Performing a Whois History Check on a Domain Name
We created Verified Domains in order to help find problems with domain names before you use them on the web for commerce. In this series of blog posts, I go through many of the issues that we address in our Verified plan, our most basic plan.
Whois History Check
One of the data points that we review during all Verified Domains’ plans is the whois history check. The whois is the way that you check for domain name ownership. It’s a public database that anyone can query, to look up the owner of a domain name. There are tools out there, such as Domain Tools, that archives all of the ownership data, and literally “watches” for changes. If changes are detected in the domain record, then Domain Tools generally records that information. For example, if I have a domain name and change the server that the domain name is hosted on, called the “name server”, then Domain Tools may record that data. If you have access to the Domain Tools data, then you can see all of the changes that happened through the past several years.
There are several different data points that you would want to look at when viewing a domain name’s history. For example, start with who owns the domain name now. If you’re going to buy this domain name, and you’re dealing with someone who says they’re the owner of the domain name, is the current owner listed that person or company you’re dealing with? I’ve seen cases in the past where someone literally tried to sell someone else’s domain name. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s a scam and you should be aware of it.
Let’s also look at who has owned that domain name in the past several years. Let’s say, in the past 5 years. Or more. Has there been any major changes in ownership? If you’re in the USA, did someone in another country own the domain name? Did they own it for a short period of time or a long period of time?
Has the domain name changed hands several times recently? Or has one particular owner owned it for a long time (5 plus years) and they’re now willing to sell it to you? If that’s the case, if one person owned it for a long time, then that would reduce the likelihood of it having problems in the future. But then again, if they domain name has been parked for a long time and you plan on putting a website on this domain name, then you need to be aware that it might take a while before the search engine will list it in their search engine.
Has the domain name changed name servers or servers that it was hosted on several times? Which name servers did it move to (and how often) can sometimes indicate potential issues. If someone owns that domain name and they keep changing web hosting companies then that might throw up a red flag. You might want to look into the type of content that was hosted on that domain name.
If you’re really curious and want to do some due diligence on the domain name, you might pick up the phone and call the former owners. Find out if they sold the domain name, and why they sold it (if they’ll tell you that information). Talking to former owners of the domain name will help you determine if the domain name is stolen or not or at least verify it. I’ve seen cases where a domain name was stolen and the owner didn’t know it was stolen. Or maybe the domain name dropped and they thought they still owned it but didn’t realize that it had changed ownership.
Checking the whois history on a domain name is so important that we include it in our basic plan, our Verified plan. And we just don’t pull the data and glance at the information. We consider all of these factors when looking and researching whois historical data on your behalf.
The Whois History Review is one of the items that we check when you order our basic report, the Verified plan. This includes:
Whois History Review
Review of Former Site Topic
Email Blacklist Check
Search Engine Reputation Review
DNS Health Check
Our Verified plan includes a manual review of over 15 different data points, which is good enough for many domain name owners.