8/21/09
9:36 am

MacMost Now 282: Using Network Utility to Find Out Who Owns a Domain

Use the Network Utility application on your Mac to find out who owns a domain name and which ISP hosting service it is located at.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode lets use Network Utility to figure out who owns a domain name.
So Network Utility is an application that is in your utilities folder in your applications folder, and it does all sorts of useful functions. One of the things you can use for it is to look up who owns a domain name. Why would you want to do this? Well, perhaps you had an email from a domain name and you want to find out who owns it and who is responsible for sending the email. Or perhaps, you are visiting a website and you notice that some of your content has been stolen and put up on that website, and you want to know who to complain to. A lot of different reasons to want to find this out.
So lets go and take a look at two ways to find out who owns a domain name. Now when you first run Network Utility you can see there is a lot of different utilities inside of it. You can select which one you want to use by clicking on the tab at the top. We're going to start by using Whois. Now, you've got two fields to fill in: one is the domain name you want to look up, and the other is the organization you want to use to look it up. You always start with whois.internic.net which is at the top - when you do a search using that you are usually not going to get the information you want. Instead, you are going to get a link to the actual whois server that hosts the information you need. So, Internic doesn't know who versiontracker.com is but it tells you that the whois server for it is whois.markmonitor.com, so we are going to copy and paste that into here and try looking up the whois information on that server and sure enough now we get it. We get an address, we get a phone number, all sorts of information. Now if I can find out from here that Version Tracker is in fact, owned by Cnet, which is owned by CBS.
The whois functionality is also very useful if you just want to get in touch with somebody that runs a website and they dont have any contact information on their page. Also, with whois information you get the expiration date so if the domain isn't being used and you might want to grab it, you can see when it is going to expire. Now, this information isn't so useful when looking at a good proper site like versiontracker.com but if you get email from a suspicious site or you get some of your content stolen and put on another website you can go ahead and look it up and find out who is responsible. Now, a lot of times they are going to be out of the country or perhaps even masked behind some sort of privacy screening and you can't actually find out who they are. So there is another tool you can use inside of network utility.
And that is, the traceroute tool. Now, what traceroute will do is it will trace the route from your computer all the way to the website. It will take a few minutes to work. So once it is done, you get this huge list starting with your computer all the way down the server that the website is actually located on. Now, usually you have a lot of clues right there in that final domain. You can see this is cnet.com, so you can tell that versiontracker is actually hosted at a server owned by cnet.com. Now, a lot of times it is not this cut-and-dried. A lot of times this will be the name of an ISP, some sort of large hosting company. Perhaps somebody you have heard of, and this is great because if somebody has stolen your content or is doing something that you want to complain about, you could then go to their ISP and actually contact them about the abuse. So, for instance if it turns out to be a large ISP hosting company like say, Dreamhost, you can go to their main page and usually they have a way to report abuse, copyright infringement, all sorts of things like that. And you can contact them and tell them about the domain name that you are concerned about.
So, there's a look at two somewhat useful utilities inside of network utility. On Monday, I'm going to be making a big announcement about MacMost. You'll be the first to find out if you follow me on twitter, or, if you are a fan of MacMost at Facebook. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.