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Website Operator

How to Identify a Website Operator or Host

March 3, 2011

While a single person can design, host, and administer a website, there are often a whole host of people responsible for any given piece of content on the internet: firstly, there is the actual author of the material; then there will be an ISP who gives the author access to the internet; there will likely also be a domain name owned by the registrant which points to the website where the material is posted; this website will be located on the servers of a web host; there may be a website administrator responsible for managing the content of that site; and perhaps distinct from the administrator, the site may have an owner.

So, even under not extraordinary circumstances, in connection with a piece of online content, there are 6 possible points of contact: the author, their ISP, the domain registrant, the host, the administrator or webmaster, or the website owner.  Nevertheless, actually locating the relevant contact details is not always straightforward.  Websites will not necessarily identify any of these parties, and so sometimes it is necessary to carry out research.

Just as the name and addresses of applicants for trade mark protection are recorded on a publicly available database, the details of domain name registrants are held on publicly accessible WHOIS databases.  For example, you can view the WHOIS records for here.  These records allow interested parties to contact registrants if, for example, they have trouble accessing the website, notice errors, or perhaps have a business proposal related to advertising or the purchase of the domain name. WHOIS records will typically list details for a technical contact – generally your webmaster, an administrative contact – who is the person authorised to deal with issues like renewal of the domain, and the registrant, or ‘owner’ of the domain name.

However, these records also provide a invaluable resource for less scrupulous marketers, who might use the information to send out bulk SPAM email. Therefore many domain name owners choose to use cloaking services, which hide their contact details by replacing them with those of the cloaking service provider.

There are also some circumstances where the identity or location of a web host might be important, for example, where a web site includes defamatory material which a visitor would like to see removed, and although the information may not be readily available, there are some free  tools available to help.

When researching the identity or location of a web host you will need the IP address of the relevant website – this can be obtained here.  It is often possible to identify the hosting provider, or even the operator of the website itself, by querying the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).  Each RIR covers a different geographical region, and they can be searched using the links below: [Europe] [Asia-Pacific] [America, Africa]

Results of searching using the above tools might include the identity of the web host from whose servers the website you are searching is served, or, for larger companies, the identity of the website operator themselves.  For larger businesses, or companies that comply with legislation requiring disclosure of their contact details, identifying contact details for a website operator is not a difficult task.  However the tools listed above can be very useful when carrying out research on smaller sites, or for details which are not as readily accessible.