ICANN Lookup for Domain Names
When looking to register a domain name, the typical process is to first go to a domain name registration service, enter the domain you’re interested in, and their system looks it up to see if it’s available for you to register or not. Even if it is available, that doesn’t necessarily mean you go ahead and get it; you’re probably shopping, also looking up the availability of alternative domains, figuring you can come back a day or so later after you’ve made a final decision.
Unfortunately, that may not be the smartest way to “shop” for domain names anymore.
For the past few years, there have been a number of anecdotal reports on the forums of registrars doing shady things. Like registering available domains you don’t snap up immediately, and then charging an exorbitant amount (representing the new “owner”) if you come back and want it. Again, anecdotal; I have no hard proof of any of this nefarious activity, but the reports are too frequent and similar for comfort. Some are even quite compelling, with the domains in question being too unique or personalized that the likelihood of some random registering them would be pretty much zero.
That kind of stuff. Which is why you may have encountered a number of sites that trumpet that they’re “safe” for these kinds of lookups. But if you think about it, all we really have to go by is their word that they’re safe. Doesn’t really make much sense to be paranoid and careful, then immediately believe just anyone who claims they’re safe, does it?
Funny thing is, there’s a really easy way around it. Just go use ICANN Lookup. How do we know it’s safe? ICANN is the governing regulatory body for domain name registrations; that’s how we can figure it’s safe. Either that, or we’re all screwed. I opt to go with the non-doom scenario.
Just enter the domain name you want it to check. It’s not quite as slick and non-techie as the tools you find at the commercial registrars, but you should be able to figure it out well enough. If a domain name is registered, for instance, it’ll spit out data about who owns it (if that info is non-private), when the current registration expires, etc. If it’s unregistered and available, however, it’ll tell you something like:
The requested domain was not found in the Registry or Registrar’s RDAP server.
In which case, you can then go to your commercial registrar of choice and buy the thing, just ensuring you actually make the purchase during that initial session, giving them no chance at all to do any sneaky sneaks. If you think it’s likely safe no one else is going to pick it up while you make a decision, you can get it in a day or so with the registrars being none the wiser.