The What and Why of Whois

Yesterday, ICANN affirmed that Whois is a “strategic priority” – one that is highlighted in the organization’s operating plans and budgets, written about on, and discussed at ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé’s roundtables with industry.

The affirmation came during an ICANN webinar on Whois policy.  This comes on the heels of some new Whois guidelines that are cropping up, like the Registrar Accreditation Agreement’s Whois Accuracy Program Specification. 

This specification will require registrars to validate and verify emails or phone numbers included in Whois data.  But even as ICANN looks to improve compliance with existing policy, it’s also reexamining the purpose of Whois – what was called a “clean slate” approach during the webinar.

The first item on that clean slate is a definition of “accuracy” for Whois.  Webinar participants raised the need to define “accuracy” several times, mostly in the context of information and reporting portals and automated tools. However, this definition is important for the broader discussion on the purpose of Whois. An opinion on what constitutes “accurate” Whois data will depend on what you think Whois should be used for.

Defining accuracy is going to fall to the Internet community, and, as with anything ICANN related, a multitude of opinions and concerns will be voiced.

For CADNA, “accurate” Whois data would allow law enforcement and brands to pursue bad actors taking advantage of consumer confusion. “Accurate” Whois data requires putative cybersquatters to have a little more skin in the game. It also eliminates cybersquatters’ tendency to hide their identity as they wreak havoc.  We’re happy the issue is getting the attention it deserves and look forward to the next round.

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