WHOIS, ICANN: Should I be Worried?

December 29, 2016

Each year, domain name registrars send out an email asking about your WHOIS information. This is because a lot can happen in a year, especially when you own or operate a business. Maybe your business moved locations, or your phone number changed. Maybe a lot more significant changes took place. Your registrar cares about information that is relevant to your business and your website.

Perhaps you’ve recently seen an email that looks like this. Chances are you have, because these emails tend to get sent out once a year.

Let’s cover what this email is NOT:

  • This email does not mean your domain is expiring
  • This email is not selling you a new domain
  • This email is not a last-minute warning

So what is this email?

This is an email sent on behalf of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This group helps ensure the stability of the Internet by keeping track of information relating to namespaces. In short, they assist in the management of Domain Names and Domain Name Servers for the better of the Internet as a whole.

This email refers to the WHOIS information tied to your domain name. WHOIS information is representative of who owns the domain. This typically consists of a name / business name, address, phone number and email address. This information may belong to the person who controls the website or domain name, or be representative of the business for which the website exists.

It is also worth noting that this information can be masked by a third-party WHOIS masking service, but this practice is a bit controversial because it essentially gives access to your domain to a third party, which can cause some trouble if ownership should come into question.

Each year, ICANN requires that you verify your WHOIS information tied to your domain(s) is still correct. Checking it is simple:

  1. Go to a site like ICANN’s WHOIS Search or MXToolbox’s WHOIS Lookup Tool
  2. Enter the domain name for which you want to read the WHOIS information
  3. Click ‘Search’ or the applicable submit button

At this point you should be seeing information that relates to your domain, and your business. If everything is correct, then you’re all set – you can archive the email, and go about your business. If you need to update something, though – such as your business address – then you need to contact your domain manager to get the information updated.

As the email warns, if the WHOIS information is found to be inaccurate, this could be grounds for domain name cancellation.

Emails referencing your domain name can certainly be frightening, but this one in particular is a friendly reminder to keep your information updated.

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.

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