Network Working Group
Request for Comments: 1834
Category: Informational
J. Gargano
K. Weiss
University of California, Davis
August 1995

Whois and Network Information Lookup Service


Status of this Memo

This memo provides information for the Internet community. This memo does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

I. Introduction

As currently defined, NICNAME/WHOIS [HARR85] service is a TCP transaction based query/response server, running on a few specific central machines, that provides netwide directory service to Internet users. The Network Information Center (NIC) maintains the central NICNAME database and server, defined in RFC 954, providing online look-up of individuals, network organizations, key host machines, and other information of interest to users of the Internet. The usefulness of this service has lead to the development of other distributed directory information servers and information retrieval tools and it is anticipated more will be created. Many sites now maintain local directory servers with information about individuals, departments and services at that specific site.

Typically these directory servers are network accessible. Local development of these services has resulted in wide variations in the type of data stored, access methods, search schemes, and user interfaces. The purpose of the Whois and Network Information Lookup Service Working Group (WNILS) is to expand and define the standard for WHOIS types of services, to resolve issues associated with the variations in access and provide a consistent and predictable service across the network. This memo describes new features for WHOIS to meet these goals.

II. Architecture

The WHOIS service should be provided in a client/server model. There are no restrictions on the design of the client, provided it is capable of passing queries to the server in the proper format, and capturing the server's response in some useful format. Existing WHOIS specifications call for clients to display responses in human- readable form. This more general proposal does not impose that restriction.

This paper acknowledges the existence of many distributed information servers, and anticipates the creation of many more. To help users locate WHOIS servers, each server should have a nameserver entry in the form "whois.domain", i.e.

III. Client Design and Behavior

The client provides the user interface to the WHOIS system and a mechanism for query generation and display of the response. The client is responsible for providing support for paging of long output from the server. All clients must provide this service. The server will not include any special characters, or make any efforts to control output to a screen.

Special search criteria may be specified by the use of keywords or special characters, some of which are defined in RFC 954. Clients should be designed to make support for quoted strings unnecessary.

IV. Server Design and Behavior

The server should return the same information in response to a given query consistently, regardless of the client software or the hardware used to originate the query. Queries should be evaluated on a case- insensitive basis. Spaces should not be considered in searches. A search for "La Russo" should return both "LaRusso" and "La Russo" as matches.

There are three types of data records supported in this proposal: records for people, hosts, and domains.

   Individual records
   Name                    Name of the individual          required
   Organization            Name of the organization        required
   Organization-type       Type of organization            optional
                           (university, commercial research)
   Work-telephone          Work telephone number           optional
   Fax-telephone           Fax telephone number            optional
   Work-address            Work postal address             optional
   Title                   Working title or position       optional
                           within an organization
   Department              Department                      optional
   Email-address           Email address in RFC 822        optional
                           format for this individual
   Handle                  A unique identifier for this    required
                           record on the local server
   Last-record-update      Date this record was last       required
   Home-telephone          Home telephone number           optional
   Home-address            Home postal address             optional
   Host records
   Hostname                Full domain name                required
   IPAddress               Address                         required
   Sysadmin-name           System administrator name       optional
   Sysadmin-phone          System administrator telephone  optional
   Sysadmin-address        System administrator address    optional
   Sysadmin-email          System admin. e-mail address    optional
   Machine-type            Type of machine                 optional
   OS                      Operating system                optional
   MX                      Mail exchanger                  optional
   Last-update             Last update                     optional
   Info                    Location of additional          optional
                           information (i.e. anonymous FTP)
   Domain records
   Domain-name             Domain name registered with     required
                           the Network Information Center
   Network-address         Network address associated      required
                           with this domain name
   Admin-name              Name of the Administrative      required
                           Contact for this domain
   Admin-address           Postal address of the           required
                           Admintistrative Contact for
                           this domain
   Admin-telephone         Telephone number of the         required
                           Admintistrative Contact for
                           this domain
   Admin-email             Electronic mail address in      required
                           RFC 1822 format for the
                           Administrative Contact for
                           this domain
   Tech-name               Name of the Technical Contact   required
                           for this domain
   Tech-address            Postal address of the           required
                           Administrative Contact
                           for this domain
   Tech-telephone          Telephone number of the         required
                           Technical Contact for this
   Tech-email              Electronic mail address in      required
                           RFC 822 format for the
                           Administrative Contact
                           for this domain
   Nameservers             Primary domain nameservers      optional
                           for this domain
   Last-update             Last date this record was       required

