Earlier this week there was a seismic change in the domain world, but as we are talking about the inner workings of domain names, most people wouldn’t have noticed.

What happened?

Quietly and without fanfare the whois service as we know it was replaced. Okay thats technically not 100 percent accurate. Whois is still available – for now.

It will be going away, but not just yet..

However what has gone live is a new technical solution for handling domain name registration data.

What is it?

The new protocol is called RDAP which stands for Registration Data Access Protocol.

It’s based on standards developed within the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) so you can expect to see different variants of it being used in different situations.

So for an example you can visit this link to see what the “new whois” would be for blacknight.com:

https://rdap.blacknight.com/domain/blacknight.com

Depending on which browser you’re using that might render as something fairly pretty and easy to read, or it could be a nasty big blob of text. RDAP is not designed for humans to read directly, so people will have to use other software to make it easier to read and make sense of.

Why do you care?

If you’re using whois for any reason whatsoever you will need to start preparing to switch to RDAP. That might mean writing tools that can render the RDAP output human readable or using services that have done that work for you already.

ICANN has published some resources on their site if you’re curious.

For now RDAP is being run alongside whois for gTLD registrars and registries. At some point in the future we will be turning off whois completely, though when hasn’t been decided yet.

NB: RDAP and Whois are just ways of displaying data. The policies around which data is shown is not impacted by the change of mechanisms.