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WHOIS is the tool used to look up domain name registration details. These details contain information about the date the domain was registered, its expiration date, registrant information, nameservers, and the domain registrar. When a domain is registered, ICANN requires that this information is listed in a public database which can be viewed by anyone using the WHOIS protocol.

There are many internet websites that you can use to view domain registrant information listed in this database.

Your WHOIS information

Do I need to list my real information in the public database?

ICANN requires that domain owners have true and accurate ownership details on file with the registry. They can even force registrars to suspend customer domains if there is inaccurate ownership information listed in the system, and as a domain owner, you are required to list true and accurate ownership details for any domains you register.

As a useful benefit, DreamHost offers free WHOIS privacy for most domain extensions that you can register through the DreamHost panel. There are only a few foreign/specialty registries that do not allow WHOIS privacy. You can read more about this service at:

What is the WHOIS database?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) broadly requires that the mailing address, phone number, and email address of those owning or administering a domain name are made publicly available through the "WHOIS" database. ICANN is a non-profit organization that coordinates the internet's global domain name system, and registrars (like DreamHost) must comply by their regulations in order to remain accredited.

You can read more about ICANN here.

The WHOIS database allows you to instantly obtain information on a given domain name, including who registered it, when it was created, who to contact at that domain, and so on. This is also a useful way to see if a domain you have registered has been registered by Internic yet.

When you begin the domain registration process with DreamHost, the domain is looked up in the WHOIS database to see if it is taken or not.

How do I update my contact information or nameservers on a domain?

You can use the DreamHost panel to update or modify the domain contact details which are publicly accessible via a WHOIS lookup.

To make changes to these details:

  1. Go to the (Panel > ‘Domains’ > ‘Registrations’) page.
    01 whois info.fw.png
    • You can change the contact details on a single domain, or on a few domains at once. If you do opt to change details on several domains at the same time, you can do this in groups of domains with the same extension. For example, you can update the contact details of any .com domains all at the same time, by clicking the checkboxes to the right of all .com domains that you want to modify.
  2. Once you have selected which domain(s) to modify on this page, click on the Modify Whois! button that appears at the bottom of the list.
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  3. Update all of the fields that you want to modify.
    • You can also choose to update all contacts at once (Registrant, Admin, Technical and Billing contacts), or apply WHOIS privacy if that is available for your domain type.
    • If you do not see your domain in this list, the domain is either registered with another provider or under a different DreamHost account.
    • Once you make changes to your contact details, they will be updated in the national registry database within 30-60 minutes.
  4. To modify your nameservers on a domain, click the “Nameservers” tab, and then choose the radio button to either use DreamHost’s nameservers or another host’s nameservers.
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  5. Replace the default nameservers with your own, and then click the Save Nameservers button save your changes.
    • Review the Nameservers article for further details.
    • Your new nameservers will be set at the registry within 30-60 minutes, but can take up to 72 hours to update around the world.This is normal and is due to DNS propagation time.
    • You can read more about this in the DNS propagation article.
    If you are using DreamHost for web hosting and email service, or another hosting option (redirection, parking, mirroring, or cloaking), you will want to use the following DreamHost nameservers:
    • ns1.dreamhost.com
    • ns2.dreamhost.com
    • ns3.dreamhost.com

Enabling WHOIS privacy settings

If you register a domain with DreamHost, you can take advantage of the free WHOIS privacy service to protect your personal contact details from public searches.

To utilize this service, just enable it on the (Panel > ‘Domains’ > ‘Registrations’) page for your domain(s), or choose to use WHOIS privacy when you register a new domain.

Why is domain registrant information publicly available?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) broadly requires that the mailing address, phone number, and email address of those owning or administering a domain name are made publicly available through the WHOIS database. ICANN is a nonprofit organization that coordinates the internet's global domain name system, and registrars (like DreamHost) must comply by their regulations in order to remain accredited.

You can read more about ICANN here.

Even though this contact information is publicly available, it is illegal for anyone to use this public contact information for marketing purposes. Unfortunately, spammers don’t really abide by the rules which means that when you register a domain you may start receiving spam from marketers in the form of email, paper junk mail, or even telephone calls.

Can I protect my contact details from being listed publicly?

Yes. When you register a domain name through DreamHost, you have the ability to use private contact details in the public WHOIS database for most domain types. If you choose this option when registering a domain with DreamHost:

  • all paper mail will be sent to DreamHost’s P.O. box where it is immediately shredded.
  • all emails are automatically forwarded to your registrant address without revealing your true email address to the public.
  • the telephone number listed forwards to an automated recording which notes that in order to contact the domain owner, the caller should do so via email to the proxy email address on the domain.

Is domain WHOIS privacy available for every domain type?

Unfortunately, not all registries allow WHOIS privacy to be used. This is because each registry sets their own requirements for domain owners and some do not allow domain owners to list anything but their own contact details. For example, at this time, popular domain extensions like .ca, .de, .eu, and .us domains do not allow WHOIS privacy masking to be used.

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  • If the checkbox option is not listed, privacy is not available for that specific domain type.

Running a WHOIS query

You can use websites like http://whois-search.com to check the current WHOIS records for domains. This is the simplest way to search for the domain registration and ownership information stored in the public database.

Entering a WHOIS query from the command line

You can also perform a WHOIS query from your computer if your operating system supports this. Open a terminal on your computer and run a WHOIS query from a telnet command line. For example:

whois example.com

For some domain extensions, you may need to check the record directly on that specific domain’s WHOIS server. However, there is no current standard for determining the responsible WHOIS server for a domain extension. Some WHOIS lookups require some extra work, such as performing the search through the specific registrar of the domain name to retrieve ownership details.

You can read more about this at:

In most cases, it is easiest to use a third-party WHOIS searching site to perform your WHOIS lookup queries.

Breaking down a WHOIS query

There are two parts to a WHOIS query:

  • The central registry information
  • The registrar information

The central registry information

Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 431
Whois Server: whois.dreamhost.com
Referral URL: http://www.dreamhost.com
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Updated Date: 27-aug-2014
Creation Date: 23-sep-1997
Expiration Date: 22-sep-2015

The central registry information shows the domain name in question, what company provided registration services, a link to their WHOIS server, the domain status, nameservers, and create/expire dates. After you have this information, your WHOIS client will generally connect to the registrar's server to look up the contact information. The information in the central registry is updated roughly every 24 hours, so if you see information in the registrars WHOIS section that is different than the central registry, try again in abut 24 hours.

The registrar information

Registrar: DREAMHOST
Registrar IANA ID: 431
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: domain-abuse@dreamhost.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.2132719359
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Organization: A HAPPY DREAMHOST CUSTOMER
Registrant Street: 417 ASSOCIATED RD #324
Registrant Street: C/O DREAMHOST.COM
Registrant City: BREA
Registrant State/Province: CA
Registrant Postal Code: 92821
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.7147064182
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:

The registrar information shows the current contact information for the domain. This information should be kept up to date at all times, in case there is an issue (such as a domain ownership problem) which requires ownership details to be accurate in order to be addressed.

See also