To do or not to do – WHOIS Privacy, that is the question

Public vs Private WHOIS

Here’s a topic that seems to be pretty hotly contested lately – should you keep your WHOIS information private or make it public? Last week Shane tweeted this question:

I responded by saying that I’ve had the same question for years – why make it harder for someone to buy a domain from you? Now, over the few days I’ve been thinking about it more and reading other opinions on the topic and I have to be honest, I’m not sure what I think any more.

Yesterday Theo from DomainGang shared his thoughts on the topic:

I can see both sides to this. The reality is, if someone really wants to buy your domain name they will do what it takes to get a hold of you. At the same time, if you’re using a solution like Efty that generates a for sale landing page on your domain, it’s pretty darn easy to get in touch with you. Anyone that wanted to buy a domain from you would likely visit the domain itself first, see your for sale page, and make an inquiry.h

At the same time, I don’t quite understand what the risk is of having public WHOIS information. I could also see a scenario where a really interested buyer would reach out on your landing page and send you an email which could signal a higher budget, thus giving you the seller more information.

All that being said, I really am not sure where I stand on this any more and I typically like to use data to make decisions…but I don’t have any data here. So I thought I’d hear what everyone else things. It’s the age old question – should you keep your WHOIS information public or keep it private?

I want to hear from you, comment and let your voice be heard!

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Morgan Linton was born in Berkeley, California but spent nine years traveling the world as an early employee for digital music startup Sonos. In 2007 Morgan founded Linton Investments, a domain name and branding company that has helped some of the most recognized startups in the world acquire their top choice domain name. In 2012 Morgan left his full-time job to co-found Bold Metrics, a startup building technologies that make it easy for online shoppers to buy clothes that fit and arming retailers with more data than ever before.

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Snoopy August 27, 2019, 6:51 pm

    I suspect whois privacy would cost in terms of sales to some degree, suspect it is on the small side though.

  • Kevin Fink August 27, 2019, 6:54 pm

    I’ve flipped on both sides of this over the years, but am now squarely of the assumption that not much is gained via privatization. Historically, I’ve closed more sales through negotiating with eager prospects than through BIN-landers where the visitor can’t even enter into a conversation with me or an agent.

  • Shane August 27, 2019, 6:54 pm

    It’s also used to hide a shitty portfolio while you pretend to be an accomplished domain investor

  • Ethan August 27, 2019, 7:14 pm

    I use domain privacy because I don’t like to make my personal information public.

    And I agree with “if someone really wants to buy your domain name they will do what it takes to get a hold of you.”

    When people are interested in a domain, they would definitely visit the it to see if it is in use. So as long as you have a landing page for your domain, I think it would be fine.

  • Jason E Franklin August 27, 2019, 7:49 pm

    I don’t really understand buying extra privacy after GDRP went into effect. WhoIs has been changed to not reflect the persons information who owns the domain any longer the way it used to. It was different before GDRP and I understood why sometimes domain owners would pay for privacy if they weren’t looking to sell and didn’t want to be contacted, but at this point it doesn’t seem to make sense.

  • August 27, 2019, 9:30 pm

    when you first acquire a domain, make it private…then after a year, keep it public.

    Because when u first buy a domain, you will get spammed by a lot people wanting to build you a website for your new domain.

    Especially if you buy domains from expired auctions, they will spam you by calling you, texting you, emailing you offering you a website for your new domain.

    So my advice, keep it private first year…then make it public next year.

  • Michael August 27, 2019, 10:40 pm

    Most whois privacy services allow people to send emails to the registrant anyway. So if someone really wants to contact you, they will be able to.

    I recently tried removing privacy from my .com names, and literally within hours the first spam emails from India arrived. So privacy is back on in my case. But it is Dynadot’s partial privacy, which shows the registrant’s name or company name. A good compromise, I think.

  • Michael Anthony Castello August 28, 2019, 1:08 am

    Make it Public. The registration validates who owns the name. The registration date is also important in showing first usage rights. Buyers want proof of ownership. People who control the content of a website don’t necessarily own the name. It’s public record on an international scale.

    • Mark Thorpe August 28, 2019, 6:00 am

      Exactly, well said as usual Michael.
      Domain Whois data is public for me as well, other than a few adult names.

  • Snoopy August 28, 2019, 4:45 pm

    Is the .tech thread sponsored? Odd that no comments are allowed.

    Got to wonder how someone decided would be a good idea, the keyword is not great so why use an unknown extension like .tech?

    • Michael August 29, 2019, 6:19 am

      Agree. should be the obvious choice. The two other ones are a bit harder to acquire.

      • Snoopy September 1, 2019, 3:37 am

        Yes, it is a bizarre choice but I guess anyone choosing .tech is making a huge mistake to begin with. So maybe making another mistake on top of that (bad term) isn’t that surprising.

  • Anonymous August 29, 2019, 2:40 am

    I agree with Jay and Ethan above.

    Personally I see no need to have whois publicly. A lot of people don’t even know about whois, so they are going to check the url anyway. It’s easily to forget as domain investors, but many people simply don’t have the same knowledge and toolbox as us. They simple do not know about Whois. I also don’t think it costs any business, but even if it would I think it’s worth the extra privacy.

    Other reasons for me to use private whois:

    – I like privacy and so I’ll take whatever measure I can get
    – Safety. Threats etc. don’t matter if they can’t find you. It’s not very likely but some people do show up at your door.
    – You don’t get spam.
    – In the future they can’t look back and find every domain you’ve ever owned (Well, not easily anyway). Why is this important? For one, times change. Things that may me acceptable now may not be in 50 years.

    As for Jasons comment about GDPR, it protects the data today. However their is a good chance that it will not last forever (EU collapses for instance) and the data will then be available again. If you change it to private whois after that, the data may still be visible in the historical records.

    Just my 2 cents.


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