Who Owns a Domain Name?

Finding an available domain name is getting trickier by the day. Many companies opt to buy a taken domain name from its owner for a heftier fee. You can learn who owns a domain name below:

Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find a domain name that’s not already taken and is good enough to represent your business online. While finding an available domain name is a cheaper option, sometimes reaching out to a domain owner and making an offer to buy might be the better option. 

So, how do you find out who owns a domain name? We’ll explain in this article.

Who Is the Domain Owner?

Technically, the registrar is the owner of the domain name. When you buy one, you buy the right to use the name for a determined period of time. While you can extend the subscription indefinitely, it’s never yours completely. Without the subscription model, the internet would be littered with inactive websites that nobody can access again.

In another sense, when you buy a domain name with an accredited registrar, you have the sole right to use it, and as long as you renew your registration, nobody can take it away from you. You can transfer the domain, keep it inactive, or publish anything you want, but you will also be responsible for any potential disputes that arise.

Don’t know how to register a domain name? Watch our video guide below:


You can leave it unused, create a website for your business, or sell it to someone else. There are domain-flipping companies that register a domain name only to resell it for a higher price.

MORE: Domain name value

Length of Domain Ownership

The length of domain ownership is the same as the length of the registration. The usual practice is to register a domain name for a year, but many registrars offer registration periods of up to 10 years.

If you want to buy a taken domain, you should first check its length of ownership. Should it be close to expiration, you can wait and see if the current owner decides against renewing. This would make the domain name available and cheaper to obtain.

How to Find Out Who Owns a Domain Name

When you choose a domain name, you need to check if someone already owns the domain name. You can do that by:

  • Visiting the website: Most websites provide contact information or an “About Us” page where you can learn about the individual or organization behind the domain name. 
  • Site-searching on Google: Type in “site:yourChosenDomainName.com” and see if any results appear. While this will give you direct links to the website if it exists, it still doesn’t mean the domain itself is available. Someone can register the name and not make it public.
  • Use a domain availability checker tool: Also known as a WHOIS checker, these tools will show you whether the name is registered or not and display information about the owner

Check Who Owns a Domain

Use our free domain ownership checker tool:

Steps to Use the Tool 

When you type in a name you’re interested in, you’ll see two possible results:

  1. If the name is available, you’ll be able to click on a Register link that will take you to a registrar’s purchase form.
  2. If it’s taken, you’ll see a WHOIS link that will let you know whether the name is up for sale (and at what price).

Contacting Domain Owner: WHOIS Lookup

Even if the name is not up for auction, you can still try to obtain it. To do that, you need to do as follows:

  1. Visit who.is,
  2. Enter the domain name you’re interested in,
  3. Find contact information (phone number or email address),
  4. Ask for the domain name’s availability.

When you look up a domain name on WHOIS, some of the information you’ll find include the following:

  • Hosting server,
  • Transfer status,
  • Length of ownership,
  • Registrant contact information,
  • Domain name system (DNS) records.

In some cases, the contact information will be private. When this happens, they usually list a masked email address that seems fake, but you can use it to reach out to the owner via proxy.

Rarely, you’ll find that  no contact information is available, but you can still learn who owns a domain name elsewhere. Try finding the owner on social media or visit the contact section on the website.

MORE: What is an email domain?

Negotiating With the Domain Name Owner

Before you reach out to the owner, you should do your homework to evaluate a realistic price for the domain. Use SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Google Search Console to see if the domain has the potential to rank well (i.e. if it’s associated with spam or black hat SEO).

You should also see if the name is a keyword people look up often.

Once you’re happy with your findings, reach out to the owner and be straight to the point. If they’re open to selling, they’ll propose a price that’s usually negotiable.

To lower the price, try to:

  • Find a similar domain that went for a lower price,
  • Justify your lower offer with facts (monthly traffic, growth potential, prices of similar domains, etc.),
  • Hire a broker,
  • Establish a walkaway price,
  • Use an escrow service.

What Is WHOIS?

WHOIS is a public database of all information collected during the registration process of a domain name. The database adds new information whenever an owner updates their domain name’s DNS settings.

