Understanding the WHOIS Search Service

One of the common features available to domain registrants all around the world is the WHOIS search service. The service, operated as a separate repository for each geographical location, is akin to a localised registry for domains. Behind the functional operation of the local service is AusRegistry, who administer and maintain the system on behalf of all users. More specifically, registrants’ details are collected by their respective registrar, who then pass the data onto AusRegistry.

Users may look up the contact details of a domain name registrant which they are interested in. In a local context, this includes all the major TLD variants within Australia. This feature is particularly useful for those who are looking to open negotiations with a domain holder with respect to acquiring a name. Another purpose served by the service is to ensure that a domain is not registered. Even if a webpage suggests that there is no active domain operating (for example, through an error message or similar), a registrant may have recently acquired the name and not yet attributed it to a web host.

Some of the notable information that one can establish from a WHOIS search is detailed below:

–          When the domain was last modified

–          The name of the domain registrant (e.g. personal name or business name)

–          A domain registrant’s eligibility to hold the domain (e.g. Company, Sole Trader, etc.)

–          A contact name and email address for the registrant

–          A contact name and email address for the domain’s technical representative

–          The domain name registrar overseeing the registration

The au Domain Administration has also developed a policy that governs the balance between a registrant’s right to privacy, a well-functioning marketplace, and the interests of law enforcement agencies on behalf of the wider community. Most notably, guidelines stipulate that registrars should advise registrants about their details being displayed online, while registrants must provide their consent to release such information. The onus is also on registrants to maintain accurate details, which is argued to be in their own best interests as well as those of the industry.

To safeguard against fraud and malicious practices, the auDA does not require a physical address to be provided as part of the published contact details. Similarly, creation or expiry dates are not listed within the search engine, for fear that those with sinister intentions could use the data to solicit or scam registrants. Lastly, users who wish to use the WHOIS search service are also limited by the number of searches they may make within a certain period, while a manual process also goes some way to deter and prevent unscrupulous activities by those seeking to make commercial gains.

That’s it for this occasion, stay tuned for our next educational article. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Best wishes,
The Netfleet Team



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