john skinner

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Who owns that website?

On the internet, nobody knows that you are a dog. Anyone can register pretty well any domain name and put up a website, and people surfing to it cannot tell what kind of person or company stands behind it. This is something you should consider before giving out personal or financial information.

Fortunately, it's easy to find out who owns a website. The ownership information is by law a matter of public record, just as magazines and newspapers must print the names of their editors and owners at least once annually.

There are four organizations that register websites by geographical region:

    ARIN (North America, sub-Saharan Africa)

    LACNIC (Latin America, Caribbean)

    RIPE (Europe)

    APNIC (Asia Pacific)

Let's try it out: who really owns It's a Dot-Com, so we'll start with ARIN. Type "" (you don't need the www) in the text-entry field, and click on Submit. A message appears:

Search results for:

No match found for

# ARIN Whois database, last updated 2003-01-26 20:00
# Enter ? for additional hints on searching ARIN's Whois database.

Well, that only means the website wasn't registered with ARIN. Let's try Europe. Surf over to RIPE, type "" in the text-entry field, and click on Submit. A message appears:

% This is the RIPE Whois server.
% The objects are in RPSL format.
% Rights restricted by copyright.
% See

%ERROR:101: no entries found
% No entries found in the selected source(s).

Not a European either. How about APNIC? You know the routine by now. A message appears:

% [ node-1]
% How to use this server
% Whois data copyright terms

%ERROR:101: no entries found
% No entries found in the selected source(s).

Last chance: Maybe it's registered in Latin America. Over to LACNIC. A message appears:

% Copyright LACNIC
% The data below is provided for information purposes
% and to assist persons in obtaining information about or
% related to AS and IP numbers registrations
% By submitting a whois query, you agree to use this data
% only for lawful purposes.
% 2003-01-27 08:08:50 (BRST -02:00)


Oh dear! is not registered anywhere. Maybe I am one of those Russian-mafia conmen I warned you about! At this point, you should be getting suspicious — but don't call the Internet Police just yet.

All businesses want .COM domains because internet users expect us to have them. Many businesses own several websites, to cover all versions of their name. You know Microsoft as "", now try surfing to Guess who! Same with microsoft.DE (Germany) or .IT (Italy) or .SE (Sweden). These are the online equivalent of a letterbox address, they all lead to one single home domain back in America. The home domain must be registered, but subsidiary domains presently need not be. This is a loophole in the still-developing Internet law, which will probably soon be plugged. Until then, you will need to exercise a tiny amount of ingenuity and effort.

This guy Skinner (if that is his name) keeps talking about Stuttgart, maybe his home domain is in Germany. The standard top-level domain for Germany is ".DE". Let's try RIPE with "". A message appears:

descr: John Skinner
descr: Bebelstr. 36
descr: D-70193 Stuttgart
descr: Germany
status: connect
changed: 20000810 035306
source: DENIC

Bingo! So, is owned by John Skinner, a real person with a real address. (This even matches what's in his "Contact" page — which is something else you should check.) It's likely that he also owns, but we don't know for sure. Had he asked for your date of birth, driver's license or credit card information etc, you should still be very suspicious. Write him an old-fashioned postal letter asking whether he is the owner of and legally responsible for If it's an honest business, and if it is owned by the person named, then you'll get a polite and friendly letter back: go ahead and do business, subject to the usual considerations.

Otherwise, one of two things will happen. If is not owned by John Skinner, then he will write back warning you that he has nothing to do with the site. You should have nothing to do with them either! They may still be honest, but the risk is in my opinion far too high: an honest business has nothing to gain by hiding from you.

If is owned by John Skinner, but he's a conman trying to hide from legal responsibility, then you've found him out. He will wipe the mess out of his trousers and close down the site. Congratulations, you have done the world a favour!

To save you and my postman unnecessary effort, let me state here that is indeed owned by the same John Skinner who owns In fact, it's exactly the same site under a different name.
Copyright © John Skinner, 2003. All rights reserved.
Last updated 2003.01.27