes
Based on the above usage, the importance of a Whois search is clear. The procedure is greatly beneficial among domain buyers because it allows them to pinpoint expiring domains that they can bid on. For domain buyers, this procedure is helpful because the contact information or the address of the domain owner can be obtained, thereby allowing them to contact the owner where proposals for purchase can be sent to. Furthermore, the lookup is also measure that deters hackers from doing further malicious online activities because their identities can be revealed by the process, and appropriate legal actions can be made.
Pros and Flaws of WhoIs Search
Being able to identify the owner of a domain is one advantage that benefits many users. However, there is also a major disadvantage that comes with it, which is lack of privacy on the part of the domain owner since their identities are made public. Prior to the domain registration, user are required to reveal their full name, address, and contact details such as email address and phone numbers. This is in compliance to the stipulations of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN, mandating that the registrants’ details be made publicly available through the Whois directories. This provides an entry point for spammers and marketers to grab email addresses and phone numbers for their marketing and spamming activities.
Due to the massive criticism on lack of privacy, most domain registrants like GoDaddy and Hostgator are now offering domain privacy that provides privacy to the owners by concealing some details of their personal information. In this case, the contact information of the registrar is displayed instead of the domain owner. But such feature is available at a premium price.
Easy and Quick Steps on Conducting a Whois Search
Doing a Whois lookup is very simple and quick. There are only a few easy steps to make, and the results will be instantly shown in a few seconds. The procedures are as follows:
- Visit http://whois.net
- Enter the domain name your want to lookup in the search box
- Hit the ‘GO’ button
The results will immediately show up in the next few seconds, depending on your internet speed. Take note that the registrant’s details may vary based on the Top Level Domain, or TLD. Some TLDs will not show all information of the registrant, while others will not show any detail at all. As previously explained, the owners’ information may be concealed if they are subscribed to the domain privacy, and the domain registrar’s information and contact details will be shown, instead. In any case, the expiration date of the domain will still be shown, which is important for domain traders. In this case, they can just contact the registrar and make a bid once the registration expires.
For domain owners, it helps to be sufficiently educated on Whois lookup in order to know, beforehand, the implications and risks. For traders, this is an extremely helpful tool. But due to privacy issues, ICANN has already proposed to totally abolish WhoIs due to rampant abuse, and replace it with a more secured system. But until then, a Whois search is a tool that is still useful today among many online users.