The Benefits of WHOIS Lookup for Online Business Owners

••• Perry Mastrovito/First Light/Getty Images

Have you ever wanted to find out who the owner of a website is because you are interested in purchasing their website, you want to connect with them for networking purposes, or maybe you need to file a legal complaint against them for violating your intellectual property?

If so, you can get access to that information by doing a WHOIS lookup.

Most people take WHOIS data, their business domain names, and domain name searches for granted, and that's ok. After all, don't online entrepreneurs have enough on their plate; building their companies, websites, and internet marketing in general?

That being said, it is worthwhile to review what WHOIS means to small business people, whether they own “brick and mortar” establishments or pure online businesses. In conjunction with accredited registrants, the WHOIS system is necessary for the operation of the Domain Name Service (DNS). By guaranteeing the stability and integrity of this system, WHOIS is the starting point for many legitimate procedures.

  1. Business Networking: As an online business owner, this is going to be the most relevant use of WHOIS for you.
    Given the importance of networking in Internet marketing, it is not a stretch for business people to use WHOIS for real-world identity lookups, searches for the business location and contact information of online merchants, or any organization that has an internet presence. It is often important to associate companies, organizations, or individuals with specific domain names, and to identify parties that operate websites or other publicly accessible services using a domain name, for commercial or other purposes.
    You may also wish to contact a domain name registrant to:
    Discuss and/or negotiate transactions related to the sales of registered domain names.
    Remind them of the registrant's obligation to maintain accurate registration information.
    Remind them of matters related to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
  2. Maintaining Domain Name Uniqueness: Arguably WHOIS' most mainstream purpose is to enforce the uniqueness of domain names. Just imagine how damaging it would be for your company's brand, product lines, etc. to be compromised by another website with the same name? Even a plain blog with the same domain name would do damage to your online presence.
  3. Domain Name Registration Issues: Registering a domain name is usually a straightforward task, but there are times when certain issues need to be diagnosed and taken care of. Thanks to WHOIS, system queries can be made that provide useful information in resolving registration ownership issues (e.g., creation date, expiration date, and registrar identity) or finding out who owns a domain name.
  4. Administrative Issues: WHOIS data includes the administrative and technical contacts of a domain name because there are times when network administrators need to be alerted to resolve specific issues (e.g., DNS and routing protocols, analysis of Denial of Service (DoS) and other network attacks, etc.). Similarly, it is used to contact web administrators for the resolution of technical matters related to a domain name.
  5. Privacy and Security Issues: With the growing importance of online security and growing threat of cyber attacks to business and government, WHOIS comes alive for security professionals and law enforcement agents to locate and isolate identify points of contact for a domain name. Following a computer network attack, it can establish potential criminal identities as part of an incident response.
    WHOIS is used to gather investigative leads and witnesses to identify parties from whom vital testimonials might be obtained. Agents can trace e-mail addresses and identify locations of alleged fraudsters involved in criminal activity.
    To investigate spam and better enforce provisions of Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act or Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), law enforcement agents use the WHOIS database to collect information on the website advertised in the spam. Of course, practices will vary across national boundaries.


Just as you must take control of the parameters that lead to business success, take charge of your domain name access and the domain name information that surrounds you. WHOIS is a tool that can and should be in the background as you build your online presence. However, whenever any of the issues discussed above come to the forefront, be assured that this system is available 24/7 for your benefit.