Tracking domain names isn’t easy! I often post “domain movers” and “DotWeekly Discoveries” by using several methods but one key factor that I always use is whois records. These consist of current and historical records.
The problem with whois and I have said this before, it really should be “who do you want to be” instead of whois. Whois records for domain names should be better attached to the account holder at a domain name registrar but they are not. A domain owner can really put any information in “whois” for any domain name. One domain account at a registrar can really have different information for every domain name in it if the owner so chooses. Add in whois privacy services, “generic” whois data and tracking who really owns a domain name can be very difficult.
Now take other factors like subsidiaries of companies and again, things continue to be difficult. Add in “domain buying services” and many other generic factors and things continue to be hard to tell who really owns a specific domain name.
Often times I simply visit a domain name and it can reveal who the owners are due to a logo at the bottom of a page, or a “brands” tab or general links. Sometimes it’s the domain name servers they use. Sometimes it’s the domain name registrar. Sometimes it’s the hosting service used. Sometimes it’s the ip address. Email addresses. Registrar + domain name servers…. the list goes on!
The simple fact is, if you really want to “hide” who really owns a domain name, it’s pretty easy to do. For me, it’s hard to tell you exactly who owns a domain name, if one sold or simply moved around with-in the same company. I mainly just report on what I see and use experience to report it the best I can. Basically, most of the time I’m guessing! I get it right and I get it wrong, but knowing some of the things above may help you understand better.
Trust me, tracking things using whois is very difficult. A domain can “change ownership” according to whois records several times before it really ends up showing who the owner really is. This can take YEARS to reveal. Often times, it’s very hard to explain what shows up in whois and why!
Massive amounts of domain names! Millions, hundreds of millions! The new gTLD’s has made my life much harder. I track mainly larger companies and the domain names they register, buy, sell etc. These companies are really forced to buy new gTLD’s simply for brand protection and I feel bad for them because they end up spending a lot of money and resources to do so and the domains likely never get used. Never typed in by a customer etc. All these new domains clog the domain name lists that I search daily. I see hundreds and sometimes thousands of typo domain registrations, transfers etc. I clearly don’t report these, but my eyes have to see these domains in order to present you with the ones that you do get to see.
On any given day, I would estimate that I look through tens of thousands of domains to present a handful. A lot of time and brain power goes into making a small list of domain movers that may interest you. These lists contain TLD’s I’m often not even aware existed. Considering I have been domaining since 2006, I still find that interesting! Going through lists of domain names is only part of it. Once I see one that grabs my eye for one reason or another, then I have to run a whois search on it. Then see what I see with that. Often this leads to a historical whois search… which often has me looking back YEARS and YEARS to find one little thing that grabs my eye again.
This can lead into using services like Whoisology.com and see other domains owned by a specific email address. Services that allow me to see all the domain names using a specific domain name server. Checking registered trademarks. Looking at business listings, new start ups, peoples names, physical address, wayback machine and countless others. Then if all the things do not pan out, I may not even post the domain name that I did all the digging on! Similar to getting blue balls if you know what I mean!
Time and effort are the biggest factors of digging domain names. Tools help me, but I have to dig lists, act on little things I see, that often lead into seeing other things I would not have if I didn’t dig a little deeper. Sadly, and I’m not exactly sure why… I often reach out to sellers and or buyers of domain names to see if they can or will share some of the story on the specific domain name and I rarely hear back. They often find it creepy that I even know they sold a domain…
So anyway, before I bore you, I just wanted to explain a little bit on what goes into tracking domain names and providing you with the lists that I do. A lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of educated guessing, a lot of tools used to present a handful of domains, even though tens of thousands were scoured daily to deliver the small list that you actually see. On average, I spend about 3-4 hours going through lists and doing research on some of them. If it was only one domain I had to research, I could often bring you more and sometimes better accuracy but please remember I scour a lot of domains and often run on limited information.
Add in writing the article, responding to comments, try to get the website to make money, dealing with website problems (hosting, code, plugins etc), write other stuff to “mix it up” and tracking domains and presenting it to you isn’t easy.