Finding the actual people who are behind the domain name you are looking for ranges from easy, to darn near impossible. But where there is a search engine and a little ingenuity, there is a way.
We’ll cover some of the basic behind domain ownership, major resources you can use to search out the answers you need, and the steps needed to get past the walls between domain name ownership, and domain owners.
So, who cares, exactly?
Well, you do. Perhaps you have a name for your company, or a specialized service or offering you want to put to work on the web, and you have the perfect name in mind. That name is worth digital diamonds in the world of search; but if it is owned there’s pretty much nada you can do, even if it is inactive, until you find the person in possession of the domain name you need. Otherwise, your path to web success can meet a dead end even before you start.
Where do you look? Whois
Any time a domain is registered, the registrant has to provide contact information with the service they are using, and if they fail to keep that information current, they can lose the ownership of the domain. That information gets stored by ICANN – the Internet Company for Assigned Names and Numbers (catchy, huh.) And all of it is kept on a pubic database for any and all who know where and how to look. And where and how DO you look to get to that juicy data?
You perform a Whois search. There are any number of providers on the web that offer the tools to do a simple search of available information held by ICANN, and that search has a name. Whois. And with any of these search engines the process is really, really simple. Enter the domain name into the box. Click Enter. Out comes whatever is stored in the database.
And what exactly is in there? Lots of stuff
Every registrar’s contact information, including up-to-date email and phone (ever get those annoying, “Update your contact information” requests from Go Daddy? This is where that info goes.) You can get the when, as well as the where a domain was registered. The domain might actually be available; a Whois search can reveal that as well. Is it soon to expire? A domain that is close to expiring MAY not be renewed, and with some patience you might not need to approach the current owner to gain the name. Is that data available? Well, Virginia, there may not be a Santa Claus but there is a Whois report.
And it is all at your fingertips, if your fingertips click the, “Lookup” button.
What if they DON’T want their info found. Private Domain Registration
All of the “protect my information at all costs” hysteria circulating in the web has given rise to a number of Private Domainregistration services. These protect personal information by creating “generic” phone/name/address information to be posted in the ICANN database, acting as a shield from the reach of Whois searches. The actual information is stored (at a cost to the owner) inside of these private domain services. In many of these cases, the service acts as a proxy to the actual owner, an intermediary between inquiries and the people with the actual answers you seek.
But while the phone or email a Whois search reveals about a privately held domain can lead to the true owner, it can just as likely result in a dead end. Private domain owners generally do not want to be contacted. Which is why they pay for the service in the first place.
If you run a Whois search and retrieve a nameless email and a generic phone number, chances are you are not going to get to the actual information you want on that domain.
In July of 2018, Verisign, one of the top companies in domain registration estimated around 338 million registrations were held in July of 2018, with a growth rate estimated at just shy of 4% a year. ICANN has estimated around 20% of that number are registered on private or proxy servers.
The odds you’ll find what you are looking for – or who you are looking for – are on your side.
Isn’t that worth one click?