Website Detective 102 or How To: Figure Out Who Made A Site

For one reason or another, it’s often interesting to find out who’s responsible for a website. For example, when I find sites a great website I like to dig around the designer’s portfolio and look at their other work for ideas and inspiration. Example 2, in pervious jobs I’ve had to track down content thieves. Maybe you’re part of a vigilante mob, and need to figure how where to send a bunch of pizza. Whatever.

Due to a whole slew of – perfectly legitimate reasons – it’s fairly uncommon for a website to post clearly identify the parties reasonable for design, development, hosting, support, etc. It can be a little difficult to figure out sometimes.

Typically when trying to figure out who made a website I take the following steps (in order):

  1. Google the domain name (in quotes). If the site is listed in the body of the portfolio, it’ll often show up in the first page of results. You could probably throw other keywords – like “portfolio” or “design” or something – into the search. I usually don’t bother.
  2. Take a look at the HTML, Javascript and CSS source. Sometimes the comments contain copyright notices, author names or other clues. companyname.js is always a good one.
  3. Do a whois lookup of the domain. Sometimes the designer will be listed as one of the contacts or the design company will actually run their own nameserver. But with domain privacy services this is becoming less fruitful.
  4. When that fails I load up robtex.com. Among a variety of other tools, the site has a utility (under the “shared” tab at the top) that lists domains sharing the same IP, sharing the same name server, sharing the same mail server. If you’re lucky, one of those domains will be designer.

Number 4 was my old pro-tip that made me feel smarter than everyone else online.

But…

Recently I’ve discovered Google Analytics ID databases.

A Google Analytics ID is the part of Google Analytics tracking code that identifies a website, it sits in the tracking javascript running on every website using Google Analytics. The look like “UA-#####-#”. Each site has a unique ID, except when you set up a website’s profile under a parent account, the first part of the ID is shared by all the child accounts. So, UA-12345-1 and UA-12345-2 are in the same account, probably controlled by the same person or company.

Evidently, there are a number of services that crawl the intertube recording which Google Analytics IDs are found on which sites. ReverseInternet.com seems to be a good one, but if that fails, you can always Google the ID (in quotes).

TL;DR: This is how I found out isitchristmas.com was run by @klondike, before he tweeted about it.

  • Guest

    There are also Adsense pub id databases, services like spyonweb.com will show you all the sites by adsense id

  • ohryan

    Good call, have never seen that site before. Nicely presented amalgamation of a few of the tools I’ve found before. Thanks!

  • Ari

    Hi there. I need to find out who created a website or who the author of this website is. They’ve recently moved to wordpress.com, but I cannot seem to find their contact info anywhere. I’ve already tried WhoIs, but the names of the owners are “private” and cannot be seen. Please help!