When you register a domain name, you have to give a lot of information: name, address, phone number, etc. All of this information is automatically added to a database of information that catalogues the owners of every domain name that is registered. This massive database of information is called WHOIS.
You can search the WHOIS database through the terminal on your computer if you’re tech savvy, or you can use any number of WHOIS lookup tools on the internet (such as who.is). When you perform a WHOIS search, the first thing you will probably see is a small summary like this:
Domain Name: EXAMPLEDOMAIN.NINJA
Registrar: NAME.COM, INC.
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 625
Whois Server: whois.name.com
Referral URL: http://www.name.com
Name Server: NS1HWY.NAME.COM
Name Server: NS2CQS.NAME.COM
Name Server: NS3GXY.NAME.COM
Name Server: NS4SXY.NAME.COM
Status: clientTransferProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Updated Date: 16-jun-2015
Creation Date: 31-oct-2014
Expiration Date: 31-oct-2015
This summary gives you most of the pertinent information about this domain. Obviously, the first thing you will see is the domain name itself. The next piece of information is the registrar. The registrar is the company that this domain is registered with. In this case, Name.com!
Note: Make sure not to mix up the registrar with the similar terms registrant and registry. The registrant is the legal owner of the domain, who registered it. The registry is the company which manages the list of a set of domain names. The registrar acts as the middleman between the registry and the registrant.
Along with some information about the registrar for the domain, you will also see the name servers that are on this domain. Name servers essentially tell you where a domain’s DNS records are stored. Often, but not always, this can also indicate what company the domain is hosted with, as many people choose to keep their DNS records and hosting records together.
The next important piece of information is the domain’s status. In our example, this domain’s status is Transfer Prohibited, meaning that it cannot be transferred to a new registrar at this time. There can be a large number of statuses put on a domain depending on what is going on with the domain at any given point in time. You can refer here to see a full list of the statuses a domain may have.
The next three pieces of information are fairly self-explanatory: the updated date, creation date, and expiration date. The updated date is the last time a change to this domain’s whois information was made. The creation date is when this domain was originally registered. The expiration date tells you how long this domain has been renewed for and when it will expire if it is not renewed again.
Below the summary shown above you will see a long list of the raw registrar data, which outlines the registrar information, as well as the contact information for the registrant, administrative, and technical contacts. The contact information lists the name, organization, physical address, phone number, and email address that was provided for these contacts when the domain was registered.
If you own a domain name, and you do not want to have all of this information publicly available, please feel free to purchase our Whois Privacy product, which will hide your contact information from the public search. You can find out more here.
If you are interested in learning more about the whois database, please refer to ICANN’s information here.