David Goldstein - ICANN Provides Thick Whois Transition Update for gTLDs


    ICANN’s transition from Thin to Thick Whois is well underway according to a post on the ICANN blog, with both ICANN and registrars working towards completing what needs to be done so the policy changes can be effectively implemented for .com and .net.

    The policy change will require .com and .net domain registrations, as well as .jobs, to be “Thick” with a consistent labelling and display of WHOIS output. Currently only 3 gTLDs are providing Thin Whois services – .com, .net and .jobs – and their registries must submit all new domain name registrations as Thick Whois.

    The difference between “Thick” and “Thin” Whois is the amount of registrant information collected when a domain name is registered. A Thin Whois record contains a limited amount of registrant information such as the sponsoring registrar, the status of the registration, and the creation and expiration dates of each registration. Thick Whois on the other hand contains a broader set of data elements including contact information for the registrant and designated administrative and technical contacts.

    New gTLDs, as well as other legacy gTLDs, are required to provide Thick Whois registrant information. Proponents of Thick Whois suggest the benefits include being more easily able to contact registrants, something the US intellectual property constituency in particular has deemed important. ICANN has also identified another 2 situations where having ready access to the data would be valuable:

    1. Where the registrar Whois service might be experiencing a short- or long-term outage (in violation of the registrar's accreditation agreement), and

    2. Where the registrar has implemented strong (or sometimes overly-defensive) measures to prevent large-scale automated harvesting of registrar data.

    Also, in the event of a registrar business or technical failure, it could be beneficial to ICANN and registrants to have the full set of domain registration contact data stored by four organisations (the registry, the registry's escrow agent, the registrar, and the registrar's escrow agent) instead of just two organisations (the registrar and the registrar's escrow agent).

    Currently Verisign is working with a number of registrars to actively testing the migration of Thick Whois data to Verisign and Verisign have made a number of suggested amendments to the Registry-Registrar Agreements (RRAs).

    The proposed amendments would largely bring the .com and .net RRAs into alignment with all other Thick gTLDs in terms of language for registrant consent for transmission of registration information. The proposed amendments also would incorporate language similar to most other registry registrar agreements with respect to putting registrants on notice of the legal reasons why domain names could be subject to cancellation or transfer.

    However there were concerns from the Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG) about agreeing to the proposed amendments based on issues relating to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on 25 May 2018. As such, the next step outlined in the procedure is for ICANN to consult with the registry operator and the RrSG to resolve these concerns.

    To further consult with the community and to resolve these issues, ICANN has agreed Verisign’s request for further consultations including the RrSG in hopes of achieving a resolution, while still taking reasonable steps to comply with the policy. ICANN granted a 120 day extension for these consultations that concludes on 29 November.

    Currently it is expected that on 1 May 2018 Thick Whois will be implemented for all new .com and .net registrations and on 1 February 2019 the Thick Whois transition will be implemented.