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ICANN: What is Whois

19/June/2003 

At the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN) meeting in Montreal later this month, a task force will be formed to review the privacy issues surrounding the management of the Whois database, and the technical solutions for improving privacy protection. 

Essentially, the Whois is a database of contact information about domain name registrants. It is accessed through the websites of registrars or registries, as well as through technical means by the registrars and registries, themselves. The current structure of Whois allows for variations among different registries - the operators that maintain the list of available domain names within their extension - and registrars - the organisations, such as Register.com, that maintain contact with the registrant, such as invoicing and client service, and act as the technical interface to the registry on the registrant's behalf. 

Currently for the generic top-level domains (gTLDs) .com and .net, the registry - VeriSign - holds a 'thin' Whois, which has a limited subset of the Whois information in the registrars' Whois database. The registrar for each domain name will hold the 'thick' Whois, which contains more detailed information. For example, a Whois lookup at the .com registry, VeriSign (nsiregistry.com), for the domain name register.com will result in 'thin' information - registrar name, name servers and expiry date. A lookup for the same name at the registrar, in this case Register.com, will also include details of the registrant, administrative and technical contacts.

In the case of the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) such as .uk for the United Kingdom and .de for Germany, and the new gTLDs such as .biz and .info, both the registries and registrars generally hold the 'thick' Whois. However, the level of detail kept by the registries will vary. Some ccTLDs hold full information, such as .de, while others have no information immediately available, such as .to for Tonga.

Over the last couple of years there has been a debate within ICANN and among other interested parties over the accessibility of Whois information, with intellectual property owners on one side arguing for all registrars to provide full Whois details all of the time, and those who want to restrict such information in the name of privacy on the other side. Full and accessible Whois details are important to IP owners for monitoring trademark infringements and to determine whether a particular registrant has developed a pattern of cybersquatting activities. Consumers have become more concerned about privacy from a number of different aspects, including the annoyance of spam to the misleading and sometimes fraudulent emails sent out by those who mine the Whois contacts, as well as the occasional case of the stalker accessing victims' phones and addresses through the Whois. 



Details at: http://www.netimperative.com/cmn/viewdoc.jsp?cat=all&docid=BEP1_Feature_0000054102

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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