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ICANN dumps the “Whois” in new Whois tool

Kevin Murphy, July 31, 2019, 11:50:49 (UTC), Domain Tech

Of all the jargon regularly deployed in the domain name industry and ICANN community, “Whois” is probably the one requiring the least explanation.

It’s self-explanatory, historically doing exactly what it says on the tin. But it’s on its way out, to be replaced by the far less user-friendly “RDAP”.

The latest piece of evidence of this transition: ICANN has pushed its old Whois query tool aside in favor of a new, primarily RDAP-based service that no longer uses the word “Whois”.

RDAP is the Registration Data Access Protocol, the IETF’s standardized Whois replacement to which gTLD registries and registrars are contractually obliged to migrate their registrant data.

Thankfully, ICANN isn’t branding the service on this rather opaque acronym. Rather, it’s using the word “Lookup” instead.

The longstanding whois.icann.org web site has been deprecated, replaced with lookup.icann.org. Visitors to the old page will be bounced to the new one.

The old site looked like this:

Whois

The new site looks like this:

Whois

It’s pretty much useless for most domains, if you want to find out who actually owns them.

If you query a .com or .net domain, you’ll only receive Verisign’s “thin” output. This does not included any registrant information.

That’s unlike most commercial Whois services, which also ping the relevant registrar for the full thick record.

For non-Verisign gTLDs, ICANN will return the registry’s thick record, but it will be very likely be mostly redacted, as required under ICANN’s post-GDPR privacy policy.

While contracted parties are still transitioning away from Whois to RDAP, the ICANN tool will fail over to the old Whois output if it receives no RDAP data.

Under current ICANN Whois policy, registries and registrars have until August 26 to deploy RDAP services to run alongside their existing Whois services.

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Comments (10)

  1. todd says:

    This is dumb. The world knows what “whois” is. Why now confuse the world by removing a well known term (one that might be classified a “dictionary term” to replace with a stupid acronym?) They should just call this Whois2.0! Argg! ICANN and it’s continual stupidity.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      To be fair, it wasn’t ICANN that created RDAP.

      • todd says:

        I guess. I sort of see your point. But then the title of the post is not completely accurate either. The title is: ICANN dumps the “Whois” in new Whois tool

        I simply suggest if ICANN is listening they just rebrand this Whois 2.0. To ditch the term “Whois” just causes mass confusion to everyday users who are now just getting used to having a domain lookup tool called “Whois”. It does not matter that domains are registered with SRS. Or that there are EPP commands. The end user never needs to know such things, which are confusing.

        Or perhaps the Registrars will still call it this on their own because it is the only thing that makes sense and does not confuse everyday users. Somehow, I’m still hoping the term “Whois” lives on beyond this…

        • Kevin Murphy says:

          I see your point. But ICANN is a “technical coordination body” in theory, so it has to at least pay lip service to the technical things it coordinates.

          One could easily argue that “Lookup” is a bit more intuitive that “Whois” anyway, for non-technical people.

          Especially considering that the “Who” doesn’t really appear in most Whois/RDAP records any more.

          But, yeah, I find it irritating. I have to make an editorial decision now whether to be slightly inaccurate and carry on writing “Whois” or be more technically accurate and migrate over to something else.

          It’s a ball-ache.

          • todd says:

            Thanks for the responses. And thanks for the post. We both agree on most everything. And the arguement likely has no naysayers. (I would guess.) It is a matter of naming a tool. And the well-known name is “Whois”. And that is mostly what RDAP is/will become.

            If I were a betting person I would think that over time people/companies will try to label this “RDAP”, but will wind up still calling it “whois” as that is what people are used to. And like IP addresses, people prefer “words”. And the general population does prefer words over acronyms that have no meaning without having to go do “a lookup” to find out what RDAP is. That is why
            “Whois” just makes sense.

            Thanks. And keep up all the great reporting!

          • Rubens Kuhl says:

            “Directory”

  2. Patrick Mevzek says:

    “They should just call this Whois2.0”

    On the contrary, using proper terms is a good idea, so removing whois is good since it is so badly abused, like “whois database” which makes no sense. If you said do not use RDS/RDDS (which are ICANN inventions to basically speak about whois and RDAP at the same time, and while they do have technical merits, indeed noone knows them) I could have agreed, but saying RDAP is whois 2.0 is a huge mistake.

    With the same reasoning, everyone would continue to use SSL and not the proper TLS name instead. Oh wait…

  3. Mark Thorpe says:

    Real Dumb Automated Program.

  4. toby says:

    So …. I fail to see what is less user-friendly about the new service since this part is not explained or justified in the article.

    Is it only that the name of the tool is changing? This happens all the time for all of the tools. Nothing is really stable in IT.

    I think the new protocol is a clear improvement over the old one:

    The response you get to your query is a structured response that follows a clearly defined guideline.

    This is not the case with the “whois” service. You request something in a fairly straightforward manner, but the response you get is some random text formatted however the particular database you’re querying wants to format it.

    It’s hard for humans to find information in something that differs so vastly from one response to the other, but it also makes it very hard to use this response in computer scripts.

    The current client tools are starting to get released. Take a look at OpenRDAP, coded in Go, and you’ll see that it is used quite similarly to the old whois command, but you’ll find out that you once you get a grasp of the output it gives you, you’ll know how to find information for all domains alike.

    Now not all TLDs have implemented RDAP yet, but it’s still new.

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