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Advisory: Registrar Implementation of the 2013 RAA's Whois Requirements


This advisory is intended to help registrars understand which Whois fields must be populated pursuant to the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement immediately upon their signing of the agreement and which are not required until 1 January 2014.


The 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement ("RAA"), like earlier forms of the registrar accreditation agreement, requires registrars to operate web-based and port 43 Whois services that provide public access to certain enumerated registration data fields. Section 3.3.1 of the RAA specifies required data fields, such as the name and address of the registered name holder, and name, address, email address, and phone number of the administration and technical contacts for each domain name (among other required data elements). 

The 2013 RAA, unlike previous versions of the registrar accreditation agreement, also includes a Registration Data Directory Service (Whois) Specification which, among other things, describes a mandatory format registrars must use when publishing Whois data. This format includes a number of fields that were not required by earlier versions of the RAA. As examples, the Registration Data Directory Service (Whois) Specification requires registrars to include in their Whois output the email address and telephone number of the registrar's abuse point of contact as well as the IDs or handles used by the registry to identify the domain name and its contacts.

Because the 2013 RAA includes a number of new operational responsibilities for registrars that could reasonably take weeks or months to implement, the agreement also incorporates a Transition Addendum. The Transition Addendum describes a number of obligations for which ICANN will not require registrar compliance until 1 January 2014. By way of example, registrars are not required to fully implement an abuse point-of-contact (see section 3.18 of the RAA) until 1 January 2014.

Some registrars have asked ICANN to clarify whether they must immediately begin populating Whois data with fields, such as the abuse point-of-contact email address and telephone number, even though they are not yet required to comply with the underlying obligation.

Required Whois Fields

The Transition Addendum to the RAA explicitly references a list of RAA provisions for which registrar compliance is not required until 1 January 2014. The Registration Data Directory Service (Whois) Specification is not included within that list of provisions. Accordingly, registrars are immediately required to comply with obligations described in that specification, including the obligation to format Whois data as defined in the specification. Registrars are not, however, required to include in their Whois output, data elements that don't yet exist or are not already in the registrar's possession. This includes reference to the items for which compliance is not yet required.

To be clear, registrars who are subject to the 2013 RAA must continue to include all of the fields described in section 3.3.1 of the RAA in their Whois output and the data elements they have within their possession. Registrars are not, however, required to include the following fields in their Whois output until 1 January 2014 (although registrars may, and are encouraged to, comply earlier):

Registry Domain ID
Registrar Abuse Contact Email
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone
Domain Status
Registry Registrant ID
Registrant Phone
Registrant Phone Ext
Registrant Fax
Registrant Fax Ext
Registrant Email:
Registry Admin ID
Registry Tech ID
Last update of WHOIS database

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Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."