Archive-name: finding-addresses
Version: $Id: finding.n,v 2.29 1999/03/11 15:03:46 dalamb Exp dalamb $
URL: http://www.cs.queensu.ca/FAQs/email/finding.html

Copyright 1991,1992,1993,1994 Jonathan I. Kamens
Copyright 1994,1995,1996,1997,1998,1999 David Alex Lamb.
See end of file for copying permission and mirror sites.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about finding e-mail addresses. This FAQ is
available on the World-Wide Web at
URL: http://www.cs.queensu.ca/FAQs/email/finding.html  
An older version of this FAQ is available in French at
URL: http://web.fdn.fr/fdn/doc-misc/find-e-mail-add/  

* Introduction *

A question which appears frequently on the Usenet is, "I know someone's
name, and I think they might have an electronic mail address somewhere. How
can I find it?"

There are many different techniques for doing this. Several of them are
discussed below. Your best bet is to try the pertinent methods in this
posting in the order in which they are listed (well, sort of; at the very
least, please try all the pertinent methods which do not involve posting
queries to soc.net-people before resorting to that).

I've listed "Direct contact" near the end of this list because, for some
reason, people seem to be reluctant to call people on the telephone or write
them a paper-mail letter asking what their E-mail address is, as long as there
is even a remote chance that it might be found without asking. This attitude
is somewhat counterproductive, since in most cases, it is much easier to get
someone's E-mail address by asking them than it is by following the other
methods outlined below. Furthermore, even if you do manage to find an E-mail
address using one of the on-line methods described below, it is not guaranteed
that the person at the other end of the line checks that address regularly or
even that it is the correct address.

Therefore, if you do have a telephone number that isn't too expensive to
call, or if you have a paper-mail address and aren't in too much of a hurry,
you can probably save yourself a lot of trouble by skipping all of the on-line
methods listed below and going directly to "Direct contact."

* Avoid public distribution of individuals' addresses *

It is considered rude to widely distribute (e.g., in a Usenet posting) a
person's E-mail address without his/her prior consent, even if the address is
publicly available using one of the techniques described below or some other

It might seem that having one's E-mail address listed in a publicly
accessible database is equivalent to distributing it, but this is not the case
in practice, for three primary reasons:
* Some people may not be aware that their addresses are available for others
to locate. For example, the majority of Usenet posters are unaware of the
database of Usenet E-mail addresses mentioned below.
* When some effort is required to locate a person's address (e.g., using the
techniques described below), only people who have a specific reason to
send mail to him/her will go to the trouble. However, if the address is
mentioned in a Usenet posting read by thousands of people, no effort is
required to obtain it, and many more people will send him/her mail. Most
people with E-mail addresses are not accustomed to receiving E-mail from
strangers or large amounts of E-mail, and they may not be happy if they
* As unwanted E-mail becomes more common, people will start to remove their
addresses from public databases, which means that it will become more
difficult to find people's addresses for legitimate reasons.

In summary, if you want to advertise someone's E-mail address, get his/her
permission before you do it. Besides, if you're going to advertise an
address, it's a good idea to make sure it works first, and writing to it for
permission is a good way to do that.

