ICANN wants to kill off WHOIS

An ICANN working group wants to replace the current WHOIS system for retrieving details of domain name registrations.

The Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services (EWG) is calling for public input  on a successor to the current WHOIS system used to retrieve domain name information.

This will mean a radical change from WHOIS as it will help resolve the nearly decade-long deadlock within the ICANN community on how to replace the current WHOIS system. WHOIS is widely regarded as “broken”, a committee spokesperson said.

Currently, client software can retrieve database records from a WHOIS server run by a registrar or registry. This lists details such as administrative and technical contact details for the owner of a domain name, name servers and details of the registration and expiry dates of a domain.

The EWG wants to move to an “aggregated RDS [registration data service] (ARDS) model” where domain name registration details come from a central repository.

Operators of WHOIS services would no longer have to provide port 43 access to the public.

Access to the ‘live’ domain records maintained by gTLD registries would also be possible via the ARDS “upon request and subject to controls to deter overuse or abuse”.

If the EWG gets its way there will be a dramatic centralisation of access to domain information which could offer advantages in terms of cutting down abuse, compliance with privacy regulations, and ability for the system to scale.

What might make the idea less appealing is that the new system will be run by a third-party provider contracted by ICANN.