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Welcome to the Whois information page where you can find out what Whois is, why it is important, why there has been so much argument over it, and where the resolution process is at the moment.
You can follow the policy development process for Whois on ICANN's main website by following this link.
"Whois" refers to the information that is required whenever anyone registers a domain name (e.g. example.com) and typically comes in three blocks: registrant's details, administrative details and technical details.
Often the same information is given for each block. Sometimes a web hosting company is given as the technical contact, sometimes a different person is named as the administrator.
Currently all of this information, for most domains, is made public and is readily accessible on the Internet. For example, you can see the full Whois details for icann.org by following this link.
However many people do not wish to have their details available for all to see. In some cases this leads people to type in phoney information (particular in a domain is being used illegally); other times they will pay a company to substitute their details.
ICANN has spent years reviewing how to change the current system but there are many conflicting ideas about what should be done and so it has been difficult to reach agreement.
Law enforcement for example wants access to Whois details so they can identify people breaking the law. They also want people that sell domains to check that the information typed in for the domain is accurate. However those that sell domains do not wish to be in the position of where they have to check ownership of millions of domains.
At the same time, companies want to be able to have a Whois so they can find out if someone infringes a trademark of theirs; plus, privacy campaigners want people's personal details not made available to the wider Internet.
ICANN is trying to reach agreement between all the parties on the best way forward. Below you can find what that process is up to.