* Web Searches *

o E-mail and phone directories Changed: Sat Dec 21 1996

Several organizations let you search for addresses by filling in and
submitting a form from your Web browser. In many cases these services
populated their databases by scanning for addresses in USENET news postings.
* MESA (MetaEmailSearchAgent) at URL: http://mesa.rrzn.uni-hannover.de/
allows you to submit a single query to multiple search engines,
including Bigfoot, DejaNews, Four11, IAF, Infospace, Swissinfo, and
suchen.de. You get to specify how long to wait, and it might time out
returning no hits.
* 555-1212.com at URL: http://www.555-1212.com/   is an on-line directory
of telephone numbers, compiled from the three major telephone
information vendors. Unlike many other search engines, it has few
graphics to slow you down. It provides several other directory services
listed at URL: http://www.555-1212.com/welcome.html   as well
* Four11 at URL: http://www.four11.com/  is a commercial online directory
service with over 10 million listings (as of August 1997) All Internet
users are provided free basic access, which includes a free listing and
free searching. You can also access the service by sending mail to
* Yahoo People Search at URL: http://www.yahoo.com/search/people/   which
currently uses Four11.
* InfoSpace at URL: http://www.infospace.com   has about 200 million
worldwide telephone numbers, and also provides search for e-mail
* WhoWhere? at URL: http://www.whowhere.com   has directories for e-mail,
phone numbers, and personal Web pages. You can search based on
affiliations like occupation, school, or interests.
* POPULUS at URL: http://www.populus.net  asks people register with them,
providing personal information such as interests, college attended, and
date of birth, then lets people search on this information.
* Internet Address Finder at URL: http://www.iaf.net/   has about 4.5
million listings as of July 1996.
* Find mE-Mail at URL: http://www.findmemail.com/   advertises itself as
the place to post your new e-mail address, for your old e-mail friends.
* Switchboard at URL: http://www.switchboard.com/   is a Web-based
telephone directory; its names are compiled from published white pages
directories and other publicly-available sources. If you register a
password with Switchboard, you can add additional information to your
listing, including your email address. You can arrange to hide your
email address (or other parts of your listing), while still allowing
people to email you a brief note via Switchboard.
* AnyWho at URL: http://www.anywho.com/  is a white pages and yellow pages
directory service that encourages people to update their listing to
include e-mail addresses.
* Phonebooke at URL: http://www.phonebooke.com/   lets you search for
people in the USA by name or phone number, and provides forms to
interface with many other search engines, including Four11, the AT&T
Internet directory, NYNEX' Big Yellow, and 555-1212.com.
* Bigfoot at URL: http://www.bigfoot.com/  has about 100 million white
pages listings and 8 million e-mail listings as of December 1996. The
company focuses on value-added services for e-mail users, complementing
those of ISPs.

o Altavista Created: Fri Jul 5 1996

Digital's Altavista search engine at URL: http://www.altavista.com
indexes Web pages and Usenet postings. If you suspect the person you are
looking for has created a web page or posted to Usenet, you may be able to
find them this way.

o National white pages Changed: Thu Dec 12 1996

There are a few internet white pages based on nationality:
* Australia at URL: http://www.whitepages.com.au/ .
* Belgium at URL: http://www.advalvas.be/white .
* Brazil at URL: http://www.supermail.com.br/ .
* Finland at URL: http://www.kotka.fi/ .
* France et La Francophonie at URL: http://www.pagesweb.com .
* Germany (German Telecom) at URL: http://www.email-service.de/ .
* Germany at URL: http://www.suchen.de/ .
* Germany at URL: http://www.finden.de/ .
* Hungary at URL: http://www.skyex.com/default1.htm . (people with some
connection to...)
* Israel at URL: http://www.ibm.net.il/WebPh .
* Italy at URL: http://www.ats.it/wpages/ .
* South Africa at URL: http://andromeda.marques.co.za/epost_s.htm . (a
frames-based page that I had trouble loading).
* Sweden at URL: http://directory.ausys.se/ecatalog/search.htm .
* Switzerland at URL: http://www.swissinfo.ch/email/ .

o lookup.com Changed: Tue Feb 23 1999

LookUP! at URL: http://www.lookup.com/  merged with Four11.com at
URL: http://www.four11.com  in the spring of 1996.

* Directory Protocols *

o PH and WebPH Changed: Thu Apr 1 1999

PH, documented at  URL: http://www.emailman.com/ph/ , is a system for
managing "phone books." WebPH at
URL: http://www.middlebury.edu/~its/Software/WebPh/   is a World-Wide Web
interface PH. If a site you are interested has installed it, you can look
up people from that site by filling in a query form. Unfortunately, there
is no convention for how to guess where to find the WebPH or PH server given
the site name.

o LDAP Created: Thu Apr 1 1999

LDAP, documented at URL: http://www.emailman.com/ldap/ , is a "Lightweight
Directory Access Protocol". PH is used more heavily at colleges and
universities; LDAP seems to be used more by commercial organizations.

