Imagine stumbling upon a captivating website that you wish to collaborate with or exchange links with. Alternatively, you stumble upon a website that is using your photos without giving credit. In such a situation, you may want to reach out to the webmaster. However, there is no contact information available, no social media links, and no contact form.
When faced with such scenarios, the most suitable course of action available to you would be to verify the WHOIS details of the website.
What is WHOIS information?
Whois is an official Internet record listing that identifies who owns a specific domain name.
It is supported by 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.
Therefore, the WHOIS record contains information on the person, group, or company that registered a particular domain name. The record also provides contact information on the domain owner, the registration and expiration dates, the name servers, the most recent update, etc.
What kind of information do you need to look for?
Normally, each WHOIS record for a specific domain contains the name and contact information of the domain’s owner (called Registrant) and the name and contact information of the commercial entity that registered the domain name (called Registrar).
If your inquiry regards a technical problem, you should know that some WHOIS records also provide the technical contact information (which could be different from the registrant’s information).
Where to find the 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 whose owner or webmaster you want to contact.
Below you can find some links to websites that provide WHOIS data lookup:
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 to 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 a 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 the required information is much longer: full contact information for the domain owner, technical and administrative contact.
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.
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 is 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 the 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 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 example.com opts for this service, his contact information will look something like email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. The third-party proxy will forward all emails received on email@example.com 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 of the above-mentioned limitations, the WHOIS register remains the main source for domain name information. It’s an essential database that maintains the integrity of the domain name registration and website ownership process.
10 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about WHOIS information
What is WHOIS information used for?
WHOIS information is used to identify and contact the owner of a domain name. It provides details about the domain’s registration, including the owner’s name, contact information, registration and expiration dates, and more. This information can be helpful for legal and administrative purposes, such as resolving domain ownership disputes or contacting the domain owner for business inquiries.
How can I perform a WHOIS lookup?
To perform a WHOIS lookup, you can use various online tools and domain registrars that offer WHOIS lookup services. Simply enter the domain name in the search field, and the tool will display the relevant WHOIS information associated with that domain, including the registrant’s contact details and domain registration history.
Is WHOIS information always accurate and up to date?
While WHOIS information is intended to be accurate, it’s important to note that it may not always be up to date. Registrants are required to maintain accurate WHOIS information, but there can be instances of outdated or inaccurate data due to various reasons such as privacy protection services, intentional falsification, or administrative errors.
How can I protect my privacy in WHOIS records?
Privacy protection services, often offered by domain registrars, allow domain owners to replace their personal contact information in the WHOIS records with the registrar’s information. This helps protect the owner’s privacy while still complying with domain registration requirements.
What is WHOIS domain privacy protection?
WHOIS domain privacy protection, also known as WHOIS privacy or WHOIS masking, is a service that replaces the domain owner’s personal contact information with generic contact details provided by the domain registrar. This helps shield the owner’s identity from public view in the WHOIS database.
Can I find out who owns a domain if the WHOIS information is private?
If the WHOIS information is private, it may be challenging to directly identify the domain owner. However, legal procedures and specialized services exist that can help uncover the identity of a domain owner even when the WHOIS information is protected.
What is WHOIS domain expiration and how does it affect me?
WHOIS domain expiration refers to the date when a domain registration is set to expire. It’s crucial for domain owners to keep their WHOIS information updated to receive renewal notifications and prevent unintentional expiration, which can lead to loss of the domain.
Why do some domains have incomplete or redacted WHOIS information?
Some domain owners opt for privacy protection services or redact certain WHOIS details to prevent their personal information from being publicly accessible. This is often done to reduce the risk of spam, identity theft, or unwanted solicitations.
What happens if I provide false WHOIS information during domain registration?
Providing false WHOIS information can lead to domain suspension or cancellation. It’s important to ensure that the WHOIS details accurately represent the domain owner’s information to comply with registration requirements and avoid potential legal consequences.
How can I verify the authenticity of WHOIS information?
Verifying the authenticity of WHOIS information involves cross-referencing the provided details with other credible sources and conducting due diligence to ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of the domain owner’s information. This is important for establishing trust and transparency in domain-related transactions.
I am a digital marketing consultant and SEO expert based in Hong Kong. With a track record spanning over 11 years, I have helped numerous clients from China, Europe, and around the globe achieve results. In my blog, I share my experience and proven methods in SEO, PPC, and digital marketing strategies.