Looking for strategies to find out about people behind sites? Dozens of ‘Whois’ lookup sites exist with many offering similar tools. Instead of simply listing the choices, this post looks at some of the best tools for the job, how they differ and how to use them to find nuggets of information about a target site and its owner.
Many of these tactics can save you time by alerting you to linked content and commentary.
If you are using Whois lookups to trace a domain or site owner then every clue may be vital.
To illustrate these tactics I’ll look at how these tools can be used to get background on the fake site: www.genochoice.com or Dwayne Medical Center which claims to have pioneered ways to ensure a child’s genetic health.
1: Quarkbase. One of the best all-purpose sites for summary and detailed information about a domain is Quarkbase which compiles site profiles covering:
• snapshots and summaries;
• summary contact information including site owners;
• related sites;
• popularity gauged by references on social bookmarking sites, Twitter and inbound links from wikipedia;
• popular pages;
• top feeds;
• traffic analysis (including by country, subdomain and pageviews);
• associated people; and,
• inbound links from blogs and news sources.
Quarkbase displays a large snapshot of the Genochoice homepage with summary information that reveals the site contains ficticious information. The site’s traffic is too low to register but it does reveal inbound links from delicious and Twitter. Quarkbase also carries links to several blog posts about the parent site – RYTHospital.com – providing clues about the site’s history and development. Interestingly, some of these posts don’t appear to question the RYTHospital site content – underlining the need for a healthy reliability radar.
2: Domain Tools. ‘Whois’ lookup sites offer more focused information specifically on the domain. Use these to identify site or domain owners.
www.whois.sc – obtains the following information:
• traffic analysis by country;
• IP address;
• IP location;
• Whois record including registrant and registrant type, address.
Domain Tools tells me the site’s IP number and that Virgil Wong is the domain name registrant. His address is given as a PO box somewhere in Herndon, Virginia.
Whois lookups obiously don’t always identify the domain owners you are trying to trace. Domains can be registered through third parties (such as site designers) and domain owners can choose to remain anonymous. When this happens you need to deploy other tactics. For example:
• Reverse IP lookup – allows you to see what other sites are hosted on the same server. By doing this you can sometimes make connections between sites and between owners.
• Registrant search – allows you to find the other domains owned by the registrant; another great way to make connections between sites.
Domain Tools will tell you if that information can be obtained, but it will come at a price. There are, however, a few other places you can go to find this additional information:
3: Webhosting.info – offers a free reverse IP lookup. Find out what other sites are located on the same server. By carrying out a lookup using the IP address for Genochoice we find that the site is located on a server hosting several thousand other sites – indicating that it is a commercial hosting service. Sometimes, however, you can make interesting connections when only a small number of sites are hosted on dedicated servers. See Webhosting.info
4: Dialog (http://openaccess.dialog.com/ip/forms/PTCDomainNames.html) Allows you to carry out a registrant search but it comes with a health warning. The tool does enable you to track down all domains owned by specific people and companies but the database this tool uses was abandoned in 2004. The site, therefore, becomes less and less valuable as time passes. With ‘Virgil Wong’ we strike lucky. He has – in the past – registered a few dozen domains including malepregnancy.com, genochoice.com, virgilwong.com and paperveins.org.
If Dialog can’t help with a registrant search, but Domain Tools has told you that the registrant owns other domains, then you may have to resort to buying that information from Domain Tools. The more domains someone owns, the more expensive the information will be.
By following up the leads obtained from these tools and linked content we find that Genochoice is the creation of multimedia installation artist Virgil Wong who created RYTHospital several years ago in the form of an exhibition and website. His work is described on paperviens.org. It is possible to do all of the above without visiting the target site.
For basic and fairly complex lookup tasks, those four tools offer a rich profile and dozens of potential leads to follow-up. Insite will cover other domain lookup tools soon.
UPDATE: See my new post on WhoIsHostingThis for a tool that can more accurately pinpoint a site’s real host.
Tags: domain lookup tools
, registrant search
, registrant search tool
, target site