I’ve been having this error for two months, so I’ve been investigating.
I have three servers at the same hosting company, on two of those servers I cannot reach whois.com, while on the third it works normally.
I’ve contacted the hosting company, and discussed some possible causes. Most likely, some other client has been naughty with mass requests, causing whois.com to block certain ip ranges. Another possibility is that whois.com is pestering piwik specifically, as the two servers which cannot reach it run piwik while the third doesn’t. However, we have very light piwik usage, and login maybe once or twice a day, hardly something which triggers a block.
Whois.com itself is a pain to contact.
But forget my particular problem. The real problem is that piwik does a 3rd party call, and there is no good error of fall back mechanism. It can happen to anyone. It seems piwik is scraping info from whois.com, which is a doubtful practice, certainly from a stability point of view. Some things that would make it better: have one or two alternatives, detect if one doesn’t work, switch to another. Even better: use an “official” web service instead of scraping a page, ideally not a 3rd party. Personally I’d be happy if only it doesn’t time out with the error every time I load a piwik page, as it slows things down.