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WHOIS (pronounced “who is”; not an acronym). An Internet protocol that is used to query databases to obtain information about the registration of a domain name (or IP address).
The WHOIS protocol was originally specified in RFC 954, published in 1985. The current specification is documented in RFC 3912. ICANN’s gTLD agreements require registries and registrars to offer an interactive web page and a port 43 WHOIS service providing free public access to data on registered names. Such data is commonly referred to as “WHOIS data,” and includes elements such as the domain registration creation and expiration dates, nameservers, and contact information for the registrant and designated administrative and technical contacts.
WHOIS services are typically used to identify domain holders for business purposes and to identify parties who are able to correct technical problems associated with the registered domain.