* Gopher *
Gopher is an Internet-wide distributed document retrieval service. If your
site has a gopher client program, you can use it to access gopher servers
at other sites; domain X.edu might have a gopher server gopher.X.edu, but
there's no guarantee. One kind of document sites often place under gopher
is their phonebook; many phonebooks are managed through PH.

Most Gopher servers have pointers to a complete list of ph servers used by
all sorts of organizations. You can enter various criteria, in an easy-to-use
manner, and it will return the info that you didn't give (if, of course, there
are no more than 20 entries that match. This is to prevent people getting
mailing lists via the ph servers.)

Many of the on-line methods for finding addresses documented below are
easily accessible, with a consistent user interface, from the Internet Gopher
burrow at the University of Minnesota. If you are on the Internet, you may
want to try using Gopher to do your searching before going directly to any of
the methods described below. Ask someone at your site to find out if Gopher
clients are installed there. Or, to find out how to use it and/or install it
yourself, see the comp.infosystems.gopher FAQ posting at
URL: gopher://mudhoney.micro.umn.edu:70/00/Gopher.FAQ .

* Other Techniques *

o College and School Email Addresses

The College Email FAQ at
URL: http://www.cs.queensu.ca/FAQs/email/college.html   describes the account
and E-mail address policies for graduate and undergraduate students at many
universities and colleges. If you are looking for a university/college
student, check those postings for the university or college in question and
follow their instructions for finding out more.

This FAQ is also posted regularly to soc.college as a collection of postings
whose subjects start with "College Email Addresses." If the postings have
expired at your site or has not been posted recently, you can get a copy of
them using the instructions below(in the "Useful Usenet postings" section).

If the university has a PH (phonebook) server, it may be listed in the
Colleges and Universities PH server directory at
URL: http://home.cdsnet.net/~zachbo/others.html

ClassMates at URL: http://www.classmates.com   lets secondary school alumni
freely register their e-mail addresses; the database covers US, Canada, and
American Overseas high schools.

Curious Cat Educated Connections at URL: http://www.curiouscat.com/educate/
indexes colleges, high schools, and grade schools in the USA, Canada, and
Australia. You can register so that school friends can find you.

o Usenet-addresses server

If you think that your target may be on the Usenet and may have posted a
message to the Usenet at some point in the past, you might be able to find
his/her address in the Usenet address database on the machine rtfm.mit.edu.

To query the database, send an E-mail message to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu
with "send usenet-addresses/name" in the body of the message. The "name"
should be one or more space-separated words for which you want to search;
since the search is fuzzy (i.e., all of the words you specify do not have to
match), you should list all of the words you think might appear in the
address, including (for example) first and last name, possible username, and
possible components of the host name (e.g. "mit" for a person who you think
is at MIT). The case and order of the words you list are ignored.

Note that multiple requests can appear (on separate lines) in mail to the
mail server, but each request will be answered in a separate message.

In many cases, you will get a list of quite a few matching addresses, and
you will have to go through it looking for ones that may be the one you're
looking for. However, the mail server will return a maximum of only 40

Note that the usenet-addresses database is accessible via WAIS (in fact, the
script that does mail server searches is actually just a front-end to a WAIS
database) on two different hosts: rtfm.mit.edu and cedar.cic.net. In both
cases, the database is called "usenet-addresses" and is on port 210. Note
that the version on rtfm is slightly more up-to-date with respect to the
master address list than the version on cedar. If you don't know what WAIS
is, then don't worry about this paragraph; if you're curious, see the
"comp.infosystems.wais" newsgroup.

