ICANN’s Study on the Accuracy of Whois

ICANN recently collaborated with the University of Chicago on a small study with the purpose of checking the accuracy of whois records.  “An Internationally representative sample” drew 1419 domain names from the top five tlds (com net org info and biz) for the study.  The results did not come as much of a surprise to me since most people that I know who use domain names (outside the domaining world) choose to pay for whois privacy for one reason or another.

Results from the study indicate only 23% of the domains passed all three criteria: deliverable address, name linked to domain/address, and registrant confirmed ownership.  Approximately 48% of domains in the study were cited as minimal/limited failure and were missing one of the three whois criteria.   21% of the domains in the study were missing two vital components of their whois info marking them as substantial failures and the remaining (approx) 8% of domains in the study fully failed, meeting none of the whois criteria.

Honestly, I think this is a good study but the domain sample was too small.  I’m afraid that only drawing 1419 names out of some 114 million registered (com, net, org, info, biz) wont give a very accurate representation of what’s really going on.  However, the public will digest and even accept some of these numbers as fact.  Already,  journalists are spinning the findings of this study to the public in a way that makes the whois system look like a complete failure – example.

My opinion is that domain registrants should be required to share valid information with their registrar.  Beyond that, if a registrant wants whois privacy that is their discretion, I don’t use it but I certainly like having the option to.  I know that in recent years ICANN and domain registrars have been working together using email verification to try and cut down on registrants using false whois info.

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  • A problem with listing real info is that you will almost immediately get added to direct marketing lists as a likely buyer of web hosting or design services. I have no problem giving my number to my registrar but I can go without the cold calls from unscrupulous providers scouring whois records for new registrations.

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