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The WHOIS Database


The main WHOIS database is run at the Network Information Center (NIC). The `whois' command will let you search a database of every registered domain (e.g. `mit.edu') and of registered users. It's primarily used by system postmasters or listowners to find the Points of Contact for a site, to let them know of a problem or contact them for one reason or another. You can also find out their postal address. For example: invisible.xbm invisible.xbm

% whois mit.edu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) MIT.EDU   
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT-DOM)                   MIT.EDU

Note that there are two entries for `mit.edu'; we'll go for the second.

% whois mit-dom
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT-DOM) =>Mailing address
   Cambridge, MA 02139

   Domain Name: MIT.EDU  =>Domain name

   Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
      Schiller, Jeffrey I.  (JIS)  JIS@MIT.EDU
      (617) 253-8400

   Record last updated on 22-Jun-88.  =>Last change made to the record

   Domain servers in listed order:    =>Systems that can tell you the Internet
                                               addresses for a site

To see this host record with registered users, repeat the command with
a star ('*') before the name; or, use '%' to show JUST the registered users.

Much better! Now this information (sought, possibly, by a system administrator) can be used to find out how to notify MIT of a security issue or problem with connectivity.

Queries can be made for individuals as well; the following would yield an entry for the author:

% whois brendan
Kehoe, Brendan (BK59)		brendan@cs.widener.edu
   Widener University
   Department of Computer Science
   Kirkbride 219
   P.O. Box 83 Widener University
   Chester, PA 19013

   Record last updated on 02-May-91.

Included is the author's name, his handle (a unique sequence of letters and numbers), information on how to contact him, and the last time the record was modified in any way.

Anyone can register with the whois database. People who are administrative or technical contacts for domains are registered automatically when their domain applications are processed. For normal users, one must simply fill out a form from the NIC. FTP to nic.ddn.mil and get the file `netinfo/user-template.txt'. The completed form should be mailed to `registrar@nic.ddn.mil'.

Other Uses of WHOIS

Also, many educational sites run WHOIS servers of their own, to offer information about people who may be currently on the staff or attending the institution. To specify a WHOIS server, many implementations include some sort of option or qualifier--in VMS under MultiNet, it's `/HOST', in Unix `-h'. To receive information about using the Stanford server, one might use the command

whois -h stanford.edu help

A large list of systems offering WHOIS services is being maintained by Matt Power of MIT (mhpower@stan.mit.edu). It is available via anonymous FTP from sipb.mit.edu, in the directory `pub/whois'. The file is named `whois-servers.list'. invisible.xbm

The systems available include, but are certainly not limited to, Syracuse University (syr.edu), New York University (acfcluster.nyu.edu), the University of California at San Diego (ucsd.edu), and Stanford University (stanford.edu).

"Fingers were made before forks." Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation

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