Search Options

   A unique handle must be provided for every record in the server
   database to target specific records for display.  For example, if
   there are three individuals named, respectively, A. La  Russo, B.
   LaRusso, and C. Larusso, then a search for "LA RUSSO" would return
   all three as matches.  However, each record would have a unique
   handle, i.e. LARUSSO1, LARUSSO2, and LARUSSO3. A search for any one
   of these handles would return a single match for that particular
   individual.  This is consistent with the RFC 954 query, "whois

Other search options which should be supported are:

   whois smith             exact match on last name
   whois smith,j           exact match on last name, first name
   whois "smith,j"         begins with "J"
   whois j. Smith
   whois "j. Smith"
   whois smith, john       exact match on last and first names
   whois "smith, john"
   whois john Smith
   whois "john Smith"
   whois .john Smith
   whois "smith..."        all last names beginning
   whois smith*            with Smith
   whois begins smith
   whois smith??           all last names beginning with
                           "Smith" and containing up to two
                           letters after "Smith", i.e. "Smith",
                           "Smithy", "Smithey" and "Smithie"
   whois ends smith        all last names ending in "smith"
   whois exact A Martinez  exact match for "A Martinez"
   whois fuzzy paulson     all last names that sound like or
                           are spelled like "Paulson"
   whois first Kazuko      exact match on first name "Kazuko"
   whois first begins Art  all first names beginning with "Art"

whois first fuzzy Kasuko all first names that sound like or are

                             spelled like "Kasuko"
   whois  IP address and other information
   whois system on the computer called
                          be served
                                   by a domain name service querytype
                                   (QTYPE) *
   whois system hamlet     IP address and other
                           information on the computer called
                           hamlet with the default domain
                           appended.  Could be served by a
                           domain name service querytype
                           (QTYPE) *
   whois       domain name and other
   whois system  information on the computer at
                             specified IP address.  Could be served
                             by a domain name service querytype
                             (QTYPE) PTR.
   whois !ucdavis-dom              site contacts and other
   whois domain        information on the site ucdavis

If any keywords are specified in the query, the server will complete that specific query and return the results, even if 0 matches are found. If no keywords are specified, the server will interpret the query based upon the rules above. Optionally, the server may be configured so that if a search yields no matches, the query will automatically be run again, but with the keyword begin inserted.

Servers must support multiple levels of detail in response to queries. A query yielding multiple matches should return a short- form record for each match. A query yielding a single match should return a long-form record. A query yielding no matches should return context-sensitive help on expanding the search criteria.

On-line Help

The client should return a minimal (two line) help message for every query sent to the server. That message should identify the database being searched and provide instructions for the user to obtain more detailed help screens.

Additional help should be provided in special situations. The server should recognize queries that return zero matches, and provide a brief help message explaining how to broaden a search. If a search returns more than 50 matches, the server should take two actions. First, the user should get a message explaining how to narrow searches. Second, the user should be offered the option of re- specifying the search, or receiving all matching responses. When multiple matches are found and returned to the client, the server should add a brief help message explaining how to use handles to narrow the search to a single record.

If the client queries for "help" or "?" then the server should return a complete help file. The help file should contain information in sufficient detail for the user to understand and access all the features of WHOIS service.

V. Extensibility

   This RFC defines a limited set of data records and fields for
   reliable whois queries.   Mechanisms exist for whois clients to
   discover extended data records and query for fields not defined in
   this memo.  It is recommended that Whois clients and servers include
   this functionality to maximize the extensibility and usefulness of
   this service.

VI. References

   [Harr85] Harrenstein, K., Stahl, M., and E. Feinler, E.,
            "NICNAME/WHOIS", RFC 954, SRI, October 1985.

VII. Security Considerations

Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

VIII. Authors' Addresses

   Joan Gargano
   Information Technology
   Distributed Computing Analysis and Support
   University of California
   Davis, CA   95616


   Ken Weiss
   Information Technology
   Distributed Computing Analysis and Support
   University of California
   Davis, CA   95616