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FAQ: How to find people's E-mail addresses

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Archive-name: finding-addresses
Version: $Id: finding.n,v 2.42 2001/03/20 19:29:26 dalamb Exp $

Copyright 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 Jonathan I. Kamens
Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 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
An older version of this FAQ is available in French at

*                                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 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: Tue Jan 23 2001

  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.
  My list below is fairly short; there is a longer list at Electro-Byte
  Technologies at
    * at  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  as well
    * Find mE-Mail at  advertises itself as
      the place to post your new e-mail address, for your old e-mail friends.
    * Four11 at  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
    * Fresh Address at is
      a free worldwide registry of old and working email addresses.  People
      can register their current address along with any additional working and
      obsolete email addresses, so friends can find them even if they only
      know an old address.
    * Yahoo People Search at  which
      currently uses Four11.
    * InfoSpace at  has about 200 million
      worldwide telephone numbers, and also provides search for e-mail
    * Internet Address Finder at  has about 4.5
      million listings as of July 1996.
    * MESA (MetaEmailSearchAgent) at 
      allows you to submit a single query to multiple search engines,
      including Bigfoot, DejaNews, Four11, IAF, Infospace, Swissinfo, and  You get to specify how long to wait, and it might time out
      returning no hits.
    * WhoWhere?  at  has directories for e-mail,
      phone numbers, and personal Web pages.  You can search based on
      affiliations like occupation, school, or interests.
    * Switchboard at  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  is a white pages and yellow pages
      directory service that encourages people to update their listing to
      include e-mail addresses.
    * Phonebooke at  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
    * Bigfoot at  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 
  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: Tue Jan 23 2001

  There are a few internet white pages based on nationality:
    * Australia at .
    * Austria at .
    * Belgium at .
    * Brazil at .
    * Dennmark: (Danish) at  (English) at
    * France at
    * Germany: German Telecom at ,  at
      ,  at .
    * Hungary at .  (people with some
      connection to...)
    * Israel at .
    * Italy at .
    * Slovenia at .
    * South Africa: free at 
      (a frames-based page that I had trouble loading), commercial at
       (pay only if found)
    * Sweden at .
    * Switzerland at .

o                                          Changed: Tue Feb 23 1999

  LookUP! at  merged with at
   in the spring of 1996.

*                             Directory Protocols                            *

o PH and WebPH                                        Changed: Thu Apr  1 1999

  PH, documented at , is a system for
  managing "phone books."  WebPH at
   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 , 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 might have a gopher server, 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

*                              Other Techniques                              *

o College and School Email Addresses

  The College Email FAQ at
   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 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

  ClassMates at  lets secondary school alumni
  freely register their e-mail addresses;  the database covers US, Canada, and
  American Overseas high schools (2 million entries as of August, 1999).
  Searches require a fee.  Alumni.NET at  has a
  smaller database (750,000 as of August 1999) but does not charge for

  Curious Cat Educated Connections at 
  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

  To query the database, send an E-mail message to
  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: and  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 (or for U.S.  military
  sites) for the given names. For example,
    whois -h  
  where  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
  and running whois and host there, or to if you are looking for
  U.S. military personnel.  Alternatively, you can issue a single command to
  the server by typing "telnet 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 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 "")
  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 and it will try to deliver e-mail if the person
  has registered an e-mail address.  You can also telnet to 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 ""; it is a
  European counterpart to "".

  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

  In addition to E-mail addresses for individuals, "whois" servers often also
  contain contact information about domains.  For example, asking's server for information about "" 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 at
  , 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 that forward to your current real mailbox.  Whatever your real
  address is, you can be found at and mailed through 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

  Other sources of permanent e-mail addresses include Yahoo at
   and ActiveNames at

  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 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 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 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, 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  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.

  AT&T Bell Labs runs a mailer on the host "" 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 "" or to
  "", 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; 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 .

o 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.  See the section on below.

  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.

o Using 'finger'                                      Changed: Mon Sep  2 1996

  Finger is a user information lookup program.  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.  To
  finger someone at another site, you generally type "finger name@host".
  Andrew Starr maintains the Finger FAQ at
  .  Some sites provide Web-based
  interfaces to finger, such as Middlebury College at

o Netfind

  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, in

  People without a Sun on which to run Netfind on can telnet to any of the
  following Netfind servers and log in as "netfind" (with no password):       University of Colorado, Boulder             Nat. Council for Techn. & Scien.
				Research Venezuela             InterNIC Directory and DB Services,
				S. Plainfield, NJ          Technet Unit, Singapore           McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada          Catholic University of Chile, Santiago        Imperial College, London, England      University of Minnesota, Minneapolis              OpenConnect Systems, Dallas, Texas            Liberec University of Technology,
				Czech Republic                   Korea Network Information Center, Taejon, Korea                Academy of Sciences, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia         University of Alabama at Birmingham

  There is a mailing list where new releases of netfind will be announced; you
  can subscribe by sending mail to

  Netfind was developed by Mike Schwartz  and Panos
  Tsirigotis .

o Knowbot Information Service

  The "Knowbot Information Service" (KIS) is another white pages service.

  Two hosts running KIS servers are and  Either can be reached on the Internet via telnet
  at port 185 (e.g. "telnet 185"), or via electronic
  mail ( or  For
  more information about Knowbot, use the "man" command after connecting via
  telnet or in the body of your E-mail message.  In addition,' KIS server can be reached using the Internet "whois"
  protocol described above.

o Searching LISTSERV mailing lists                    Changed: Tue Jul  4 1995

  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

  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 to BITNET hosts).  In the body of your
  message, include the command "review list-name", where "list-name" is the

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