You are here

What's on the Horizon?

It's very possible that WHOIS will change dramatically in the future.

The process of reinventing WHOIS began in November 2012, when the ICANN Board approved a two-pronged strategy to embrace the Recommendations made by the first WHOIS Review Team (WHOIS RT) to improve the manner in which the WHOIS system at that time was being overseen by ICANN organization, and, at the same time, to accept the Security and Stability Advisory Committee's Recommendations to redefine the purpose and scope of Registration Directory Services (RDS), in an attempt to envision a next-generation replacement system better suited for the needs of tomorrow's Internet.

1) To carry out the first prong of this strategy, ICANN organization followed the first WHOIS RT's recommendations by implementing a series of improvements to the current WHOIS system to enhance its usefulness for Internet users, including this WHOIS website for one-stop shopping for WHOIS related inquiries and educational materials, and where the WHOIS policy is summarized and readily accessible from one location. Additionally, ICANN organization developed a new Accuracy Reporting System (ARS) to proactively identify inaccurate WHOIS records and forward them to registrars for follow-up, to increase data accuracy and create accuracy metrics as recommended by the first WHOIS-RT. ICANN organization's efforts to further enhance ARS while tracking trends in data accuracy and analyzing the factors that affect accuracy are on-going.

2) To carry out the second prong of this strategy, ICANN formed an Expert Working Group (EWG) on gTLD Directory Services charged with finding ways to break the deadlock in the ICANN community over the usefulness and fate of the WHOIS system. After examining a broad array of actual use cases, the EWG concluded in its Final Report (2014) that today's WHOIS model—giving every user the same anonymous public access to often inaccurate gTLD registration data—should be abandoned. The EWG recommended a paradigm shift to "a next-generation RDS that collects, validates and discloses gTLD registration data for permissible purposes only. While basic data would remain publicly available, the rest would be accessible only to accredited requestors who identify themselves, state their purpose, and agree to be held accountable for appropriate use."

In 2015, the ICANN Board reaffirmed its request for a Board-initiated GNSO policy development process (PDP) to define the purpose of collecting, maintaining and providing access to gTLD registration data, and consider safeguards for protecting data, using the recommendations in the Expert Working Group (EWG) Final Report as an input to, and, if appropriate, as the foundation for a new gTLD policy. This PDP commenced in January 2016 and is tasked with answering the following questions: What are the fundamental requirements for gTLD registration data and is a new policy framework and next-generation RDS needed to address these requirements?

Ultimately, this PDP is expected to have a very significant impact on the current WHOIS system, whether through major updates or a next-generation replacement. In the meantime, incremental improvements to the current WHOIS system continue, including planned implementation of new consensus policies covering privacy/proxy services, thick WHOIS, and translation and transliteration of contact information. In accordance with ICANN's Bylaws, the community is also conducting another periodic review of the current WHOIS system to assess its effectiveness and ICANN's implementation of the first WHOIS-RT recommendations.

Last Updated: July 2017