Sweeping changes to registrant data could have major impact on domain name investors.
ICANN’s working group on gTLD Directory Services released its initial report overnight. If I were to use one word to describe the report, it would be “provocative”.
I just finished reading the 49 page report that describes a way to upend WHOIS as we know it and replace it with an Aggregated Registration Data Service (ARDS).
Calling it something completely different than the current technical name of WHOIS was no accident.
Under the possible new directory service, the whois system as we know it would be scrapped. It would be replaced by a sort of “super-thick” WHOIS managed by a service provider that collects data from both registrars and registries.
Much of the registrant information stored by the ARDS would have restricted access.
The good news is that the working group considered just about every use case for why people access WHOIS data, including domain investors’ uses. The goal is to accommodate all legitimate uses of registrant data (including by domain investors) while blocking nefarious uses (such as sending out scam notices and spam).
ARDS would enable domain investors to research the ownership of a domain name including historical data (WHOWAS). (Granted, it wouldn’t have much historical data at first.)
The system also contemplates a formal reverse whois, in which you could see all domains registered to a particular person or entity, that would function across registries.
The directory service take into consideration how individuals and companies manage their domain portfolio as well. It seems that my use of Watch My Domains Pro to access registrant information on my own domains for monitoring and management purposes would be enabled in ARDS.
However, this data will be restricted. How you request the data will be a key detail.
The initial report doesn’t mention journalists as one of the key users of registrant data, although almost all of the uses I currently access WHOIS for fall under one of the other permissible uses, such as Domain Name Research.
A comment period is now open through August 12. ICANN will also hold a webinar about the report on July 8. I recommend reading the report and participating in the process as a number of interests will be pushing their own agendas during this overhaul.