Neustar has destroyed the .BIZ and .US domain name whois service

Neustar, Inc. has decided to destroy whois for .biz and .us domain names without even an announcement. That is probably because what they did is against ICANN rules.

Domain name whois at port 43 is a service free to all and be accessed using almost any computer with an internet connection. There are of course automated scripts and other software, like Watch My Domains, that help you make multiple domain name whois searches.

All registries of TLDs and registrars are required to provide this service according to ICANN rules. Registries provide a whois service for domain extensions using a thick whois like .org, .info and all New gTLDs. Registrars provide it for extensions using a thin whois like .com and .net. (.Com and .net are transitioning to thick whois.)

More info on Whois from ICANN:

WHOIS services are provided by registrars and registries for the domain names that they sponsor. Access to this distributed network of independent databases is provided in two ways – through a free web page and through a free Port 43 service. The web page allows real-time access to WHOIS data in individual searches; the Port 43 access allows automated queries by machine. Searches for the full WHOIS contact data for the domain name registrant and the designated administrator and technician, as well as the registration creation and expiration dates can be performed at the registrar’s systems (either through its web page and Port 43 service). A “thin” registry provides minimal information when queried: namely, the registrar, name servers and domain name registration dates. However, a growing number of registries are now transitioning to provide “thick” or full contact data.

Whois service for the .biz and .us domains used to be “unlimited”. This past September Neustar decided to change that and destroy the whois service. They have now gone the other way and have limited the service to JUST 20 lookups per day per IP address. And that is 20 lookups to all the extensions they manage combined! You can’t do 20 whois searches for .biz and 20 for .us.

When you do a Whois Lookup Access (Port 43) you get this message after only 20 attempts:
“Number of allowed queries exceeded.”

This is the same as .NYC where Neustar is also the registry and all the extensions that Neustar is the backend provider. Neustar is also the backend registry for New gTLDs such as .club, .webcam, .science and several others.

This whois throttling is against ICANN rules and of course against my rights as a domain name registrant. I own 1200 .biz and .us domains and such a limit will require me to do lookups for a least 60 (!) days to simply get whois details for all my domain names! And then I would have to start over if I do any whois changes or transferred or renewed my domains.

I use the Watch My Domains software to ensure my whois details are correct, to check my nameservers, to check expiry dates, to confirm registrar transfers and renewals and even prevent theft by monitoring all my domain names.

Whois for .biz and .us was working great since 2001-2002. Whois service was “unlimited” for 15+ years! This month Neustar, Inc. decided to cripple it and actually make it useless.

ICANN did have something to say about overly aggressive rate limiting in 2011:

https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/newsletters/update-whois-access-audit-report-port43-06apr11-en.pdf

“ICANN was careful to keep the query rate well below reasonable consideration of being “abusive”, and was surprised that a small number of registrars rate limit to such an extreme extent. Thus, ICANN considered the possibility that some of these registrars were using hypothetical abuse as an excuse to inadequately provision their Whois service, or to block it altogether. These registrars have since removed such restrictions in response to ICANN’s compliance work.”

I was always careful to not reach any limit and have my IP banned. Never had a problem.

Now if people want to check the availability of a few .biz and .us domains without using a registrar or a whois service website (that may be recording their searches) they are out of luck.

I have contacted Neustar about this matter and have heard nothing after several days. I have also reported Neustar to ICANN.

I expect some immediate action and the whois access restored by Neustar and ICANN or I will be forced to take legal action against both ICANN and Neustar, Inc.

If you too are having Whois Lookup Access (Port 43) with .biz, .us, .nyc or any other of the New gTLDs that Neustar manages you can report it at the Whois Service Complaint Form.

(Technically .us is a ccTLD and Neustar can destroy it as they wish without obeying any ICANN rules. But .biz and all the other TLDs have to obey the ICANN rules.)

You can also join the .US town hall that is scheduled for today and complain there.

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

30 comments

  1. Alas, I can confirm the same.

    Ran a total of 20 queries from my server, split among two domains: a .US and a .BIZ. At the 21st attempt, I received the message above.

    Other registries, such as the .ORG Registry, have limitations in queries per minute. This one seems to be different and much more strict.

  2. Shame on them, that’s ridiculous and against ICANN rules, as you said.
    I’d sue them if they don’t change this silly policy.
    That said, thanks God I’ve never invested in .biz, .us or any other .whatever New gTLDs managed by Neustar. 🙂

    • I just asked a question about this in the .us town hall and I was totally ignored. Thanks Neustar.

