In the intangible world of the cyberspace, few things are fixed with certainty. Domain names may survive through the years, but behind the scenes they often change owners and are moved from one host to another several times. Domain registry history listings keep tabs on domain name owners and their choice of provider, even after both have changed multiple times over the course of its lifespan.
Domain Name Basics
While many web surfers think of a domain name being directly fixed to the website to which it leads their browser, domain names are not nearly so concrete. Domain names are actually easily remembered references to a fixed, numeric IP address. When you point your browser to a site using its domain, it looks up the numeric IP address from a master routing table and directs your computer to the resources housed there.
Domain Name Registry
Information about who owns the domain name and where it is hosted is available through domain registry information. The registry lists the current domain name owner, the servers to which the name points, when that owner took over the domain and when the owner's claim on the name expires. Registrants may block some of the information in their listing, such as contact information and associated email addresses, but domain name registry information theoretically makes it impossible to anonymously register a domain name.
Fluid Ownership and Hosting
Because domain names are just a user-friendly way for web surfers to locate a specific server, web developers frequently move their website from one host to another. Domain names change ownership, either through sale of the name or by becoming registered by a new owner when the original claimant abandons them. A standard Whois search won't unearth information about former owners and IP locations for the domain. It's a snapshot of current ownership and hosting.
Domain Registry History
Domain registry history records, however, round up information about the domain's history, including all owners, hosts and transfers of either. These records are culled over time from domain registry information and indexed by domain name. Each time a domain moves or changes ownership, a new record is created in the registry; domain registry history records continually monitor these changes and update their listing, where domain registry information abandons old information and only retains the most current and relevant information.
Uses of Domain History Records
The average web user has little use for domain name history records other than the novelty of looking at a domain name's history, but these records can be used to resolve disputes between developers, corporations and web hosts. Domain registry history records are useful tools in trademark infringement cases as well as investigations into phishing and other potentially fraudulent online activities. Some services allow domain owners to pay a fee to block their information from their registry, however.