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What's on the Horizon?

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

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

Following the WHOIS RT's Recommendations, ICANN is working on a series of improvements on the WHOIS system to enhance its usefulness for Internet users.

This WHOIS portal has been created with the intent of being a one-stop shop for WHOIS related inquiries, to include WHOIS look-ups for both "Thin" and "Thick" registries. Moreover, this portal will provide access to educational materials where the WHOIS policy is summarized and readily accessible from one location. Additionally, ICANN is currently building online capability to proactively identify inaccurate WHOIS records and forward them to registrars for follow-up, as part of a new effort to increase data accuracy and create accuracy metrics, as recommended by the WHOIS-RT.

An additional project, launched in response to the Board's 2012 resolution, directed ICANN's CEO Fadi Chehadé to form an independent Expert Working Group (EWG) on gTLD Directory Services. The group was charged with finding ways to break the deadlock in the ICANN community over the usefulness and fate of the WHOIS system. The EWG had straightforward objectives:

  • Define the purpose of collecting and maintaining gTLD registration data and consider how to safeguard it;
  • Propose a model for managing gTLD directory services that addresses accuracy and access issues, while accounting for safeguards for protecting data;
  • Identifying what system might better serve the future needs of the global Internet community;

After examining a broad array of actual user cases and the many issues they raised, the EWG concluded that today's WHOIS model—giving every user the same anonymous public access to often inaccurate gTLD registration data—should be abandoned. The EWG determined that WHOIS hasn't kept pace with the real world, citing the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names and the emergence of Privacy and Proxy services.

The EWG recommended a paradigm shift in gTLD registration. In its Initial Report, the EWG advised ICANN to contract with an international, third party provider to set up an Aggregated Registration Data Service (ARDS). The ARDS would gather copies of registration data from registries, validate them, and manage the dissemination of the information for permissible purposes only. Only authenticated parties would be allowed access to the data, and they would be responsible for how it was used.

The EWG sought and considered public input through 6 September 2013 on its Recommendations. The EWG used comments received online, at the ICANN Meetings, and other public consultations to refine its Recommendations.

Additionally, consistent with this commitment, as well as ICANN's goals of transparency and accountability, ICANN is in the midst of developing a comprehensive WHOIS Accuracy Reporting System (referred to as the ARS). When fully developed, the ARS will produce ongoing reports capable of tracking trends in accuracy rates and report on the specific factors that affect accuracy.