Whois is a TCP-based query/response protocol which is widely used for
querying a database in order to determine the owner of a domain name, an IP
address, or an autonomous system number on the Internet. Whois lookups were
traditionally made using a command line interface, but a number of
simplified web-based tools now exist for looking up domain ownership details
from different databases. Web-based whois clients still rely on the whois
protocol to connect to a whois server and do lookups, and command-line whois
clients are still quite widely used by system administrators.
The whois system originated as a method that system administrators could use
to look up information to contact other IP address or domain name
administrators (almost like a "white pages"). The use of the data that is
returned from query responses has evolved from those origins into a variety
of both altruistic (such as a Certificate Authority validating the
registration for ecommerce https) and nefarious uses (such as bulk
unsolicited email campaigns).
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