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An Internet directory service for looking up names of people on a remote server. Many servers respond to TCP queries on port 43, in a manner roughly analogous to the DDN NIC whois service described in RFC 954. Other sites provide this directory service via the finger protocol or accept queries by electronic mail for directory information. On Unix the client command is

whois -h server_name person_name

You can also type "telnet server_name 43" and then type the person's name on a separate line. For a list of whois servers, FTP/Gopher: sipb.mit.edu. Or

whois -h sipb.mit.edu whois-servers

As the above command demonstrates, whois can find information about things other than users, e.g. domains, networks and hosts.

See also finger, X.500, white pages.


Before the Web, Whois was strictly an Internet service used to query a host and find out if a certain user was registered on that system. Originally developed by the military, others followed with their own Whois databases, which provide white pages directories. See finger.

Directory of Domain Names
Whois databases have become the master directories for domain name registrations. When a new domain is added or changed, the information is sent to the appropriate Whois database. Domain name registrars may provide a search function on their sites that can access various or all of the Whois databases. Following are examples of websites that provide information from the Whois databases:






  www.FreeWho.com (tracks Whois sites)

  www.TekTips.us (tracks Whois sites)