Help! How Do I Know If Someone Else Took My Domain?

Finding an unregistered domain can be a challenge. There are over 1.3 billion websites currently live around the world, and every one of them occupies a unique domain. Even discounting websites hosted with country code TLDs, or with generic TLDs like .com and .net, have already been acquired.
This is clearly a problem for any new business, or anyone who missed out on the 1990s’ domain name gold rush before ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was founded to regulate an industry that increasingly resembled the Wild West. Millennial issues like cybersquatting and a lack of available domain names have been largely resolved, but it’s still a challenge to find a domain suitable for your specific needs.

That’s especially true considering domain names are supposed to be:

  1. As short as possible, for maximum brand recall
  2. Easy to pronounce, or spell down a phone line
  3. Simple to read, without consecutive letters
  4. Relevant to either your industry or location or both
  5. Distinctive from any competitors.

Running a domain registration lookup

The best way to identify which website addresses and URLs are presently in use involves conducting a domain registration lookup. This utilizes a global database called WHOIS, which was one of ICANN’s early achievements. The new regulator recognized the need to bring order to a chaotic market by tracking site ownership. They appointed a domain registry for each TLD, before imposing a universal set of administrative responsibilities.
Whenever a domain name is purchased, the new owner needs to submit basic contact information to the appointed registry before a site goes live at that location. For instance, here at WestHost we had to register our address with Verisign, who manage all .com TLDs. If you go onto any WHOIS database and perform a domain registration lookup, it will reveal various details about when (and by whom) was registered.

Protecting your privacy

Of course, some people don’t want to be listed on a domain registration lookup database that can be anonymously interrogated by anyone. ICANN thought of this, too. They pioneered a concept called domain privacy, which cloaks sensitive information like a private individual’s email address or cell number. A proxy company is listed instead, able to pass on relevant inquiries while ensuring your home address isn’t visible for the world to see. Privacy can only be requested by private individuals with non-commercial websites, and domain registries in charge of some fringe TLDs refuse to honor it. Nonetheless, WestHost is proud to offer domain privacy free for a year (this offer is available for a limited time only).
You can also investigate domain availability through our website. Our homepage features a search bar which will check numerous TLDs against a particular search string. It’s quite common for the .com and .net addresses to be in use, while less common TLDs including .co and .us are still available. Interestingly, .us is the American ccTLD, but most domestic brands have chosen the gTLD for a company as their top level domain of choice. Compared to other nations, that’s very unusual.