For more details about how to use the database, send the command "send

o Inter-Network Mail Guide

If you know which network/service your target has an account on (e.g.
CompuServe, Fidonet), then the "Inter-Network Mail Guide" posting in
comp.mail.misc *may* be able to provide you with some help, although it
probably will not be particularly helpful unless you have some sort of
address to start with (a small number of networks use full names as
addresses, and the posting mentions when this is the case, but it doesn't
apply in very many cases).

See the instructions below for getting a copy of this posting if it isn't
available in comp.mail.misc at your site.

o whois/nicname Changed: Sat Dec 6 1997

Whois is the internet user name directory service. It's available on some
UNIX systems as a command called "whois" or "nicname". Do
whois help
nicname -h
to get a help message. The whois and nicname programs will check the
database maintained at rs.internic.net (or nic.ddn.mil for U.S. military
sites) for the given names. For example,
nicname <name>
whois <name>
whois -h <host> <names>
where <host> is some site with a whois server. This is only useful for
people listed in the database. Many regional networks and some universities
maintain their own NICs.

You can also get some of this information by telneting to rs.internic.net
and running whois and host there, or to nic.ddn.mil if you are looking for
U.S. military personnel. Alternatively, you can issue a single command to
the whois.internic.net server by typing "telnet whois.internic.net whois" in
order to connect to it and then typing the command and hitting return; the
"help" command will return several screens full of text, so if you need
help, you should use a utility such as "tee" or "script" to capture the help
message and save it for future reference.

If you do not have Internet access, you can send mail to
whois@whois.internic.net to query the "whois" database; send a message with
"help" in the body to find out more information.

Some sites run local "whois" databases to provide information about people
inside their organizations. The only way to find out if your site runs such
a database is to ask someone locally about it (see "Get more help locally"
below), and the only way to find out about such databases at other sites
(assuming, of course, that those databases are not mentioned in any of the
other sources listed in this document) is to contact responsible individuals
at those sites and ask (see "Finding a host name and asking someone there
for help" below).

o Other whois databases

Quite a few other sites also run "whois" databases that can be connected to
over the Internet using the whois protocol (using either the "whois" program
or "telnet hostname whois" as described in the previous section). Some of
those sites are listed here, and others are listed in a separate list,
described in more detail below.

The Ohio State University runs a "whois" database (on the machine "osu.edu")
that has all of the faculty, staff, and students listed. It responds to
"whois" queries in the normal fashion, or you can just send mail to
firstname.lastname@osu.edu and it will try to deliver e-mail if the person
has registered an e-mail address. You can also telnet to osu.edu and look-
up a person. If you are unsure of the spelling this is a good way, as it
does a soundex type search so exact matches are not necessary. No password
is necessary.

RIPE (a cooperative group of several European Internet providers) runs a
"whois" database, with RIPE information, on "whois.ripe.net"; it is a
European counterpart to "whois.internic.net".

Matt H. Power of MIT mhpower@athena.mit.edu has compiled and maintains an
extensive list of sites that run "whois" servers. The file can be retrieved
via anonymous ftp from /pub/whois/whois-servers.list on sipb.mit.edu.

In addition to E-mail addresses for individuals, "whois" servers often also
contain contact information about domains. For example, asking
whois.internic.net's server for information about "mit.edu" would tell you
to look up "mit-dom" in order to get information about MIT's domain, and
doing that would give you contact information about the people responsible
for administrating that domain, including the handles of those individuals,
which you can then look up to get still more information about them.

o Other directory services

There are several other directory services you may be able to use to search
for your target.

