What is WHOIS and How Does it Work? (+ Tips on Free Domain Privacy)


If you’re on the domain name hunt, you may have seen the acronym WHOIS.

You might be thinking, what the heck is WHOIS and what does it have to do with my website?

Rest assured, you’re not the only one looking it up.

We’re going to find out what WHOIS is and how it all works, along with some tips on free domain privacy (because that’s what it’s really about).

Ready to dive into the WHOIS world? Let’s go.

What Is WHOIS?

WHOIS, pronounced “who is”, is a system that allows users to look up the contact information of the person or company who registered the domain.

Every year, millions of people register domain names.

Each domain owner must provide identifying contact information. Basic details may include:

This information is often referred to as “WHOIS data.”

How Did WHOIS Begin?

WHOIS first started in 1982, when the Internet Engineering Task Force, the group that develops internet standards, decided they needed a directory service for websites.

As the internet grew, WHOIS began to help more businesses and domain registrants with their websites.

In 1999, the ICANN organization, or Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, opened up the market for others to provide domain name registration services.

In 2016, ICANN required WHOIS to have reviews making sure their registrant data was safe. Their goals were to improve their service and protect website data.

The WHOIS was officially established in 1998.

If you’d like to learn more, check out the History of WHOIS and the ICANN accreditation. It’s pretty interesting!

So how does this affect your website?

Your data is managed by registrars. These are domain registries accredited by ICANN.

ICANN maintains public access to accurate and complete WHOIS information.

Anyone can use the WHOIS lookup to search their databases and identify the domain registrant, like this:

ICANN WHOis lookup

A WHOIS record includes 2 pieces of information:

1. Central Registry Information

Central registry information shows the domain name and the company it’s registered with. It also includes server information, the status of the domain, and expiration dates. The WHOIS connects to the registrar’s servers to locate the domain name’s contact information.

2. Registrar Information

Registrar information is the website owner’s contact details. This includes their name, phone number, email, address, and domain registrar. As you can see, you may not want that information to be public.

This is why domain privacy is important!

Which brings us to why you need WHOIS in the first place.

Why Do You Need WHOIS?

You need to know about WHOIS because it helps keep your information safe as a website owner.

You’re required to provide accurate WHOIS contact details for your website.

With the wrong information, your domain name registration can be suspended or even canceled, bringing your website down!

Another reason is your safety.

With WHOIS privacy, your contact details are hidden and replaced with anonymous information.

If someone were to look up your domain name, they’ll see generic domain information, like this:

domain privacy compared with WHOIS

This means your information is safe from identity theft, spam calls, harassment, or junk mail.

With WHOIS privacy protection, the organization providing the domain privacy is the contact.

This service is offered by most registrars for an additional fee.

Except for Bluehost! You receive free WHOIS protection and private domain registration, along with a free domain name (and more freebies) when you sign up for their web hosting plan.

Now that you know how important it is, let’s find out how it works.

How Does WHOIS Work?

WHOIS works much like a search engine. It has to fetch relevant information and verify it.

Behind the scenes, it looks like this:

WHOis query

There are 3 different ways to perform a WHOIS search.

Web-based WHOIS Lookups

ICANN has made WHOIS lookups as easy as possible these days.

Anyone can identify a domain name registrant by searching the WHOIS database.

To perform a search, users can go to one of many web-based WHOIS lookup tools, enter a domain name, and click “Lookup”.

Here is ICANN’s Lookup:

ICANN domain search

You can get information about a domain like ownership, availability, registration, and expiration details. Like this:

Contact Information ICANN Whois lookup

And this:

Registrar information WHOis lookup

Search By a Domain Generator 

You can also perform a WHOIS lookup through a domain name generator.

We can help there! Head over to Nameboy and type in your domain or keywords into the generator tool:

Nameboy domain generator

This brings you to the domain search results and a WHOIS lookup:

WHOIS by Nameboy

You’ll see the suggested domains along with their availability and WHOIS search.

WHOIS suggestions Nameboy

From there you can follow the Domain.com WHOIS lookup to see what’s listed.

Lastly, you can try an IP address lookup.

WHOIS IP Address Search

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is the number assigned to a website. An IP address is used for website identification.

For instance, Nameboy.com’s IP address is

IP addresses are available publicly and don’t have personal information.

To perform an IP lookup, you just need to type the IP address into any search engine. An IP address lookup service will pop up to help you find which one is attached to that domain, like this:

IP address lookup

From there you can use that IP address to search for additional information about the site, just like WHOIS.

That’s a wrap!

WHOIS and Your Domain

Now that you’ve been schooled on WHOIS and how it works, you know how easy it is to use.

We covered what WHOIS is, a little history about it, and why you need it. We hope this has helped you learn about the importance of domain privacy as well.

And, here is more information on registering a domain and some of the best cheap domain registrars to choose from.

Remember, you can get free domain privacy with Bluehost, so take advantage of that!

As always, if you ever need help with domain availability, reach out to us at Nameboy.

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