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What is the WHOIS?

The Whois service is a free, publicly accessible directory that contains technical information and registration data of registered domain name holders. If someone wants to know who the owner of a domain is in use, they can request that information through Whois. For this reason, some registrars and registries are responsible for collecting and keeping data up-to-date so that anyone who requests the information can get it.

Whois is not a single database with centralized management functions, but registration data is stored in different locations and managed by multiple registries and registrars. These registrars must meet the minimum requirements they have agreed with ICANN.

Whois service consists of the clients, the servers, the data repositories, and the WHOIS data itself. That’s why, when we use the term Whois we may be referring to one of the following:

    • It can be the data collected at the time of registering a domain name or an IP address. Once the data is collected, it can be provided to anyone who requests it through the Whois service. In addition, the data will be updated during the validity period of the domain.
    • We can also refer to the RFC 3912 document that defines the Whois protocol.
    • Services that allow public access to domain name registration information generally implement the Whois protocol, or make use of a web interface.

It is because of this question that when we refer to Whois there are problems in the evolution of the metadata for the assignment of names, that’s why ICANN, to try to solve this, has developed more precise terms, as, for example:

Domain Name Registration Data (DNRD): By this we mean the information that domain owners provide when registering a domain name.

Domain Name Registration Data Access Protocol (DNRD-AP): By this we mean the elements of a communications exchange that make it possible to access registration data. A common example of this would be when the Whois protocol (RFC 3912) and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (RFC 2616 and its updates) are used to allow public access to the DNRD.

Domain Name Registration Data Directory Service (DNRD-DS): By this, we mean the service offered by registries and registrars to provide access to domain name registration data.

Whois History

The origin of the Whois system dates back to 1982 when the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) published a directory service protocol for ARPANET users. At first, the directory only included the contact information requested from all persons transmitting data over the ARPANET network. This Whois protocol was inherited by ICANN when it was created in 1998. In 1999, ICANN began allowing other entities to offer domain name registration services.

Over the years, ICANN modified the Whois service requirements through its agreements with registrars and registries. In 2003, the Whois data reminder policy was created, which requires that at least once a year, registrars must send an email to domain owners reminding them to verify and update their Whois registration data.

The restored name accuracy policy was created in 2004. This policy is in case the registrar has deleted a domain name because it contained incorrect data, or because they did not get answers to their information requests to the domain owner, the domain name will be suspended until the domain owner provides updated and accurate Whois data. Also in 2004, the Whois Marketing Restriction Policy was created, this policy introduces two changes to the registrar accreditation agreement in an attempt to prohibit the marketing and reuse of WHOIS data.

As of 2014, under RAA 2013, domain registrars must publish Whois data that includes the contact of the domain owner to report misuse.

Whois Uses

ISPs use the WHOIS service to identify individuals or companies responsible for the operation of a network or domain on the Internet. However, the main uses of Whois are

    • To determine if a domain name is available or in use.
    • Contacting network administrators for technical issues.
    • Knowing the actual identity, business address, and contact information of the owner of the registered domain.
    • Be able to contact the owner of a domain name for any type of business.
    • Notify the domain owner of their obligation to maintain accurate registration data.
    • Contact the domain owner regarding issues relating to the protection and effective exercise of intellectual property rights
    • To be able to investigate unwanted emails.

As we can see, thanks to the updated records, we can know who is the owner of a web domain, and even take legal, commercial, or any other kind of action thanks to this information.

Whois Requirements

Any person or company that wants to register a domain name must provide technical and contact information that will be included in the Whois database. Within a maximum period of 7 days, once a domain name has been registered, all corresponding Whois data must be provided. This is why they have to comply with the following requirements:

    • Accuracy: The registration data connects persons or companies with domain names, therefore accurate and true contact data must be provided. If, on the contrary, false data is given or not provided within 7 days, or you do not answer a query regarding the veracity of the data within the fifteen days granted for queries, the domain name could be suspended or canceled. Also, registrars must verify and validate certain Whois data fields, such as e-mail addresses, postal addresses, or telephone numbers. Also, registrars are required to send annual data verification reminder notices to the domain owner.
    • Access: Registrars and registries are required to provide access to Whois data. All this information must be accessible to the public.

Whois Obligations

Reseller obligations: When we acquire a domain name for any web hosting, normally these hosts are domain resellers. In this case, this type of website should comply with the same obligations as a Whois registrar that we have discussed above.

Obligations of domain name grantors: They are responsible for providing their complete contact details, and they must also provide, and update, technical and administrative information on any problems that may arise with the registered name. Finally, the company granting the domain name will be responsible for the damage caused by the improper use of such name, unless it reports the contact information and identity of the owner of the registered domain within 7 days of being notified of evidence of any legal damage.

Data Custody: ICANN requires registrars to submit an electronic copy of the registrar’s database, which must include Whois data. This electronic copy must be submitted to a trusted data escrow provider.

Centralized WHOIS: The RAA specifies that if the Whois service implemented by registrars does not have reliable and convenient access to accurate and up-to-date data, ICANN may establish a centralized database.

Privacy: It may be the case that person or companies do not want their contact details to be available to anyone. Therefore there are two ways to hide this data:

    • Privacy service: This service allows us to publish alternative and reliable contact data in the Whois system, such as the address or telephone number, however, the domain owner remains the beneficiary user of the domain name.
    • Proxy representation service: In this service, the provider registers the domain name and grants a license of use to its client. That is, the contact information of the service provider is published instead of the customer’s contact information.

If the latter option is used, it must be clear that the proxy representative service provider will be responsible for the damage caused by improper use of the domain name, unless it discloses the identity of the true owner of the domain name.

Whois Benefits and Responsibilities

All registrars (companies that register domain names) must publish on their website the benefits and liability conditions of the person who registered the domain name, and/or include a link to access this document.

The rights of persons registering a domain are:

    • Detailed instructions that clearly explain the processes for registering, managing, transferring, renewing, and restoring domain name records.

The responsibilities of the persons registering a domain name are

    • Provide all information required for accurate and true domain name registration for publication in the WHOIS directory, and update this information as soon as it is modified for any reason.

Domain name management

In addition to the above, Whois is also used to perform specific functions, such as supporting the transfer or deletion of domain names and simplifying management procedures related to trademark dispute resolution.

URDP: What is it, and what is its purpose?

The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) is a process established by ICANN for the resolution of disputes relating to Internet domain name registration. The UDRP currently applies to private level domains and some geographic top-level domains.

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