FAQ: What Is Whois and How Does It Relate To Domain Names?

The WHOIS service is designed to provide information on who owns or has registered a particular domain name.

Depending on where you access WHOIS, you can find out a range of technical details about any domain name, including:

  • The domain name registrar,
  • Name servers,
  • Registration date,
  • Location of registration; and
  • Registrant, administrative and/or technical contact information.

WHOIS has become an essential element of the domain name registration and regulation process, with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) legally committing to making sure this information is available for every registered domain name.

“Anyone who needs to know who is behind a website domain name can make a request for that information via WHOIS,” ICANN says in its primer on the service.

“The data is collected and made available by registrars and registries under the terms of their agreements with ICANN.”

The information WHOIS provides has, over time, become useful for all kinds of stakeholders. From domain name registrants, law enforcement agents, intellectual property and trademark owners, businesses and individuals, WHOIS can help you get technical support from network administrators, diagnose network difficulties, find out what companies are associated with a particular domain name and can even be used to track down cybercriminals.

In terms of the domain name registration process, specifically, WHOIS can help you figure out whether a particular domain name is available, who you could contact if you wanted to make an offer on a domain name and also with any copyright issues that may come up during the domain name registration or website development processes.

How To Use WHOIS

The WHOIS service is very simple to use but as ICANN notes, the process and information can vary due to the number of WHOIS databases available.

“WHOIS is not a single, centrally managed database. Rather, registration data is held in disparate locations and administered by multiple registries and registrars.”

Sites like AusRegistry,, and many others all have variations of the service. Generally all you have to do is type in the domain name that you want to find out about, and then follow any other prompts and the information will come up.

While not everyone needs to use WHOIS, this service is incredibly useful in the online world. By understanding the basics of WHOIS, you can not only gain more insights into the domain name registration process, but also into exactly how the internet works – and that can serve you whether you want to buy a domain name, sell one or simply find out more about sites that you like.