Posted by Matt Mazur (@mhmazur)
Did you know that VeriSign publishes a list of all the active .COM and .NET domain names and their respective name servers in what's known as a zone file? They do and actually offer access to the public so that folks can download and analyze the contents on their own.
While the application process to obtain access might seem daunting at first, it's actually not that bad. I recently applied and was approved for access only five days after I faxed in the paperwork. This post is about the application process and what you need to do to download the zone files for yourself.
The TLD Zone File Access Program
VeriSign has a program where you can apply for FTP access to download the zone files for the Top Level Domains (TLD) that they oversee. There's one access program for accessing the .COM and .NET zone files and another for accessing the .NAME zone file. In this post I'll focus on .COM/.NET access, though the .NAME application process is identical.
You can read the details of the program at the TLD Zone File Access Program homepage, though I'll go step by step through actual process below.
1. Download the appropriate forms
There are two forms that you have to fill out and fax over to VeriSign in order to get access to the zone files:
Download both of these onto your computer.
2. Complete the Access Agreement
The Access Agreement, at 5 pages, is the longer of the two forms though the majority of it is just terms and conditions which you must agree to so that VeriSign knows you're going to use your zone file access responsibly.
Here's an example of how to fill out the user information section:
A few notes:
- Take some time to read the terms and make sure you understand them so you avoid trouble down the road.
- If you don't have your own company I would just put N/A and submit it without a company name. If you get disapproved because of this please let me know.
- If you don't have your own fax number just put N/A (I did and my application was still approved).
- For host machine name I used my computer name and my public IP address, though changing both after the fact did not seem to affect my ability to access the zone file FTP site. If you're not sure what your computer name is you can read up on it on Google and to find out your IP address check out the aptly name MyIPAddress.com
Here's an example of how to fill out the last section:
When you're done filling out the agreement electronically, print it out and sign it.
2. Complete the User Request
The second form is short and is where you explain why you want zone file access:
When you're done print out the completed user request.
3. Fax both documents to VeriSign
If you have access to a fax machine, send both documents to 1-703-948-3978.
If you do not have a fax machine, I highly recommend checking out HelloFax, which lets you upload and fax up to 5 documents for free.
4. Wait while your application is processed
I faxed both documents via HelloFax on a Monday and received a call from a friendly female VeriSign employee that Saturday. She gave me my FTP user name and password and told me I was good to go (and I also received a signed hardcopy of my user agreement about a week after that).
5. Accessing the zone file FTP server
Once you log in you should see something like this:
The .COM zone file is named
com.zone.gz which you are now free to download and unzip using gunzip. Be forewarned though, the compressed .com zone file 2.04 GB which uncompressed is a whopping 8.48 GB.
Here's what the beginning of the zone file should look like:
In the next post I'll talk about how to go about intelligently analyzing this gargantuan file.
If you run into any snags during your application process please drop me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know so I can keep this tutorial updated.