David Goldstein - ICANN’s WHOIS Becomes Domain Name Registration Data Lookup


    ICANN have reinvigorated their WHOIS domain name lookup service, the service that allows domain name registrants to check whether their desired domain name in a generic top-level domain such as .com or .berlin is available. Or not. And replaced it with what’s called the Registration Data Access Protocol, known as RDAP.

    WHOIS has been in existence since it was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 1982. Its replacement has also been developed by the technical community in the IETF. In February 2019, after almost a decade when it was first raised that change was needed, and in 2011 when ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee advised the ICANN community to evaluate and adopt a replacement protocol of discussions and development, gTLD registries and registrars were advised of the requirement to implement an RDAP service by the end of August. And on 26 August it was finally made available and ICANN-accredited registrars and registry operators were required to provide registration data directory services through RDAP in addition to the WHOIS services.

    So why change? Change was required due to changes in the domain name landscape such as support for internationalisation, secure access to data, differentiated access, and standardised query, response and error responses. These issues had been recognised for over a decade. So in 2011 ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee advised that the ICANN community evaluate and adopt a replacement protocol.

    ICANN's updated lookup tool will utilise RDAP as the primary protocol to perform the lookup. Should the RDAP lookup fail for any reason, users will be prompted with a request to optionally perform a WHOIS lookup. If users opt-in to use the WHOIS failover lookup, the tool will return results from the relevant WHOIS service, when available. But eventually WHOIS will be retired when RDAP will become the lookup tool.

    Explaining how the new tool works, ICANN says the updated tool will have no impact on how users perform searches for registration data. Users simply enter a domain name into a search box to retrieve current publicly available registration data. This set of registration data is referred to as "Domain Name Registration Data." Due to applicable law and ICANN policies, results containing personal data associated with the queried domain name may be redacted for privacy. Across different registrars and registry operators, there may be variances in the data that is returned as redacted.

    The updated tool also includes improvements to make the display of search results more user friendly. For example, the search results are displayed in a single-column layout to easily read longer datasets. Additionally, the raw data from the registrar and registry operator for each query is also made available.

    In the event that users identify potentially inaccurate registration data or the RDAP or WHOIS service is unavailable, the website continues to provide a link to the WHOIS Inaccuracy and WHOIS Service complaint forms where these can be reported to ICANN Contractual Compliance.

    To check out the new ICANN Domain Name Registration Data Lookup that conducts Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP) queries.