ICANN commenced a voluntary Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP) pilot program, to run from 5 September 2017 to 31 July 2018. RDAP enables users to access current registration data and is intended to be a replacement for the WHOIS protocol, which stores all domain name registrant information.
 
Traffic to WHOIS comes from several areas. Mostly, according to APNIC, traffic comes from “automatic systems, checking the authority over an IP address, almost certainly from firewall checks, an amount of manual data exploration by law enforcement and IPR agencies, and at the tail end, ISPs doing semi-automatic router configuration.” It’s not just about checking registration data.
 
RDAP features standardised query, response and error messages, increased security, support for internationalised scripts (non-ASCII) in reading registration data and much more. RDAP delivers the data stored in a standard and machine-readable JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format.
 
The goal of the pilot program is to develop a baseline profile (or profiles) to guide implementation, establish an implementation target date, and develop a plan for the implementation of an RDAP-based solution. Proceeding with a pilot program will provide an opportunity for Registration Data Services (RDS) operators to gain operational experience and for producers and consumers of RDS data to participate and provide valuable feedback.
 
ICANN has a community wiki page set up with more information at https://community.icann.org/display/RP/RDAP+Pilot