Like many key components of the internet, WHOIS pre-dates the World Wide Web’s arrival in 1991. It was originally created in the 1980s as a way of looking up web domains based on ownership details. Having been developed as part of the US military’s ARPANET programme, it was retained as ARPANET morphed into the internet we know and love today.
There are now over a thousand top-level domains (known as TLDs) in existence, such as .com and .org. Each one is regulated by a domain registry, whose responsibilities include maintaining an ownership database of every website address belonging to that TLD. As a result, WHOIS has become a global resource of considerable significance. This fully searchable online database stores the names and contact details for everyone currently listed as the legal owner of a domain name. From private individuals to multinational companies, every live site has its own unique entry.
Why is WHOIS information privacy important?
This is of little consequence if you’re an employee of a company with a presence across the UK. However, it’s far more important to private individuals, because information stored for each domain registration usually includes your name and address, plus phone and email details. Not only that, but everything is stored on a live website, which anyone can anonymously search at any time. That’s obviously a problem for the privacy-conscious – especially those who may have been stalked or had their identities cloned.
Fortunately, the organisation responsible for regulating domain names quickly acknowledged the issue of privacy. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN) was set up in 1998 to preserve the internet’s operational stability, and oversee domain ownership. They granted domain agencies like UK2 the ability to cloak ownership details on request, so private information wouldn’t be publicly visible. Although registration details still have to be provided, the domain agency treats it in confidence and domain name records appear blank on WHOIS. This service is generally only offered to private individuals; it is not available to companies as they are expected to be transparent about the sites they own.
How to obtain domain privacy
The process of making your WHOIS private varies, depending on which TLD you’ve chosen and where it was purchased from. If you’re buying a domain name through UK2, all you need to do is add domain privacy to your shopping basket. If you’ve already registered a domain with us, it can be retrospectively cloaked by adding domain privacy via your control panel. The domain continues to function in exactly the same way, and your ability to resell or transfer ownership isn’t affected.