New ICANN contracts chart the death throes of Whois
Whois is on its death bed, and new versions of ICANN’s standard contracts put a timeline to its demise.
The Org has posted proposed updates to its Registrar Accreditation Agreement and Registry Agreement, and most of the changes focus on the industry-wide transition from the Whois standard to the newer Registration Data Access Protocol.
We’re only talking about a change in the technical spec and terminology here. There’ll still be query services you can use to look up the owner of a domain and get a bunch of redactions in response. People will probably still even refer to it as “Whois”.
But when the new RAA goes into effect, likely next year, registrars and registries will have roughly 18 months to make the transition from Whois to RDAP.
Following the contract’s effective date there’ll be an “RDAP Ramp-up Period” during which registrars will not be bound by RDAP service-level agreements. That runs for 180 days.
After the end of that phase, registrars will only have to keep their Whois functioning for another 360 days, until the “WHOIS Services Sunset Date”. After that, they’ll be free to turn Whois off or keep it running (still regulated by ICANN) as they please.
ICANN’s CEO and the chair of the Registrars Stakeholder Group will be able to delay this sunset date if necessary.
Most registrars already run an RDAP server, following an order from ICANN in 2019. IANA publishes a list of the service URLs. One registrar has already lost its accreditation in part because it did not deploy one.
There’ll be implementation work for some registrars, particularly smaller ones, to come into compliance with the new RAA, no doubt.
There’ll also be changes needed for third-party software and services that leverage Whois in some way, such as in the security field or even basic query services. Anyone not keeping track of ICANN rules could be in for a sharp shock in a couple of years.
The contracted parties have been negotiating these changes behind closed doors for almost three years. It’s been almost a decade since the last RAA was agreed.
The contracts are open for public comment until October 24.
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