How To Tell Who Owns a Domain Using WHOIS
Domain names are supposed to be unique, and some are now worth quite a lot of money. If you are searching for a domain name and your preferred choices are taken, you can find out who owns them and see if they are interested in selling their domains.
WHOIS is a great source to get what you need. Find the owner’s contact information, make a connection, and see if they are open to offers. So, what is WHOIS, and how do you identify the owner of the respective domain name? This article answers those questions and more.
WHOIS isn’t an acronym; it literally means “who is,” and it is a database, not a website. It is managed and regulated by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and its approved registrars (sellers of domain names) and registries (.com, .info, .gov, and more).
WHOIS is a decentralized database run by those approved registrars on behalf of everyone. The database includes every domain name ever registered and some basic information about who owns them and when they bought them, amongst other unrelated databases of information used for other purposes.
Whenever you look for a domain name on a website offering domain services, the search engine queries WHOIS to scrape data for similar domain names.
The site then queries the database, finds out if the name is registered in WHOIS, determines its availability, and offers similar names that are not registered.
Take note that WHOIS only provides information. It’s the third-party that handles the rest, which is also a contributor to the WHOIS directory.
When someone buys a domain name, they must provide basic information, which then gets registered into the WHOIS database.
WHOIS data includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Owner’s name, business’ name, or third-party registrant’s name (person or business)
- Physical address (owner or third-party registrant)
- Email address (owner or third-party registrant)
- Phone number (owner or third-party registrant)
- Contacts for queries (owner or third-party registrant)
The personal details are entered into the WHOIS database next to the domain name and are accessible to anyone on the internet who queries related terms.
People looking to obtain domain name information may plan on using the details for making offers, reporting complaints, or filing against the name.
WHOIS isn’t just about ownership uses; it’s also for tracing spam websites, hacked sites, or websites with malicious code injected into them. Furthermore, WHOIS gets used to track fraud, identify website owners that post illegal content, and discover those that participate in shady practices.
Identifying Who Owns a Domain Name using WHOIS
Finding out who owns a domain name is simple, but there’s a strategy to it. First, you identify domain names you’re interested in. Next, you purchase them if available or obtain owner information using WHOIS. There are several ways to use the WHOIS database, from visiting a web hosting provider or domain name registrar to accessing WHOIS directly and navigating through all the information. Here’s the breakdown of your options.
Option #1: Visit a Web Hosting Provider to Use WHOIS
Go to a web hosting provider’s website and look for domains. HostGator®, Bluehost®, and GoDaddy™ are just a few examples of well-known web hosts. You should see a search box in the center of the screen where you enter domain names. It queries the WHOIS database to see if the name is available or already registered.
For domains that are already owned, scroll to the bottom of their website. Most domain hosting providers include a link to utilize the WHOIS database through their system. The provider presents the details for you on their website.
Option #2: Visit a Domain Name Registrar to Use WHOIS
Domain name registrars sell domain names, but they generally offer hosting too. If you’re not ready for a website, most ICANN-credited registrars don’t require hosting services to purchase domain names. The same scenario applies to web hosters—they offer domain name purchases alone. Namecheap.com and Domain.com are a couple of registrar examples. Your domain name searches use WHOIS automatically. However, you can scroll to the bottom of the company’s website and access the WHOIS database through their system the same way you would with a web hosting provider.
Option #3: Visit ICANN Directly
ICANN provides access to the WHOIS database right on their website. Access the WHOIS database directly through ICANN here.
Domain Name Privacy in WHOIS
As mentioned above, domain name registrant details are available to anyone who cares to look for it. Information is minimal but provides enough details to contact the owner or the person who registered the domain name.
However, many domain owners use a third-party service to submit the name in an effort to protect their own identity from fraud, harassment, spam emails, spam calls, and marketing lists.
In cases where the owner is not listed as the registrant, you’ll need to contact the registrar or registrant (if applicable) and they will forward the information to the actual domain owner.