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A Model for Exploring WHOIS Accuracy

3 March 2014
By Margie Milam

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As previously reported, ICANN continues making headway in improving WHOIS. One aspect of this effort focuses on bringing visibility into how these improvements might be impacting overall accuracy rates. To do this, a new program is in development in which ICANN will conduct periodic WHOIS accuracy studies, publish the findings, and forward for follow-up WHOIS records that have been flagged as inaccurate to some degree.

This begs the question— what is an inaccurate WHOIS record?

The answer to this question has been hotly debated over the last decade within the ICANN community and continues to evolve, especially in light of recent developments. These include the newly instituted obligations under the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, the WHOIS Review Team recommendations, the launch of new gTLDs, and the insightful work of the SSAC examining domain name registration data validation issues as reported in SSAC-58 [PDF, 490 KB].

With the help of NORC at the University of Chicago, the pioneer of one of the earliest studies into WHOIS accuracy, ICANN will be publishing prior to the Singapore Meeting a suggested model for implementing this statistical analysis. Taking into account these recent developments, the model examines a WHOIS record for each of the validation perspectives highlighted in SSAC-58 [PDF, 490 KB], namely, syntactic, operational, and identity validation, and assigns a scoring methodology. These in turn will translate into a finding of accuracy labels, based on range of possibilities, such as: No Failure, Minimal Failure, Limited Failure, Substantial Failure, Full Failure, which will be reported on a regular basis, and tracked over time. The model will also describe a sampling methodology to ensure that a statistically significant number of records are examined to provide adequate geographic scope, and that enable a comparison of accuracy levels associated with new gTLDs and legacy gTLDs, as well as registrars under the 2013 RAA versus the older versions of the RAA.

The framework of the suggested model and sampling methodology will be published in the Knowledge Center of the WHOIS website this week. If any SO/AC, Stakeholder Group, or Constituency would like a briefing prior to or at the Singapore Meeting on the details of this program, please feel free to reach out to us at: whois@icann.org. We see the Singapore Meeting as the ideal place to engage with the ICANN Community to receive feedback on the suggested model and the sampling methodology to be deployed in this program. Feedback is requested by April 1st by email to whois@icann.org.

Shortly after the Singapore Meeting, ICANN will be releasing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit vendor bids for implementing one of more aspects of this WHOIS statistical analysis and reporting features using this model, as it may be updated in response to such feedback.


Margie Milam