The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) runs the WHOIS database that’s been in use since 1982. The purpose of WHOIS is to be able to determine the ownership of a website. It helps companies buy taken domain names, as well as law enforcement find the source of illegal information and spamming attacks.

When you register a domain name, you need to provide the following information:

  • Name,
  • Address,
  • Phone number,
  • Email address.

While you can mask the information, once they enter the WHOIS database, it becomes public knowledge.

Why Check on Domain Name Ownership?

  • There are 252,000 new websites being made every day (about 80% are inactive, but they still take ownership),
  • Finding an available domain name is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for common domain types, such as .com, .net, .co, and .us,
  • Even specific TLDs (like .io, .ai, or ccTLDs) are hard to come by,
  • Learning about the owner can help you contact them and ask for a purchase,
  • Other reasons include:
    • Making sure contact information is up to date,
    • Verifying a website’s authenticity before doing business,
    • Reporting a technical issue.

MORE: Learn about domain trademarks

Consider an Alternative Name

If you find a domain name that’s ideal for your business but taken, you can consider buying it. However, this is usually a costly process. You can end up spending thousands of dollars on a domain name, and you should consider whether that’s a sensible business decision.

Check out our video guide on the most expensive domain names:

If you don’t have a budget for a purchase, you can still find an available domain name that’s memorable, easy to spell, and representative of your business. Use our AI-powered domain name generator to get 1,000+ domain name ideas, and the tool will check availability instantly.

How to Prove You Are the Owner of a Domain

Once you register a domain, you’re the legal owner (registrant). In your registrar’s control panel, you need to leave your contact information as the Registrant or Administrative contact and set them to public.

The quickest way to prove you’re the owner is to use a WHOIS lookup tool for your own domain name. Look up your name, and you’ll find the registrant contact you left in the control panel. A screenshot of the WHOIS results will do the trick.

Domain Name Ownership Dispute: Example

Since domain names are a valuable branding asset and can play a part in a business’s trademark, domain ownership can lead to a dispute.

One interesting example is France.com, initially operating as a California-based travel site related to, you guessed it, France. Since they didn’t have any international trademarks, a Dutch company took out a name and graphic marks for “France.com” in the EU.

It ended in a lawsuit that led to a settlement in which the travel site received trademarks from the Dutch company.

However, this became a popular news story that reached the French government, which claimed the trademark and name use infringement in 2015. The owner was forced to transfer the domain name without any compensation.

Interestingly, the Californian decided to take on the country and sue France for cybersquatting, resulting in the U.S. court ordering France to pay $100,000.

Takeaway Points

When you want to set up a website, chances are, the name might be taken. In fact, every two-, three-, and four-letter dot-com domain is off the market. If you want to acquire the rights to use the name, you must contact the website owner and make an offer.

  • Visit the website or use a lookup tool to learn about the owner (enter the taken domain name),
  • Check the domain name’s traffic (current and potential) to evaluate a fair price,
  • Contact the owner,
  • Negotiate the purchase.

Finding out who owns a domain name is easy; the hard part can be convincing them to sell the name to you. If you don’t want to pay over the odds for a name, you can find a catchy alternative using our domain name generator.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You can find the contact information of a domain name owner by searching the WHOIS database that’s available to the public for free. Visit the WHOIS website or use a reputable availability checker tool to find the information.

When you register a domain name, it’s mandatory that you make your ownership information publicly available. The information includes the owner’s name, address, email address, and phone number. This way, the public (and law enforcement) can reach out to the owner for whatever reason, such as offering to buy the name.

Anyone can register a domain name and leave it unused, but they would still have the sole rights for its usage. ICANN regulates unregistered domain names, and you can use registrars to register the name for a period of time.

The WHOIS database stores information about domain names and their owners. The database allows network administrators to fix technical issues and maintain stability. Additionally, it allows users to learn about domain owners and contact them.

If you want to own a domain name that’s already registered, you need to reach out to the current owner and make an offer to buy the rights to use the name. If you already own the domain name, and someone steals it from you, you can contact your registrar and file a complaint.

According to ICANN rules, the maximum duration of a domain name registration can be ten years. However, you can renew your subscription unlimited times. While the ownership is never permanent, you don’t have to worry about losing the domain, as you can keep the usage rights forever.