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ICANN publishes Whois reform wish-list

Kevin Murphy, April 14, 2010, 15:27:02 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN’s latest stab at reforming Whois could lead to lots of useful new features, from more comprehensive search to more uniform privacy services.
The organization has released a staff report, “Inventory of WHOIS Service Requirements”, outlining 12 technical areas where Whois could be improved.
If the ideas were implemented, Whois records could one day contain your Twitter address or instant messaging screen name, as well as the current set of data.
The proposals could also lead to registrant search features in Whois as standard, allowing users to pull up a list of all the domains registered by any given individual.
That kind of service is only currently available at a premium price from the likes of DomainTools. The ICANN proposals could bake it into the spec.
The new paper, apparently released yesterday, was designed to outline technical requirements that might be needed to support future policies on Whois.
So while it’s not policy, it’s a good indicator of where ICANN thinks policy may head.
It concludes with a list of 12 “possible requirements” for the GNSO and other stakeholders to consider over the next couple of months before the Brussels meeting.
Here are the highlights:

  • Create a public, machine-readable directory of Whois servers.
  • Standardize query, response and error message structure.
  • Oblige Whois services to let users search not just by domain, but also by other data elements, such as name and address.
  • Add more data, such as IM handles, abuse contacts, and the history of a domain’s ownership (Whowas?), to Whois records.
  • Create a way to authenticate Whois users. This could support more standardized privacy services, with only police, for example, able to access the private data of individual registrants.
  • Make all new gTLD registries host a “fat” Whois and encourage VeriSign to migrate away from its “thin” .com database.

ICANN’s Steve Sheng, one of the report’s authors, is going to hold a webinar for interested parties to discuss the document. He also has a podcast interview here.

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