Report on domain name whois: 97 percent has at least one accurate email or phone number

ICANN published the WHOIS Accuracy Reporting System December 2016 report. This latest report of the WHOIS Accuracy Reporting System (ARS) acts as a follow-on to the reports published in June 2016 and December 2015.

The report explores both the syntax and operability accuracy of WHOIS records in gTLDs as compared to the requirements of the 2009 and 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreements (RAAs). It also examines the leading types of nonconformances, trends and comparisons of WHOIS accuracy across ICANN regions, RAA versions and gTLD types.

ICANN developed accuracy tests to answer questions about the syntax (format and content) and operability (e.g., does an email sent to the email address provided in the WHOIS record go through?) of a sample of WHOIS records. Then, using statistical methods, syntax and operability accuracy estimates with a 95 percent confidence interval were provided for the population of domains in gTLDs as a whole, as well as for several subgroups of interest.

Key Findings

The analysis found that:

  • Nearly all WHOIS records contain information that can be used to establish immediate contact: In 97 percent of records, at least one email or phone number meets all operability requirements of the 2009 RAA.
  • Approximately 90 percent of email addresses, 72 percent of telephone numbers and 97 percent of postal addresses were operable (see Table 1 below for more information).Table 1: Overall gTLD Operability Accuracy by Contact Mode (95 percent confidence interval)
Email Telephone Postal Address All 3 Accurate
All 3 Contacts (Registrant, Technical, Administrative) Accurate 90.1% ± 0.5% 72.4% ± 0.8% 96.8% ± 0.3% 65.1% ± 0.9%
  • In terms of syntax accuracy, approximately 99 percent of email addresses, 89 percent of telephone numbers and 75 percent of postal addresses were found to meet all the requirements of the 2009 RAA (see Table 2 below for more information).Table 2: Overall gTLD Syntax Accuracy to 2009 RAA Requirements by Contact Mode (95 percent confidence interval)
Email Telephone Postal Address All 3 Accurate
All 3 Contacts (Registrant, Technical, Administrative) Accurate 99.6% ± 0.1% 88.5% ± 0.6% 74.7% ± 0.8% 66.6% ± 0.8%

The report also shows a breakdown of accuracy rates by ICANN region (see Figure 1 below for more information).

Figure 1: Overall gTLD Syntax and Operability Accuracy by ICANN Region
gtld-synxtax-operability-accuracy-by-region-1112x596-12dec16-enNext Steps

Results included in the report have been provided to ICANN’s Contractual Compliance team, which will assess the types of errors found and follow up with registrars on potentially inaccurate records. If WHOIS inaccuracy and/or format complaints are created from the WHOIS ARS data, ICANN Contractual Compliance will issue tickets in accordance with the Contractual Compliance Approach and Process [PDF, 292 KB]. Compliance provides updates on a quarterly basis, which include updates on WHOIS ARS tickets and can be found here.

ICANN will begin work on the next WHOIS ARS report in January 2017, with a targeted publication date of early June 2017.

ICANN will host a webinar on 12 January 2017 at 16:00 UTC to review methodology and findings of the report.

Read the Report [PDF, 2.5 MB].


About Konstantinos Zournas

I studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London, UK and I am now living in Athens, Greece. I went online in 1995, started coding in 1996 and began buying domain names and creating websites in 2000. I started the OnlineDomain.com blog in 2012.


  1. I would be interested to know what variables they are testing to confirm the accuracy of their information. Some of those percentages seem rather high (Especially the addresses).

  2. Fascinating study!

    @Eric Lyon,

    Keep in mind, accuracy isn’t the same thing as operability, which is what they are studying. Meaning: If an outdated address lingers in Whois, then mail can still be delivered to that address. However, the domain owner doesn’t live there anymore. So the address IS operable, but it ISN’T accurate.

    Not sure how they confirmed this. Sending mail would be expensive, even just for sampling. Then again, ICANN is Scrooge McDuck diving into a swimming pool of gold coins for its daily bath. They may simply have compared records with somebody else’s database of confirmed addresses. There are people out there who own those data sets and sell access to them.

    • I don’t think it would be difficult to check a street name and number against a postal code to see if it exists. There must be software tools like that that USPS or couriers and others are using.
      The address may be the “white house” but you can still send a letter to John Thewhoisguy there.

      • The complex part is gaining access to separate databases of confirmed addresses and phone numbers for each and every country. Once the data’s vouched for and in front of us, then piece of cake.

      • I think you can easily do it for certain countries and for a small sample. I think Greece has a free online tool for addresses. They are paid a lot to do it so they must have found a way. I know I would.

  3. Then again, when an address or phone is MISSING from the vouched-for list, then ICANN would have to do due diligence and attempt to call or send mail. Otherwise they might write off the address / phone number as inoperable when it’s simply a new addition.

  4. @Konstantinos,

    I get about 5 calls per day from cheerful pre-recorded ladies selling me God-knows-what. And another 5 daily calls where it’s silent for 10 seconds until I speak; then they hang up.

    From now on, I’ll just assume it’s ICANN confirming that I’m still alive, hour by hour by hour.

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