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WHOIS (not an acronym) was first defined as a protocol of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 1982. WHOIS is one of the simplest in the suite of protocols that the IETF maintains. Any machine connected to the Internet can operate a WHOIS service by implementing the protocol and responding to requests as described in the specification.
Initially, the WHOIS specification described a set of information that was requested of anyone capable of transmitting information across the network. This information consisted of name and contact information that was to be stored on specific servers and would be returned upon receipt of an appropriate WHOIS request.
As the Internet grew and it became impractical to maintain a single WHOIS server, updated versions of the specification were developed and approved. These specifications dropped the references to specific servers and required information, thereby enabling broader use of the specifications. It was then incumbent on any community desiring to use WHOIS to define required information and where that information could be found. ICANN is responsible for those definitions for the Domain Name System.
There has been a fair amount of policy work conducted over the years. Below you will find the latest activities and other materials related to WHOIS.
Working Group List:
- WHOIS Studies - http://gnso.icann.org/issues/whois/studies
- WSWG - http://gnso.icann.org/group-activities/whois-requirements-wg.htm
- IRD - http://gnso.icann.org/group-activities/ird-wg.htm
- WHOIS Review Team - https://community.icann.org/display/whoisreview/WHOIS+Policy+Review+Team
- Current Information about GNSO-Approved gTLD WHOIS Studies
- IETF / WEIRDS - https://www.ietf.org/mailman/listinfo/weirds
- Internationalized Registration Data (Podcast)
- Display and Usage of Internationalized Registration Data (Presentation)