In Small Business Advice
Finding a website owner

How to find out who owns a domain

Many of our clients ask how to find out who owns a domain name or website. So, we’ve put this easy to follow guide together in case you would like to know too.

An easy and common mistake to make is to search for the host of the website rather than the owner. The host is not the same as the owner, and a different path needs to be taken to discover who the registered legal owner is.

Why find out who owns a domain name?

Before you start on your mission to find owners of domain names, let’s answer a question or two. Let’s also find out more about the body behind domain name registration.

Our initial questions are:

  • Why do you need to find out who the owner is?
  • What do you hope to get from finding out who they are?

Surprisingly, knowing who owns a domain or website can be very beneficial. For example, people often sell domains, and you may wish to buy one that you come across. By finding out who the owner is, you will be in a position of being able to contact them to inquire if it’s for sale.

Many of our clients have a brand name in mind or are already established as a business and therefore want the website that matches their brand name. In some cases, it’s possible to buy a domain name from the owner, especially if it’s recently been registered.

Discover who owns a website

How Do You Find Out Who Owns A Domain Name?

Now, we’re ready to move into the primary focus of this article. Let’s discover how to find the owner of a domain name. Fortunately, it’s not very hard to do. By using just one resource, you should be able to see all the information and details that you need.

The domain name registration information has been kept very transparent. It’s open access, and within just a few clicks you’ll be able to discover who the registered owner is.

The tool that you’re going to use is whois.net.

By going to that website and typing in the name of the domain in the search bar, you’ll gain access to this information.

You’ll see who the registrar is, how to contact them both by phone and email and when the domain was created. You’ll also be able to check when the domain will expire and when it was last updated.

Using this information, you’ll be able to get an idea of whether the domain name may be for sale. If the owner has had a domain name for an extended period, they may be unwilling to sell it to you unless you make it worth their while.

What if the WHOIS information is hidden?

With the recent introduction of new GDPR privacy legislation in the UK and Europe, many domain registrars are now hiding the personal information of domain name owners, unless they have expressly opted in to allow it to be published. This presents a problem for anyone looking to contact the owner or find out who is in control of the domain name or website.

There is a last possible solution which may reveal contact details or who owns a website or domain. It’s called The Wayback Machine and is an unthinkably large historic library of websites. Using this tool, if you’re lucky, you can view an old version of the website. This is often useful if your domain name has expired or you’ve lost your website, but in this case will allow you to scan through the pages to find a contact name, address or telephone number. You may notice that images are not working and the website looks very broken, but this shouldn’t hinder efforts to find a contact page for example.

Using the domain registrar to find out domain owner

Who is the body responsible for domain name allocation?

ICANN (The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the body behind the authorisation to issue domain names to the public. They use the term ‘registrant’ to refer to the person or entity who is considered to be the domain name owner. The registrant is the person who can make changes to information related to the domain name.

Further details on a domain name can be helpful

On your mission to find out who the owner of a site is, you could also discover the expiration date for it. If you’re interested in buying that domain, then you’ll be able to take action before the expiry date. You can contact the owner to ask about whether it’s for sale and if so, whether you can place a bid.

In addition to looking up owners of other domain names, you can check what information there is about your own. Of course, you know that you own it, but you’ll want to ensure that you’re happy with the other information attached to the site such as your contact details. It will also serve as a reminder of when your expiration date is so that you can extend it.

Discover more information with another tool

In addition to whois.net there is another resource tool that can provide you with further information about domains and website. It’s called DomainTools. On their WhoIs lookup search tool you’ll be able to find other information such as the type of server it’s on. From a competition point of view, you’ll also have access to some SEO information. Knowing how many links a site has and an SEO score can give you a competitive advantage.

Information about SEO and how many images are stored on the site can give you a foot up on the competitive ladder. Also, you can use the tool to run a check on your website.

If the information about your domain name isn’t correct, you may miss out on receiving notifications regarding it. For example, some domain owners receive purchase offers, partnership requests and the like.

If you’re a private person and you don’t want to share your personal information with the world, then you can protect your identity by using privacy controls. By searching for your domain name, you can determine whether these privacy controls are being productive.

The last piece of information

Finally, if you are looking into buying a domain name, then there are many different choices these days. When the web had just got up and running, it was all about using .com’s and .co.uk’s for the extension. These days the choice is broad. You can select everything from an extension to signify your country to .biz to .management or .news.

If your purchase is to give your business a web presence, then be thoughtful about what you choose. You may want to get something memorable but easy to use and say.

Still stuck and need help?

If you’ve been unable to find the owner of the domain, there are still various ways in which we can investigate the previous owner for you. Feel free to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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