    • Its now a private company and as such do not have to disclose as much as before.
      they have to abide by icann rules but cctlds get a bit more discretion.

      And Really? why are you people surprised? The company stated that they were going to get many premium names back from registrants just by waiting till they let it drop for whatever reason (Financial problems, Hardship, Death, or for people that may end up thinking like andrea, etc…

      Anyways they are now picking up the best names, why would they want you to compete by contacting the registrants directly beforehand.

      can’t say i’m sad, the only people i see it affecting are those that sit and wait hoping something happens to the owners of great domain names so they can get lucky and get it for pennies on the dollar when they let them go for whatever misfortunate reasons.

      Now you have to work with the registrants, NO Choice my friends!

      p.s. i must say i love your blog, you are very Candid.

  3. Just noticed this, totally sucks.

  4. I was shocked to encounter the new captcha feature at http://www.whois.us recently.

    What happened to the whois privacy agenda for which there was feedback prior to the change in Neustar ownership which was completed in August? Has it been mentioned in the meeting today? Also the release of 1 and 2 character domains?

    • Not sure about the whois privacy. I missed 20 minutes of the town hall.

      They did mention that are considering the release of 1 and 2 character domains. Why not? They will auction them off and make some more money.

      • Well people really do need the whois privacy option, so I hope that goes forward.

        I would definitely be interested in some of the 1’s and 2’s, though like anyone I would prefer it would be done another way than auctioning.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because I’m in the mood to say it again right now: .US is and has always been a true sleeping giant. It never had to be that way right from the start, and it doesn’t have to remain that way either. I have written extensively about what would I believe would have led to a different outcome and how easy it would have been, and still is.

        Patriotism is not blind, and it’s not stupid – true patriotism, that is. .US should have been hugely popular from the start, and it still could be.

      • I agree with you and that is why I invested .us. I have done some nice sales over the years. Neustar is the weakest link since launch.

  5. Godaddy has been doing this for .com and .net since 4 months ago. Haven’t anyone seen this yet??

    They are blocking even 5 queries made within 20 minutes!

    First complaint to ICANN they say the whois was working. Off course it works for one query specially if it comes from ICANN IPs since they have the obligation to monitor QoS…

    After insisting and giving concrete examples they are still to reply

    • Godaddy has been doing that for years. But there is a workaround for your own domains.

      • No they have not. They would block an IP after several dozens of queries made in few minutes and then would unblock the IP after 12 to 24 hours. That was fair because it would be abusive of their system.

        Since June they started blocking forever an IP (blacklist it) and have been increasingly aggressive until now where they block even 5 queries in 20 minutes!

      • I will get back to you on that with more details.

      • Thanks KZ.
        It puzzles me how this is not being mentioned in the community since it has greater impact given that godaddy has a good chunk of the .com space. How people monitor their domains and the action on other domains with this aggressive block?

      • .com whois is still thin. Godaddy blocks the whois contact details only. The registration and expiry dates and the nameservers are not blocked.

      • Yes, correct. But it is a blacklisting and against ICANN rules because the registrar cannot show only partial information as per RAA2013 agreement. There is no justification to hide and blacklist an IP on only few queries

  6. So only me having problems with godaddy? Nobody is checking whois on port 43 right? Only using web based whois…

  7. no expiry dates. GoDaddy blocks that information. But it shows who the owner is.

    So, if GoDaddy was interested in protecting their costumers from harvesters and spammers why would they disclose this information and not simply block the access?

    The amount is not relevant as long is not abusive. 1 query each 90 seconds or more is not abusive to any online system. Port 43 was made precisely for machine access.

    GoDaddy is making its own rules, with ICANN looking to the other side, as always.

    • You are right.

      BTW I filled a complaint about Neustar at ICANN and they managed to f*ck that up. I am filling one every day now.

      • yeah, i have been doing that too with ICANN regarding to GoDaddy
        but these guys get all the excuses to do nothing. Unbelievable…
        Worst of all is their replies that start by ignoring all the facts and sending template replies, then when pushed against the wall keep saying that they have nothing to do with it or do not present any arguments why they think the Registrars is behaving OK.
        This is an entity that runs unaccountable to no one.

      • Correct again. We need to fight.
        GoDaddy (+any other registrar doing similar things), Neustar, all the New gTLDs that are using Neustar as the backend and of course the big spending dead whale, ICANN.

      • Yes we have KZ. we are two spread apart, taking care of our own business, and theses guys keep pushing their own rules and agenda.

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