WHOIS records and systems fit into the greater context of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS). DNS is a topic widely documented but not always from the viewpoint of WHOIS record retrieval. This chapter will also discuss other Internet records like zone files, resource records (RRs), and hint files. While these are technically not WHOIS records, they provide more information and context to the Internet record structure. One of the simplest explanations of the DNS came from Jon Postel in RFC 971 from 1981:
“A distinction is made between names, addresses, and routes. A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how to get there.”1
None of it would work without an accompanying record set. The quality and availability of that identifying record set determines the quality and availability of the network as a whole. Where the records exist or do not exist defines the problems we experience.
WHOIS records are required by policy, but they are not required by technical function. In the opinion of this author, not integrating WHOIS into the DNS is one of the biggest mistakes in the current Internet model. Registrars of domains and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are required to collect WHOIS data from customers, but the accuracy and availability of those records are not required before a host can be deployed or a domain resolves. In the early Internet, valid registration had to be ...