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Revision as of 23:04, 30 April 2012
Whois is a TCP-based query/response protocol which is widely used for querying a database in order to determine the owner of a domain name, an IP address, or an autonomous system number on the Internet.
Whois (pronounced as the phrase Who is) represents a protocol which is mainly used to used to find details and information about domain names, networks and hosts. The Whois records contain data referring to various organizations and contacts related to the domain names. The Whois protocols operate by means of a server where anyone is allowed to connect and create a query; the Whois server will then respond to this query and end the connection.
During the foundational period of the Internet the only organization which was responsible with the administration of domain name registrations was DARPA. As the Internet grew in the 1980s, the Whois system appeared with the purpose of administering and looking-up domain names, registrars, registrants and other resources which were related to the domain name registration. But at that time there was only the one organization registering domains, so the system acted as a centralized query-based server. Over time the number of gTLDs significantly increased, which led to complex networks of registrars and related associations; in response the Whois servers became stronger and less permissive.
The Internet has become an essential key for commerce activities and a wide source of information for worldwide users; and the Whois represents a database where essential contact information is found and updated. Apart from finding information about the domain name or executing the queries created on the server, the Whois also:
- Ensures support for security and stability over the Internet
- Determines a domain name's registration status
- Ensures restrictive use of information communication technology
- Enforces laws at national and international level under the guidance of authorities during investigations
- Protects intellectual property and trademarks
- Ensures the right support for organizations in combat against fraud while complying with relevant laws
Whois and ICANN
ICANN's requirements for registered domain names state that the extent of registration data collected in the moment of domain name registration can be accessed. That is, ICANN requires accredited registrars to collect and provide free public access, such as a Whois service, to information regarding the registered domain name and its nameservers and registrar, the date the domain was created and when its registration expires, and the contact information for the registered name holder, the technical contact, and the administrative contact.
The origin of Whois protocol is in the ARPANET NICNAME protocol which was developed based on NAME/FINGER Protocol (rpersented in RFC742 from 1977). In 1982, within RFC812 the NICNAME/WHOIS protocol was presented for the first time by Ken Harrenstien and Vic White from SRI International - Network Information Center. Even if he Whois was first used on the Network Control Program, its main use was eventually determined by the standardization of TCO/IP across the ARPNET and Internet.
Due to shortcomings of the protocol, various proposals exist to augment or replace it. Examples are Internet Registry Information Service (IRIS) as well as the newer proposed IETF working group called WHOIS-based Extensible Internet Registration Data Service (WEIRDS) intended to develop a REST-based protocol.
A Thick Whois Server stores complete and accurate information from all registrars regarding registered domain names and their registrants. These information are available to the registry operator and it can facilitate bulk transfers of all domain names to another registrar in the event of a registrar failure. Thick Whois also enables faster queries.
In November 2011, the ICANN Staff issues a Preliminary Issue Report on 'Thick' Whois to determine if the GNSO Council needs to conduct a Policy Development Process (PDP) regarding the requirements for existing gTLDs. The ICANN community was divided on the issue. In a statement, Verisign said that it will "neither advocate for nor against the initiation of a PDP."The company also argued that its Whois model for .com, .net, .name and .jobs is effective but if the internet community and its customers believed that thick Whois is a better, it will respect and implement the policy. The Intellectual Property Constituency supports Whois implementation. The constituency believed that it will help prevent abuses on intellectual property rights and consumer fraud.  On the other hand, Wendy Seltzer of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) expressed his concern on the impact of Whois on the privacy rights. He pointed out that, "Moving all data to the registry could facilitate invasion of privacy and decrease the jurisdictional control registrants have through their choice of registrar."