Let’s say you found an interesting website with which you would like to make a partnership or to do a link exchange.
Or maybe you found a website which uses your photos without mention their source. You decided to contact the webmaster but there’s no contact information, no links to social media accounts, nor a contact form.
In situations like this, the best option that you have is to check the site’s WHOIS information.
What is WHOIS ?
Whois is an official Internet record listing that identifies who owns a specific domain name.
It is supported by the The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which regulates domain name registration and ownership.
In fact, every time when you want to buy a domain name, the company you buy the domain from (GoDaddy.com for example) will ask you to fill out a form with the contact information for this domain. This information will later be listed in the WHOIS records and will become visible for everyone who performs a WHOIS search.
Therefor, the WHOIS record contains an information on the person, group, or company that registered a particular domain name. The record also provides a contact information on the domain owner, the registration and expiration dates, the name servers, the most recent update etc.
What information you can find in WHOIS?
Normally, each WHOIS record for a specific domain contains:
- the name and contact information of the domain’s owner (called Registrant)
- the name and contact information of the commercial entity that registered the domain name (called Registrar).
- some WHOIS records also provide the technical contact information (which could be different from the registrant’s information). This is helpful if your inquiry regards a technical problem.
Where to find website’s WHOIS contact information?
There are many websites and domain tools on the internet where you can make a FREE lookup at the WHOIS data. All you need to know is the domain name of the website whom owner or webmaster you want to contact.
Below you can find some links to websites that provide WHOIS data look up:
Other websites can even give you the other domains owned by the same organization. That could be very helpful if you’re trying to contact a website owner because of a copyright violation.
How accurate is WHOIS information?
The WHOIS register is the main source for information about domain names and ownership that you could find on the Web.
However, there are some limitations of the accuracy of the WHOIS information.
- Different type of information for different domains
Unfortunately there is no standard set of details that is available for all domain names in the WHOIS register.
This means that you could find different list of details and contact information for the different domain names for which you make a WHOIS request.
The divergence in the WHOIS register data depends on the country in which the domain name is registered. In some countries the registrant is required to provide only a name and an email address; in other countries the list of required information is much longer: full contact information for the domain owner, technical and administrative contact.
- Outdated information
The information in the Whois record is initially provided when a domain name is registered. But over time, it gets out of date.
In general, domain owners are required to keep up do data their Whois register information and to make corrections: ICANN requires that a registrar present to the registrant the current Whois information, at least once per year.
Nevertheless many domain owners forgot to review their Whois data, and to make the needed corrections. In addition each registrar has different procedures for changing the information and sometimes the procedure could take time.
As a result, many WHOIS records are outdated.
- Inaccurate information
Unfortunately the WHOIS information may not always be true.
When you register a domain name you must accept the terms and conditions which state that the information you provide in the domain’s WHOIS details are accurate and up to date.
But it doesn’t exist any method of verification of WHOIS data provided by the registrant. This means that if a website owner prefers to name himself Merry Poppins, his record will be considered legit in the WHOIS register, as there’s no way to check or verify registrant’s identity.
WHOIS users have the possibility to report bad and inaccurate WHOIS information using the WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System. The reports received via this system are automatically sent to the domain registrar whose responsibility is to contact the registrant.
I fact, many WHOIS accuracy studies report a high number of inaccurate WHOIS records.
- Anonymous WHOIS data
It is impossible to hide the existence of a domain registration. It is however possible to anonymize the WHOIS register information.
Many domain registrars offer a private registration service that allows registrants to replace their real contact information by a generic set of contact details provided by a third party proxy.
So if the owner of the website www.example.com opts for this service, his contact information will look something like firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com. The third party proxy will forward all emails received on firstname.lastname@example.org to the real registrant’s email.
This makes it very difficult for users and law enforcement to determine who may be responsible for a given website.
Regardless the above mentioned limitations, the WHOIS register remains the main source for domain names information. It’s an essential database that maintains the integrity of the domain name registration and website ownership process.