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  • How to find E-mail addresses

    Dear Biomch-L subscribers,

    If you wish to contact someone by E-mail, please try to find
    their address without posting to Biomch-L. Most of the 1100
    subscribers are not interested in reading these requests.
    Instead, you can check the list of subscribers (send 'rev
    biomch-l (countries' to or use one of
    the E-mail address directory services.

    And there is still the possibility to initiate a contact by
    telephone or regular mail, and ask someone for their E-mail
    address. If there is no other possibility, you could post to
    Biomch-L, but please explain that you tried other methods.

    Appended to this message is an overview of methods to obtain
    E-mail addresses.

    -- Ton van den Bogert, Biomch-L moderator




    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."

    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 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

    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).

    Unfortunately, the maintainer of the "Inter-Network Mail Guide"
    posts it very erratically. If you can't find it in comp.mail.misc or
    in the archives described below, you can try contacting
    its maintainer, J.J. Chew , and asking
    him about its availability. Please do NOT contact me if you can't
    find it; I don't have a copy of it if it isn't in the

    *. 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

    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

    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: 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 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 ( and run the command "whois" once you
    are logged in (help is available). Alternatively, you can issue a
    single command to the ( whois server by
    typing "telnet whois" ("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.

    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
    "") 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 runs a "whois" database, with RIPE and EUnet information, on
    ""; it is close to the European counterpart to
    "", although its contents are focused less on the
    military and more on the people who are active in the computer
    networking administration and research in Europe.

    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.

    *. 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
    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 "" 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.

    - 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 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 "" that can get mail to most
    AT&T employees using their names as addresses. You can send mail to
    "" or to "". 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

    - 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 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 (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

    *. 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
    / on 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
    For more information about WAIS, see above.

    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 "" 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

    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 pub/cs/distribs/netfind.

    People without a Sun on which to run Netfind on can telnet to 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 was developed by Mike Schwartz
    and Panos Tsirigotis .

    *. Knowbot Information Service

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

    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
    to netaddress@host (e.g. 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.

    *. 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 --

    If all the methods above have failed, you can consider posting a
    message to asking for help locating your target.
    Before doing so, however, you should read the "Tips on using" 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
    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 and Networks
    by Donnalyn Frey and Rick Adams
    ISBN 0-937175-15-3
    (published by O'Reilly, E-mail
    (current edition published in January 1991; $27.95 cover

    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 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]

    Subject: July 1992 Inter-Network Mail Guide
    Newsgroups: news.newusers.questions

    [If this posting isn't available, a more up-to-date one may
    be. Use the "send usenet/news.newusers.questions/index"
    command to get an index from the mail server, or just "ls
    /pub/usenet/news.newusers.questions" in anonymous ftp.]

    Subject: Tips on using [l.m. 13/09/92]

    [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 ( in the files:


    Also available from 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.newusers.questions/July_1992_Inter-Network_Mail_Guide
    send usenet/[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

    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
    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
    Robert Ullmann
    Edward Vielmetti
    Peter M. Weiss
    Bill Wells
    Bill Wohler
    Peter J. Woodrow

    Jonathan Kamens Geer Zolot Associates jik@GZA.COM