What Does Whois Mean?

Whois is an Internet service and protocol that searches and displays information pertaining to a domain name from repositories of domain name registrars worldwide.


Whois service is a free Internet service that enables a user to search a specific domain name’s availability and, in the case that it’s registered, the assigned entity/person to whom it is registered. Whois was first conceived in 1982 as an enhancement to the Nickname protocol that was developed by ARPANET.

Techopedia Explains Whois

Whois service is primarily used to identify and search for a specific domain name. Whois also supports searching IP addresses and propriety intranet systems. For a registered domain lookup, Whois provides administrative information such as registrar and contact information for the individual or organization that controls the domain. Earlier versions of Whois provided services to deliver search results based on the last names of individuals, keyword-based search and searching for domains based on administrator name. These services were discontinued as a result of unethical use.

Whois has been criticized for promoting a lack of domain privacy. However, some registrars offer private registrations, in which the registrar’s information is displayed rather than the individual or company who registered the domain.


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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.