RFC 954

Document Type RFC - Draft Standard (October 1985; No errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 3912
Obsoletes RFC 812
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                               K. Harrenstien (SRI)
Request for Comments: 954                                 M. Stahl (SRI)
Obsoletes:  RFC 812                                     E. Feinler (SRI)
                                                            October 1985



   This RFC is the official specification of the NICNAME/WHOIS protocol.
   This memo describes the protocol and the service.  This is an update
   of RFC 812.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   The NICNAME/WHOIS Server is a TCP transaction based query/response
   server, running on the SRI-NIC machine ( or, that
   provides netwide directory service to internet users.  It is one of a
   series of internet name services maintained by the DDN Network
   Information Center (NIC) at SRI International on behalf of the
   Defense Communications Agency (DCA).  The server is accessible across
   the Internet from user programs running on local hosts, and it
   delivers the full name, U.S. mailing address, telephone number, and
   network mailbox for DDN users who are registered in the NIC database.

   This server, together with the corresponding WHOIS Database can also
   deliver online look-up of individuals or their online mailboxes,
   network organizations, DDN nodes and associated hosts, and TAC
   telephone numbers.  The service is designed to be user-friendly and
   the information is delivered in human-readable format.  DCA strongly
   encourages network hosts to provide their users with access to this
   network service.


   DCA requests that each individual with a directory on an ARPANET or
   MILNET host, who is capable of passing traffic across the DoD
   Internet, be registered in the NIC WHOIS Database.  MILNET TAC users
   must be registered in the database.  To register, send via electronic
   mail to REGISTRAR@SRI-NIC.ARPA your full name, middle initial, U.S.
   mailing address (including mail stop and full explanation of
   abbreviations and acronyms), ZIP code, telephone (including Autovon
   and FTS, if available), and one network mailbox.  Contact the DDN
   Network Information Center, REGISTRAR@SRI-NIC.ARPA or (800) 235-3155,
   for assistance with registration.

Harrenstien & Stahl & Feinler                                   [Page 1]

RFC 954                                                     October 1985


   To access the NICNAME/WHOIS server:

      Connect to the SRI-NIC service host at TCP service port 43

      Send a single "command line", ending with <CRLF> (ASCII CR and

      Receive information in response to the command line.  The server
      closes its connection as soon as the output is finished.


   NICNAME is the global name for the user program, although many sites
   have chosen to use the more familiar name of "WHOIS".  There are
   versions of the NICNAME user program for TENEX, TOPS-20, and UNIX.
   The TENEX and TOPS-20 programs are written in assembly language
   (FAIL/MACRO), and the UNIX version is written in C. They are easy to
   invoke, taking one argument which is passed directly to the NICNAME
   server at SRI-NIC.  Contact NIC@SRI-NIC.ARPA for copies of the


   A command line is normally a single name specification.  Note that
   the specification formats will evolve with time; the best way to
   obtain the most recent documentation on name specifications is to
   give the server a command line consisting of "?<CRLF>" (that is, a
   question-mark alone as the name specification).  The response from
   the NICNAME server will list all possible formats that can be used.
   The responses are not currently intended to be machine-readable; the
   information is meant to be passed back directly to a human user.  The
   following three examples illustrate the use of NICNAME as of October


      Command line: ?

      Please enter a name or a NIC handle, such as "Smith" or "SRI-NIC".
      Starting with a period forces a name-only search; starting with
      exclamation point forces handle-only.  Examples:

Harrenstien & Stahl & Feinler                                   [Page 2]

RFC 954                                                     October 1985

         Smith     [looks for name or handle SMITH]
         !SRI-NIC  [looks for handle SRI-NIC only]
         .Smith, John
                   [looks for name JOHN SMITH only]

      Adding "..." to the argument will match anything from that point,
      e.g. "ZU..." will match ZUL, ZUM, etc.

      To search for mailboxes, use one of these forms:

         Smith@    [looks for mailboxes with username SMITH]
         @Host     [looks for mailboxes on HOST]
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