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tales of a debian maintainer

15 years of whois

Exactly 15 years ago I uploaded to Debian the first release of my whois client.

At the end of 1999 the United States Government forced Network Solutions, at the time the only registrar for the .com, .net and .org top level domains, to split their functions in a registry and a registrar and to and allow competing registrars to operate.

Since then, two whois queries are needed to access the data for a domain in a TLD operating with a thin registry model: first one to the registry to find out which registrar was used to register the domain, and then one the registrar to actually get the data.

Being as lazy as I am I tought that this was unacceptable, so I implemented a whois client that would know which whois server to query for all TLDs and then automatically follow the referrals to the registrars.

But the initial reason for writing this program was to replace the simplistic BSD-derived whois client that was shipped with Debian with one that would know which server to query for IP addresses and autonomous system numbers, a useful feature in a time when people still used to manually report all their spam to the originating ISPs.

Over the years I have spent countless hours searching for the right servers for the domains of far away countries (something that has often been incredibly instructive) and now the program database is usually more up to date than the official IANA one.

One of my goals for this program has always been wide portability, so I am happy that over the years it was adopted by other Linux distributions, made available by third parties to all common variants of UNIX and even to systems as alien as Windows and OS/2.

Now that whois is 15 years old I am happy to announce that I have recently achieved complete world domination and that all Linux distributions use it as their default whois client.


Sono l'Italia che non vuole bene.

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