Read ICANN Blogs to stay informed of the latest policymaking activities, regional events, and more.

What's Up with WHOIS?

10 October 2014
By Margie Milam

In addition to the ICANN Languages, this content is also available in

After several years of reporting on the status of WHOIS related activities, I have good news to share. WHOIS Accuracy Rates are slowly improving, as reflected in the latest Preliminary Findings paper [PDF, 668 KB] published today by the National Opinion Research Council (NORC) at the University of Chicago.

These findings suggest that there is still more work to be done to bring up accuracy rates. After examining nearly 100,000 WHOIS records, NORC's Preliminary Findings highlight important observations regarding the Pilot Study:

  • Operationally, Registrars under the 2013 RAA have more accuracy for email addresses than Registrars under the 2009 RAA;
  • New gTLDs have slightly better operational email accuracy rates than prior gTLDs;
  • Prior gTLDs have more operational accuracy on telephone numbers, but the two groups are equal on operational postal address accuracy.

The Preliminary Findings paper [PDF, 668 KB] describes the analysis conducted by NORC, after collaborating with intergovernmental and private sector firms. Relying on expertise from the Universal Postal Union, the UN agency responsible for coordinating global postal policies, and commercial service providers such as StrikeIron, DigiCert and Whibse, NORC applied the latest technology available to validate email addresses, telephone numbers and postal addresses to varying degrees, each at a syntactical and operational level. This expertise is reflected in the methodology adopted by NORC in assigning the different accuracy rates described in the Preliminary Findings paper.

The purpose of the Pilot Study is to test assumptions using real data. The methodology can be adjusted based upon the consultations in Los Angeles, as well as the public comments received. The paper [PDF, 668 KB] is published for the LA Meeting to demonstrate how ICANN's WHOIS Accuracy Reporting System (ARS) is being designed.

The ARS, when fully developed, will produce periodic accuracy reports to enable you to track whether policy changes or changing contract terms produce measurable improvements in accuracy. It will also include a feedback mechanism where potentially inaccurate records are forwarded to registrars for action and it will include a tracking mechanism to see if the records are appropriately updated. A full study report, with updated findings and statistics, will be published for Public Comment following the ICANN Los Angeles Meeting.

Join us in Los Angeles at the All Things WHOIS Session to explore these findings in detail, as well as to share your perspective on how the ARS should be developed in the future. The session will also cover the latest developments related to WHOIS Improvement activities, and it will explore the future of WHOIS, in light of the Recommendations of the Expert Working Group (EWG) on gTLD Directory Services. To learn more about the EWG's Recommendations from their Final Report [5.11 MB], a series of short videos have been recorded to answer key aspects of their Final Report [5.11 MB].

We look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles.


Margie Milam