Blockchain Domains and the Big Challenges They Face – Domain Name Wire
It will take a lot to overcome the challenges of previous attempts at naming the alternate root.
Currently, there is a lot of talk about blockchain-based decentralized naming systems.
The pitch for blockchain-based domains usually covers two things.
First, these domains can be used as easy-to-remember wallet addresses. Much like how domain names are easier to remember than IP addresses, blockchain domains are easier to remember than a long wallet address. They can also be used as your “web3 username”. It’s logic. But since you’re probably not advertising your wallet address, maybe we should compare that to someone remembering your email address with a domain name rather than numbers.
The other key selling point is that these domains cannot be censored because they are decentralized.
I am less sold on this ground for several reasons. First, how many people have their domain names or websites censored? Not that much.
I think we would see a lot more of these sites on the dark web where they cannot be censored.
Oh, but is it hard to find sites on the dark web? Well, this is the main disadvantage of blockchain based domains for websites. People have to use special plugins or niche browsers to access it. We’ve seen a lot of alt-root domains come and go, and they’ve all failed not because people don’t like extensions, but because building a site on a domain that few people can access is futile.
There’s a reason things are somewhat centralized. You might not like it, but going to the opposite extreme of decentralization has its downsides.
A discussion of blockchain domains typically covers three competing standards/companies: Handshake, Unstoppable Domains, and Ethereum Name Service.
The handshake is an interesting piece. It is decentralized at the top level, so some companies and people have created top level domains in Handshake which they offer as second level domains to other people. Which… kind of defeats the point because it’s not decentralized to the second level. Namecheap sells Handshake domains like .creator, .oo, and .p. You will pay around $15 to $35/year for these domains. So you get a blockchain-based domain that you pay renewal fees on, and almost no one can access it. Another challenge is that with so many top-level domains, none will gain mainstream recognition and it will be harder for people to recognize them. This has been a problem with the new TLDs that came out almost a decade ago.
Unstoppable Domains is a venture-backed company with an approach that most closely resembles previous alt-root players. He created extensions like .crypto, .wallet and .nft. The biggest problem with this model comes when the next set of primary root top-level domains are launched. You can bet that multiple companies will apply for these popular extensions, creating name collisions. And while Unstoppable thinks it has an approach to winning those “real” brand-based domains, history tells us that it won’t be enough. So unless he comes up with the 9 digits that will probably be needed to win those domains at ICANN, he’s going to have a bunch of upset customers down the line. (Someone typed in my domain name and went to another site!)
Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is the most interesting for me. The organization created .eth and stopped there. Rather than introduce new extensions, it decided to add functionality to work with existing main root TLDs. So if I register example.com, I can use that as my wallet address and people can actually visit my website. Somehow the best of both worlds, despite some technical hiccups. A catch is the gas costs required to claim a name or even change your name server. Imagine if your registrar charged you each time you changed nameservers! ENS is working on solutions, but this is just one example of the challenges of operating a decentralized namespace.
One of the great strengths of the ENS is name recognition. I started seeing many people in the blockchain space changing their Twitter names to example.eth. It’s a bit like the laser eyes of a year ago. It’s that kind of recognition that has helped Bored Apes take off. It is therefore a good signal and creates buzz. This is of course not enough to ensure its long-term success. But I think, overall, ENS is the most pragmatic of the three options I’ve written about.
I’m sure many people will disagree with this analysis. I appreciate your feedback, especially on how these new naming conventions can overcome their challenges.
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