How a WHOIS Database Query Can Help Journalists

WHOIS is a powerful tool for journalists and researchers aiming to determine the ownership of a website. Through a WHOIS database query, it's possible to quickly and easily determine the ownership of a website domain and the company that hosts that site. However, there are several important things to remember when doing WHOIS queries. The following guide provides simple tips on how journalists can utilize a WHOIS database query.

First, it's important to understand how website domains and website hosting works. An actual website isn't the same thing as the domain it uses. Instead, a website is a series of pages or databases that are designed to display information to a user. The domain name that you type in the browser is just a shortcut to a separate server that hosts that domain.

A special company called ICANN is responsible for all the domain names in the world. As a rule of thumb, most countries have at least one top-level domain associated with them. There are also hundreds of other top-level domains for a variety of services, ranging from government websites to educational materials.


ICANN requires all domain name owners to register a name and address with their organization. There are several different reasons behind that. Since a domain name could be associated with criminal activities such as spam or illegal content, it's important for law enforcement to be able to quickly reach its true owners. Because of this, ICANN has a specialized database that holds all the contact information for all domain name owners across the world.

Domain name owners can hide their information, though. Many domain registrars offer the opportunity to mask the true owner. Instead of having your name and address listed on a website domain, you can put a third party there instead. In the event someone needs to contact the original domain name holder, they will be required to go through the third party.

If you're a journalist, WHOIS information can be very helpful. It can help reveal the true owner of a website quickly and easily. Even if the website owner is using a privacy service that obscures the ownership of the domain, WHOIS information will still show the company that represents the third party. In many cases, this can help an individual find the registrar and web host associated with a domain.

WHOIS can also be useful when looking into the history of a domain name. Some WHOIS services will even display a list of previous owners, which can be useful when determining how a domain name could have passed from one person to another.

By following the information in this guide, you'll be able to discover the true owner of a website domain quickly and easily. While it may take some additional work under certain circumstances, WHOIS can be a powerful tool for investigative research and journalism. Regardless of whether you're with a large news bureau or a citizen journalist, learning these types of investigative techniques will be very helpful.