The person you are searching for may be using Pobox.com at
URL: http://pobox.com/pobox/ , which provides permanent email forwarding
addresses You submit to a searchable database your real name and some
biographical information; you receive short, memorable email aliases at
pobox.com that forward to your current real mailbox. Whatever your real
address is, you can be found at and mailed through pobox.com. Pobox.com is
growing very quickly and has amassed a substantial database. To sign up or
find a subscriber, use the Web address or send mail to info@pobox.com

Many Bitnet sites have name servers that can be queried in one way or
another. To get a list of them with documentation, send a mail message to
listserv@bitnic.bitnet  (a.k.a listserv@bitnic.educom.edu ) with the command
"send bitnet servers" in the body of the message.

The IBM Corporate Internet Gateway provides a directory of users (which I
believe contains only IBM employees, although I'm not certain) that is
available to anyone who can send E-mail to it. If your target works for IBM
(or you suspect s/he does), then this might be useful to you.

To use it, send mail to nic@vnet.ibm.com with the command "whois lastname,
firstname" in the subject or body of the message. If you are unsure of the
spelling of the last name, use an asterisk (*) to indicate that the last
name should be treated as a prefix, rather than a complete name. The first
name is always treated as a prefix. For example, "whois Smith*, R" would
return all people with a last name starting with "Smith" and a first name
starting with "R", while "whois Smith, R" would return only those people
with exactly the last name "Smith" and a first name starting with "R".

Users of the directory are limited to 25 name searches per day. Each name
that results is counted as a separate name search. For example, a single
"whois Smith, R" that found Rodger Smith, Robert Smith, and Reginald Smith
would count as three name searches. Multiple requests may be made in a
single note provided that the number of names found does not exceed the
daily limit of 25.

RPI runs a white pages server for people interested in the field of
communications. To find out how to use it, send mail to
comserve@rpitsvm.bitnet  (or comserve@vm.its.rpi.edu ) with "help" in the body
of the message.

BITNIC (the BITNET Network Information Center) runs a name server of more
general interest. To find out how to use it, send mail to
netserv@bitnic.bitnet  (again, netserv@bitnic.educom.edu can also be used)
with "help" in the body of the message.

There is an X.500 white pages service run by UNINETT. It is accessible by
sending mail to the address Directory@UNINETT.NO   (send a message with "help"
in the subject or body to get more information). Furthermore, there is
software for UNIX available for use as a convenient interface to the
service. It is available for anonymous ftp in
ftp/directory/directory.tar.Z on the machine nac.no. Finally, if the
administrator of your site registers your organization with UNINETT
(instructions about doing so are available with the software just
mentioned), people from your site can then register in the database so that
other people can look them up in it.

KPN Research (formerly PTT Research) in the Netherlands runs a server that
you can use to look up addresses for its employees. If you know someone who
may work there, you can find out how to use the server by sending a mail
message to whois@research.kpn.com  with "help" in the body of the message.
Note that this is not a "complete" whois site; it just supports limited mail
server queries.

AT&T Bell Labs runs a mailer on the host "att.com" that can get mail to
about 400 employees in the Research Area of Bell Labs using their names as
addresses. You can send mail to lastname@att.com   or to
initials.lastname@att.com , where "initials" consists of one or more
initials separated by dots. If the name is ambiguous, you will get a bounce
message indicating several possible matches, and the appropriate address to
use for each.

Tim Pozar has set up a WAIS server that contains the FidoNet email addresses
of Sysops of FidoNet BBSs. You can access it by connecting to the
"nodelist" WAIS database on port 210 of kumr.lns.com; use the name(s) for
which you wish to search as your search keywords. See above for more
information about WAIS.

PSI runs a X.500 directory server, accessible by sending mail to

Information about hosts in the "ca" Internet domain (i.e., hosts in Canada)
Is accessible via anonymous ftp to ftp.CDNnet.CA, or by mail to archive-
server@relay.CDNnet.CA . You can get site domain names and host names, as
well as the names and addresses of contact people for individual sites. For
more information, retrieve the file /ca-domain/Introduction via anonymous
ftp, or send a mail message to the mail server with "send ca-domain
Introduction" in it. The information in this archive is also available via
the Gopher service at URL: gopher://nstn.ns.ca .