The wonderful thing about the internet is that we’ve been able to make it work without centralized control. You just need to know that you buy a domain name, choose a host, and set up your website. After those simple steps, you have yourself a business. That’s the beauty of the internet.
When you really start to dig deep into how the internet works, you’ll quickly realize that there’s a lot happening behind the scenes.
There are organizations that govern how the internet works. They govern how information flows from your website to you and they also govern domain registrations. The database that has all of the domain names registered is called WHOIS.
Find out how to use WHOIS and what it really does in the internet world.
WHOIS is the name of the database of the owners and operators of every single domain name in existence. That’s right, every domain name has to have a contact for the WHOIS database.
WHOIS doesn’t stand for anything, but rather is the beginning of the question “Who is the owner of this domain name?”
You can also look up IP addresses to find the owner of an IP address. This could be important if you are trying to find the hosting company of a website.
The WHOIS database is overseen by ICANN, which is the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is the non-profit organization that oversees the internet.
The important thing to note about WHOIS is that it’s not one centrally located database that contains the emails and contact information for domain name owners and IP address owners.
Rather, there are registrars and registries that maintain databases. The registry that oversees the .ie domain is IE Domain Registry. This is the official organization for Irish Top Level Domains (TLDs). It’s an organization born from the Computing Services Department at University College Dublin.
The WHOIS database first began in the 1980s when the internet was still in its infancy. At the time, there were fewer domain names and TLDs. There was .com, .net, .edu, and .gov. There was one organization, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), that held the database.
This allowed internet users to look up domains, people or organizations associated with those domains.
The American National Science Foundation took over the registration of domain registrations and worked with third-party providers such as Network Solutions, AT&T, and General Atomics. Together, these providers formed InterNIC in 1993.
Early on, the WHOIS database was a treasure box for spammers. You could look up just about anything through a wild card search.
A wild card search allowed you to search for the last name of a person and get a list of everyone with that last name and their contact information. Fortunately, the wild card searches only lasted so long once InterNIC realized that it was a bad idea.
In 1999, ICANN took over the oversight of the main TLDs, such as .com and .net. They continue to manage those TLDs, and the registries responsible for their respective country and generic domain are responsible for their TLDs.
This makes the WHOIS database a big web of queries. That can make it difficult to use if you’re trying to use WHOIS for the country TLDs like the .ie domain.
When you’re looking up information in WHOIS, you’ll hear the terms thick WHOIS and thin WHOIS. This refers to the amount of data that’s available in each TLDs WHOIS database.
Thick WHOIS means that there is more information available. The contact information and administrative information are made available.
A thin WHOIS tends to have limited information. According to ICANN, that “only includes technical data sufficient to identify the sponsoring registrar, status of the registration, and creation and expiration dates for each registration in its WHOIS data store.”
Each TLD will use either a thick or thin WHOIS. For example, domains with the TLD .info and .biz will have thick, while .com will have thin. Most country code TLDs, such as .ie use thin WHOIS data at this time.
Now that you have a little more background on the WHOIS registry, how and why would you use it? There are a number of instances where you’d use the WHOIS database to query domains.
The primary reason to use WHOIS is if you have a great business idea. You know that part of that business is built on having a domain name that’s easy to remember.
You can use the WHOIS database to see if the particular domain names are available.
What happens if a domain name you have your heart set on is taken? You can do a deeper search query to find the owner of that domain and see if they’re willing to sell the domain name to you.
In some cases, people will buy domain names of sites or people who were a little slow to get the domain name for themselves. They may also buy variations of that site. For example, you might have a company that has a word that’s often misspelt.
Someone can buy the domain name and direct it towards a spam site. That can impact your business in many negative ways. In this instance, you can use WHOIS to see who the domain name owner is and file a dispute over the domain.
Other ways WHOIS can be used are by law enforcement to investigate fraud or other illegal activities. It can also be used to investigate spam.
In order to know how to use WHOIS, you first have to figure out why you’re using it. If you want to start a simple domain name query to see if a domain is available, then you can start by searching for domain names.
If you’re getting ready to start a new business, then you’ll want to make sure that the domain name is available. You can write down a list of potential business names and then do a query for each one, marking down which names are available.
In cases where someone is cybersquatting or infringing on your trademark, you do have some repercussions.
You first have to know where to look. For a standard domain search to see if it’s available, you can go here.
If you want to find contact information for a domain name owner, it’s a bit tricky. You might think that ICANN’s site would be the place to go.
Remember, ICANN doesn’t support the .ie domain name, as it’s run by the IE Domain Registry. You’d have to find a site that has access to the .ie WHOIS database, like DNS Query.
If you find that the information is thin, and only has basic domain information, your next step is to file a dispute with IE Domain Registry.
If you find a .ie domain that you love and is available, then you can go ahead and purchase the domain name. You do need to make sure that you follow the .ie registration rules and provide the proper documentation.
When you register a domain name, you might be concerned that your information will be available all over the internet. That’s not always the case.
Some of that will depend on the company that you use. Some companies offer protections, so your information isn’t out there. It’s something that you’ll want to check before you choose a registrar.
When you register a domain name you do have a responsibility to make sure that your information is complete and accurate, as the owner of the domain name.
For .com domains and domains under ICANN’s jurisdiction, you’ll get an email once a year asking you to review and update your contact information.
For .ie domains, you can contact your registrar and they can update your contact information. That’s an easy way to go about it as the alternative is to contact IE Domain Registry directly. They do require a signed authorisation if you change the contact info by email or phone.
WHOIS is a great tool to use if you have any questions around the ownership of a domain name. It has a long history going back to the early days of the internet. And we hope this helped you understand how to use WHOIS.
If you want to use the WHOIS query, you should start by knowing your intent, whether that’s to find a new domain name or see who owns an existing one. That will help you figure out which site you should use first.
Are you ready to purchase a domain name for your next big project? Start searching for your domain name now.