Every year, millions of individuals, businesses, organizations and governments register domain names. Each one must provide identifying and contact information which may include: name, address, email, phone number, and administrative and technical contacts. This information is often referred to as "WHOIS data." But the WHOIS service is not a single, centrally-operated database. Instead, the data is managed by independent entities known as "registrars" and "registries." Any entity that wants to become a registrar must earn ICANN accreditation. Similarly, registries are under contract with ICANN to operate a generic top level domain, such as .COM, .ORG, or one of the new gTLDs such as .STORAGE and .LINK.
Based on existing consensus policies and contracts, ICANN is committed to implementing measures to maintain timely, unrestricted and public access to accurate and complete WHOIS information, subject to applicable laws. To do that, registrars and registries provide public access to data on registered domain names. Anyone can use the WHOIS protocol to search their databases and identify the domain name registrant.