WHOIS is how you look up domain name registration information. It contains information about start and end dates for the registration, registrant contact information, name servers, and the registration provider.
DreamHost offers a privacy feature which protects your personal contact information from the public. To use it, edit your domain at https://panel.dreamhost.com/index.cgi?tree=domain.registration.
More information: Domain WHOIS Privacy Service
Breaking Down a WHOIS query
There are two parts to a WHOIS query, the central registry, and the registrar information. This is two separate connections, which is why sometimes the first half shows up quickly.
Lets break down a WHOIS query for dreamhost.com:
The Central Registry Info
Domain Name: DREAMHOST.COM Registry Domain ID: NA Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.dreamhost.com Registrar URL: www.dreamhost.com Name Server: NS1.DREAMHOST.COM Name Server: NS2.DREAMHOST.COM Name Server: NS3.DREAMHOST.COM Updated Date: 2013-12-14 16:53:27Z Creation Date: 1997-09-22 21:00:00Z Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-09-22 04:00:00Z Registrar: DREAMHOST
This information shows the domain name in question, what company provided registration services, a link to their WHOIS server, the domain status, name servers, 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 then the central registries, try back in a day.
The Registrar's Info
Registrar: DREAMHOST Registrar IANA ID: 431 Registrar Abuse Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.2132719359 Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited Registry Registrant ID: Registrant Name: PRIVATE REGISTRANT 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: Registrant Email: YW3GAZMC77BTMTF@PROXY.DREAMHOST.COM
This shows the current contact information for the domain. This information should be kept up to date at all times, in case somthing goes wrong with your domain having false or obscured data can simply complicate matters. I edited out our Admin/Tech/Billing contact information here for brevities sake. This information is provided by your registrar, and does not actually affect your domains presence on the web. This information is updated when you submit it.