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Finding Someone on the Net

So you have a friend and you want to find out if he has an Internet account to which you can write? The quickest way may be to just pick up the phone, call him and ask him. Although there are a variety of "white pages" services available on the Internet, they are far from complete -- college students, users of commercial services such as CompuServe and many Internet public-access sites, and many others simply won't be listed. Major e-mail providers are working on a universal directory system, but that could be some time away.

In the meantime, a couple of "white pages" services might give you some leads, or even just entertain you as you look up famous people or long-lost acquaintances.

The whois directory provides names, e-mail and postal mail address and often phone numbers for people listed in it. To use it, telnet to internic.net. No log-on is needed. The quickest way to use it is to type

whois name
at the prompt, where "name" is the last name or organization name you're looking for.

Another service worth trying, especially since it seems to give beginners fewer problems, is the Knowbot Information Service reachable by telnet at info.cnri.reston.va. us 185. Again, no log-on is needed. This service actually searches through a variety of other "white pages" systems, including the user directory for MCIMail. To look for somebody, type

query name

`name' is the last name of the person you're looking for. You can get details of other commands by hitting a question mark at the prompt.

You can also use the knowbot system by e-mail. Start a message to <netaddress@info.cnri. reston.va.us> Leave the "subject:" line blank. As your message, write `query name' for the simplest type of search. If you want details on more complex searches, add another line: `man'

Apart from the previously mentioned methods, there exists a periodical posting on Usenet entitled How to find people's E-mail addresses that is edited and maintained by Jonathan I. Kamens. It lists several alternatives in order of success probability, to enable everybody to find everyone.

Just get `/pub/usenet/news.answers/finding-addresses' from rtfm.mit.edu. See section FTP (Mining the Net, part II) to find out how to access this server. It's cross-posted each month to comp.mail.misc, soc.net-people, news.newusers.questions, and the respective *.answers newsgroups.

The most interesting way described therein is a way to search via the Usenet name server. This is a system at MIT that keeps track of the e-mail addresses of everybody who posts a Usenet message that appears at MIT. It works by e-mail. Send a message to <mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu>. You can leave the `Subject:' line blank. As your message, write `send usenet-addresses/lastname' where "lastname" is the last name of the person you're looking for.

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