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Following through on community recommendations for improving accountability and transparency, ICANN has launched the first phase of a new "one-stop" online resource about the WHOIS directory service. This new information website provides a clear and easy-to-understand explanation of how to access existing WHOIS information on who has registered domain names. It also makes it easy to notify relevant parties of a data accuracy issue.
Members of the community are invited to view the beta site and provide comments via feedback forms. ICANN staff and the design team will consider all comments and suggestions as we continually improve the site.
Previously, it was difficult to get a holistic understanding of WHOIS as information was highly distributed over many different websites. This new website, whois.icann.org, will be a centralized location for all WHOIS information, making it easier to learn about WHOIS, raise accuracy issues about WHOIS information and how to contribute to WHOIS policies. ICANN expects to launch an integrated search function in January 2014 as part of the site's second phase.
The WHOIS directory service is an essential tool used by many people and organizations every day. Anyone who needs to know who is behind a website, domain name can look it up via WHOIS directory information. Network administrators, registry operators, domain name registrants, governments, law enforcement, consumer groups, and the international Internet community find it crucial.
In addition to identifying domain name holders, WHOIS data also allows network administrators and others to find and fix system problems and to maintain Internet stability. With it, they can determine the availability of domain names, combat spam or fraud, identify trademark infringement and enhance accountability of domain name registrants. WHOIS data is sometimes used to track down and identify registrants who may be posting illegal content or engaging in phishing scams.
The Affirmation of Commitments requires ICANN to "maintain timely, unrestricted and public access to accurate and complete WHOIS information...." It also calls for a review of WHOIS policy and its implementation every three years to assess its effectiveness in meeting legitimate needs of law enforcement and promoting consumer trust. This new website is the result of recommendations made by the last review panel.