What is WHOIS and what data is stored there?

The WHOIS is a public database that hosts the information collected when someone registers a domain name.

The ICANN, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the regulator for the WHOIS database of domain names. They’ve done so since way back 1982, and thus from the very early Internet days. According to their website, the WHOIS service is described as a “...free, publicly available directory containing the contact and technical information of registered domain name registrants.”

The registration data that is stored in the WHOIS database is actually held in different locations and managed by different registries and domain name registrars. A registry owns and manages domain extensions (also known as TLDs), like Verisign who owns .com and .net domain extensions, but they don’t sell them directly to the end users. Instead, their domain names are being sold and registered via different domain name registrars like the popular GoDaddy, NameCheap, Gandi, Tucows, Network Solutions, Porkbun, Hostinger.

What domain details are contained in the WHOIS data?

The data contained in the WHOIS database can be vary depending from the domain registrar, but can include the domain registration date and domain expiration date (in some cases also the last time a domain data was updated), the registrar of the domain (such as GoDaddy), the owner of the domain (such as a company or a person name), a contact of the domain owner like an email or a telephone number and the domain owner address. Due to recent GDPR regulations for WHOIS, some PII details like person name, contacts and addresses may be hidden from the public WHOIS database for some domain extensions (such as .de or .it domains).

How to install WHOIS on Windows and Linux OS?

On Linux Debian / Ubuntu OS you can install WHOIS utility by typing "sudo apt install whois". Generally the WHOIS command is installed by default on any Linux distribution but in some cases it may not be pre-installed, so just run that command to install it. On Microsoft Windows OS the WHOIS command is not installed by default so you have to download and install it manually. To do so, download WHOIS from Microsoft website and extract the "WhoIs.zip" file on a folder, then copy the .exe files whois.exe and whois64.exe on the system folder C:\WINDOWS\System32\ (you will need Administration rights to perform this action). Once done, open Windows Command Prompt (cmd.exe) and type "whois google.com" to view WHOIS details of google.com domain:

Windows WHOIS Command Example

Example WHOIS Details of Google.com

Here is an example WHOIS query for google.com domain name: