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Archive-name: finding-addresses

Version: $Id: finding_addresses,v 1.86 1993/09/01 12:49:44 jik Exp $


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 prior consent, even if the address is publicly available using one of the techniques described below or some other technique. 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 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 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 do. * 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 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.

A note about the Internet Gopher

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, a pointer to which is located at the end of this message.


College Email Addresses*.

The postings whose subjects start with "FAQ: College Email Addresses" in the soc.college newsgroup describe 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. 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).

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.

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 matches. 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 usenet-addresses/help".

NIC.DDN.MIL 'whois' database*.

The "whois" database on NIC.DDN.MIL contains the addresses of many military personnel. It also used to contain the addresses of some administrators of non-military networks and of some "prominent net.personalities," but those have now been moved to the "whois" database on WHOIS.INTERNIC.NET. If your target is active on the Internet, he may be in one of these NICs' databases. If your system has the "whois" program, you can use that to query a NIC database. If not, but you have Internet access, you can telnet to nic.ddn.mil (whois.internic.net) and run the command "whois" once you are logged in (help is available). Alternatively, you can issue a single command to the nic.ddn.mil (whois.internic.net) whois server by typing "telnet nic.ddn.mil whois" ("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 "service@nic.ddn.mil" ("whois@whois.internic.net") to query the "whois" database; send a message with "help" in the body to find out more information. Note, furthermore, that 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). *. 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 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.

Other directory services*.

There are several other directory services you may be able to use to search for your target. - 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 he/she 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, 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. - 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.ptt.nl 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 runs a mailer on the host "att.com" that can get mail to most AT&T employees using their names as addresses. You can send mail to "lastname@att.com" or to "firstname.lastname@att.com". 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 "whitepages@wp.psi.com". - In Australia, there are a number of methods you can use to find someone connected to AARNet. (a) There is an X.500 white pages service, accessible via a public access account on wp.adelaide.edu.au. To use it, log in as "fred" and select a user agent to run ("de" is probably the easiest). You can also send queries by mail to whitepages@wp.adelaide.edu.au (sending the query "help" will return instructions). (b) There is a netfind access point on Archie.AU (userid=netfind). (c) A number of sites provide information via finger and whois. - 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 Gopher to nstn.ns.ca.

Finding a host name and asking someone there for help*.

If you know the organization, company, or whatever at which your target's account is likely to be located, then you might be able to get your hands on the host name of a machine at that location. Once you've done that, you can usually write to someone responsible for E-mail support at the site and ask for help finding the address you are seeking. There are three main sources from which you can get host names. The first is the NIC "whois" database, which contains site and organization information as well as information about individuals. For more information about using it, see above. Organization entries in the NIC database will usually list an administrative, technical and/or zone contact person, with his/her address, to whom you can write. You can also write to "postmaster" at almost any Internet host to get in touch with someone responsible for E-mail. The second is a network directory published by the University of Texas. Although it hasn't been updated in a few years, it still provides a useful list of many site names. It is available for anonymous ftp from several different locations, including /net.directory/1988.netbook on emx.utexas.edu. It is BIG, so you might not have room to store it locally, unless you ask someone in charge to set up some space for it. You should NOT transfer it to /tmp every time you need it, or something like that; that's a horrible waste of network bandwidth. Contact people are usually listed in the site entries in the net directory, but you might want to try "postmaster" first. This directory is superseded by the book "The user's directory of computer networks," whose bibliography information is provided in the "References" section below. Of course, you have to pay for the book, and you can't grep dead trees, but it's probably more up-to-date than the University of Texas directory. The third is the UUCP maps in the comp.mail.maps newsgroup. See the posting "UUCP map for README" in that directory for more information. You can grep in the news spool or use your news reader's search facilities to search for a particular string (e.g. an organization name) in the comp.mail.maps postings. Each UUCP map entry lists the contact person for the entry. You can also search the UUCP maps by connecting to the "uumap" WAIS database on port 210 of wais.cic.net. For more information about WAIS, see above. You can also search UUCP maps using the University of California at Berkeley's Netinfo service (which also supports other services, such as looking up IP addresses for hosts on the Internet). You connect to it at port 117 of netinfo.berkeley.edu, e.g. on some systems, "telnet netinfo.berkeley.edu 117". The "ufind", "ufile", "uhost" and "upath" commands are used to look up information in the UUCP maps. For more information about Netinfo, connect to it and type "?". Once you've got a host name and the person to contact, you need to figure out how to get the mail there, if it's on a network you don't know how to reach. See the "Inter-Network Mail Guide" posting referenced above if you need help with that. If you do go this route, make sure you provide as much information as you can about the person whose address you are seeking; remember that the more detailed (and polite!) you are, the more likely it is that the person you are contacting will be able to help you. Remember, too, that the person you are contacting is probably very busy, and responding to requests like yours is probably not one of his/her highest priorities, so be patient.

Using "finger"*.

If you've found a potential host name for your target using one of the other methods described here, and if you have direct access to the Internet, then you may be able to use the "finger" program/protocol to look up your target at a remote site. Many sites support finger servers that will do first-name, last-name and/or user-name searches through their user space. For example, the machine "mit.edu" supports a directory of all staff and students at MIT; that directory can be searched using finger by last name or by user name, and other parameters can be used to restrict the search as well. To finger someone at another site, you generally type "finger name@host". If this doesn't work for you, you should check with someone locally to find more more information about if it's possible to finger from your site, and if so, how to do it.


Netfind is a "white pages" service that allows you to query one service and have it search several other address databases of various sorts for addresses matching your query. It is a program for SunOS workstations and requires your computer to be directly connected to the Internet. The source code is available by anonymous FTP from ftp.cs.colorado.edu, in pub/cs/distribs/netfind. People without a Sun on which to run Netfind on can telnet to bruno.cs.colorado.edu and log in as "netfind" (with no password). There is a mailing list where new releases of netfind will be announced; you can subscribe by sending mail to netfind-users-request@cs.colorado.edu. Netfind was developed by Mike Schwartz and Panos Tsirigotis . *. Knowbot Information Service The "Knowbot Information Service" (KIS) is another white pages service. Two hosts running KIS servers are nri.reston.va.us and sol.bucknell.edu. Either can be reached on the Internet via telnet at port 185 (e.g. "telnet nri.reston.va.us 185"), or via electronic mail to netaddress@host (e.g. netaddress@nri.reston.va.us). For more information about Knowbot, use the "man" command after connecting via telnet or in the body of your E-mail message. In addition, nri.reston.va.us' KIS server can be reached using the Internet "whois" protocol described above.

Searching LISTSERV mailing lists*.

Many sites around the network are running the VM/CMS LISTSERV package for managing mailing lists. If you have some reason to believe that a particular user may be a member of a mailing list on a LISTSERV site, you can ask that LISTSERV to send you a membership list and search it for your target. To do this, send mail to listserv@host (if "host" is a BITNET host, try using listserv@host.bitnet; if that doesn't work, you'll have to ask someone at your site how to send mail tol BITNET hosts). In the body of your message, include the command "review list-name", where "list-name" is the name of the mailing list you wish to search. If you don't know what LISTSERV is and dont' know of any LISTSERV sites or mailing lists, then this technique probably isn't worth bothering with.

Direct contact*.

If you have a paper mail address or telephone number for your target, call them or write to them and ask for an E-mail address. In that case, you might encounter the somewhat common situation where your target knows he has an E-mail address, but he doesn't know what it is. If this happens to you, then give him your E-mail address and ask him to send you mail (and if he can't figure out how, tell him to get someone at his site to help). The odds are that when you get his message, it'll contain a valid return address in it.

Get more help locally*.

Often, the postmaster at your site (or whomever is responsible at your site for answering mail-related questions) has a large amount of knowledge that will help him to help you find the answer to your question. If you have been unable to find the answer for yourself, check with people locally and see if one of them can help you out.

The last resort -- soc.net-people*.

If all the methods above have failed, you can consider posting a message to soc.net-people asking for help locating your target. Before doing so, however, you should read the "Tips on using soc.net-people" posting in that newsgroup. If it has expired, you can get a copy using the instructions below (note that the name in the instructions below may change when a new version with a new date is posted, so you may need to ask for an index of the soc.net-people archive to find out the name of the most recent version). Note that this is listed as THE last resort, to be tried even later than using a telephone number or paper mail address. Any posting to the USENET uses the resources of the sites on the USENET and of the networks that carry it; certainly, the total cost of transporting a USENET message is more than the cost of a stamp or a short phone call. Since the benefit gained is to you and not to the USENET as a whole, you should avoid posting if you possibly can.


If you want to learn more about computer networks and how they interact with each other, these books and articles might be interesting and useful to you: !%@:: A Directory of Electronic Mail Addressing & Networks by Donnalyn Frey and Rick Adams ISBN 1-56592-031-7 (published by O'Reilly, E-mail nuts@ora.com) (current edition published in August 1993; $24.95 cover price) The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide, by John S. Quarterman, Digital Press, Bedford, MA, 1990. $50. Digital order number EY-C176E-DP-SS, Digital Press ISBN 155558-033-5, Prentice-Hall ISBN 0-13-565607-9. ``Strategies for Finding People on Networks,'' by John S. Quarterman, Matrix News, Vol. 1, No. 6, pg. 3, Matrix Information and Directory Services, Austin, Texas, September 1991. The user's directory of computer networks, ed. Tracy L. LaQuey, Digital Press, Bedford, MA, 1990. Digital order number EY-C200E-DP, ISBN 1-55558-047-5. Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide, by Brendan Kehoe, Prentice Hall, July 1992. ISBN 0-13-010778-6. (This is the second edition. The first edition is available for free on-line. To find out how to get it, send mail to archive-server@cs.widener.edu with "send zen hints" in the body of the message.)

Useful USENET Postings

Subject: Gopher (comp.infosystems.gopher) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Newsgroups: comp.infosystems.gopher,news.answers Subject: FAQ: College Email Addresses 1/3 [Monthly posting] Subject: FAQ: College Email Addresses 2/3 [Monthly posting] Subject: FAQ: College Email Addresses 3/3 [Monthly posting] Newsgroups: soc.college,soc.net-people,news.answers Subject: Updated Inter-Network Mail Guide Newsgroups: comp.mail.misc,alt.bbs.lists,alt.internet.services,comp.misc,comp.answers,alt.answers,news.answers Subject: Tips on using soc.net-people [l.m. 13/09/92] Newsgroups: soc.net-people [Same as above -- check the archives for a newer version if this one isn't available.] Available in the indicated USENET newsgroup(s), or via anonymous ftp from rtfm.mit.edu ( in the files: /pub/usenet/news.answers/gopher-faq /pub/usenet/news.answers/mail/college-email/part1 /pub/usenet/news.answers/mail/college-email/part2 /pub/usenet/news.answers/mail/college-email/part3 /pub/usenet/news.answers/mail/inter-network-guide /pub/usenet/soc.net-people/Tips_on_using_soc.net-people_[l.m._13_09_92] Also available from mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu by sending a mail message containing any or all of: send usenet/news.answers/gopher-faq send usenet/news.answers/mail/college-email/part1 send usenet/news.answers/mail/college-email/part2 send usenet/news.answers/mail/college-email/part3 send usenet/news.answers/mail/inter-network-guide send usenet/soc.net-people/Tips_on_using_soc.net-people_[l.m._13_09_92] Send a message containing "help" to get general information about the mail server.


Comments about, suggestions about or corrections to this posting are welcomed. If you would like to ask me to change this posting in some way, the method I appreciate most is for you to actually make the desired modifications to a copy of the posting, and then to send me the modified posting, or a context diff between my posted version and your modified version (if you do the latter, make sure to include in your mail the "Version:" line from my posted version). Submitting changes in this way makes dealing with them easier for me and helps to avoid misunderstandings about what you are suggesting. These people provided useful comments, information and/or suggestions: Randall Atkinson Ed Blackman B. Blissenbach Mark Brader Bruno Chatras Jim Cheetham Huang Chih-Hsien Mark-Jason Dominus Ralph E. Droms Donald E. Eastlake, III Marshall Gene Flax Arthur K. Ho Patrick Hoepfner Dan Hoey Kjetil Torgrim Homme Eric Ideler Ivar Mar Jonsson Dan Kegel Jonathan Kochmer Patt Leonard Jerry Martin Skip Montanaro Eric de Mund Paul D. Nanson Jerry Peek Edward P. Piecewicz Tim Pozar Mark Prior John S. Quarterman Ellen Keyne Seebacher Rolf E. Sonneveld Donald.Stoye@Eng.Sun.COM Robert Ullmann Edward Vielmetti Peter M. Weiss Bill Wells Bill Wohler Peter J. Woodrow
Jonathan Kamens | OpenVision Technologies, Inc. | jik@security.ov.com

Last-modified: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 07:50:59 GMT
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