Who's Behind That Web Site? Ask Whois
Some of you noticed that I made an unusual appearance in Sunday's Post -- our story on the First Family's new dog included a one-line credit at the end that noted "Staff writers Howard Kurtz and Rob Pegoraro contributed to this report."
I have yet to demonstrate any expertise in canine breeding or White House coverage, so what did I have to do with the story? I'd like to say that after months of meeting an anonymous tipster in parking garages, I cracked the First Dog story myself -- but the truth is, I just did a little research on the Web on Saturday.
We were trying to figure out who had registered the site First Dog Charlie, which beat The Post to the story by (apparently) publishing a photo of the dog in question, albeit under the wrong name. I got a call from the newsroom, asking for a little help, so I looked up that site's address using Whois, a database of Internet domains. You can run a Whois search from any of numerous sites, including any that register domain names. For this query, I used Herndon-based Network Solutions.
Unfortunately, the Whois database only yielded an anonymized record, hosted by another registrar, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Go Daddy (right, the company with the dippy Super Bowl ads). By default, domain names include real names, mailing addresses and phone numbers, but you can pay a little extra to have your data concealed from public scrutiny.
That's what the owner of this First Dog site did, and that's where my research concluded. (I can only applaud the generosity of whoever in the National section thought my brief effort deserved a credit line.) But that doesn't mean you can't make good use of Whois. Anytime you're trying to decide whether the site you're viewing is a company's genuine online presence, look it up on any Whois page and check for contact info that matches the company's real-world whereabouts.
April 13, 2009; 11:45 AM ET
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