The evolution of blockchain technology continues to challenge traditional systems in the same way the Internet has since its rise in the early 90s. Today, the current Internet is heading towards a new paradigm that empowers individuals further than it ever has; a new world wide web, if you will.
We normally refer to this as ‘web3’, an Internet powered by blockchain protocols. The precursors to this vision are blockchain domains, which are a lot of things, to be honest, but for now, let’s say they are websites powered by blockchains to keep it simple.
In time, we are likely to see blockchain-based domains get more traction across the web as its early adopters grow (maybe you’ll become one too). As long as they keep getting better and better (they’re far from perfect today), people will gravitate toward them.
But before we even get into the decentralized web, we need to have a basic understanding of how traditional web servers function: through DNS. This technology is normally invisible to normal users like us, but nonetheless, they are there to support the Internet we all enjoy.
What is a Domain Name System (DNS)?
The Domain Name System (DNS) is an online directory that converts human-readable URLs (like metaroids.com) into machine-readable Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to allow users to conveniently locate specific websites. It works similarly to a phone book, where names have their corresponding contact information.
Computers use IP addresses as their technical way of communicating with other devices to help users reach websites. They generally look like this: 188.8.131.52 (our blog’s IP address).
Imagine if you have to remember that and type it out every time you want to reach our website. Chances are, the Internet wouldn’t have taken off. But thanks to DNS, that same number combination above can be accessed by simply typing metaroids.com, which is so much easier to remember.
At present, we are moving towards a more decentralized web: one that is more democratic, has less censorship, and creates better opportunities for everyone across the globe. Nobody knows what it could look like at this stage, but it is likely to be powered by blockchain technology, which brings us to the subject matter of this post: blockchain-based domains.
What are Blockchain Domain Names?
Blockchain domain names are a specific type of domain name that translates complicated web3 identifiers into simple easy-to-remember characters. Instead of replacing an IP address with a URL like like in a DNS setup, blockchain domains replace crypto addresses with a crypto-like URL, such as .eth or .bit.
Imagine a beginner seeing a 42-character hexadecimal address for the first time. If you think a normal domain is unintelligible, what about this: 0xf117538De5a7831H1863a8dCE3a558EdB2b3B9Im.
This type of address also makes it inconvenient to receive payments. You have to copy-paste your address every time because you can’t memorize it, and you have to double-check; a lot! Apparently, it’s hard to imagine the decentralized web taking off this way.
But thanks to the rise of blockchain naming services (BNS), anyone can purchase blockchain domains. These crypto domains are also called NFT domains because they are literally non-fungible tokens, which are verified assets on a blockchain and are easily transferable, allowing owners to use them as they see fit.
- Check out our NFT Deep Dive for more info.
Note that there are currently multiple decentralized naming services, some of which offer only one type of domain on one blockchain. Others provide multiple domains across different blockchains. If you’re an avid crypto enthusiast, you’re better off purchasing a domain that supports your favorite chain.
Blockchain Naming Services and Their Domains
This is a list of BNS providers and their available names.
- ENS: .eth
- Unstoppable Domains: .crypto, .nft, .x, .wallet, .bitcoin, .dao, .888, .zil, .blockchain
- Peername: .bit, .coin, .onion, .bazar, .lib, .emc, .tor
- Namecoin: .bit
- Bonfida: .sol
How Do Crypto Domains Work?
Now it’s time to cover blockchain domains in greater detail.
Crypto domains have definite information stored on registries based on smart contracts, a program that automatically executes commands based on terms that are written in code, as opposed to traditional registry companies. The system maps simplified names and translate them into complex addresses for machines to compute, which is a process called resolution (to resolve means to link a domain name into a blockchain address).
This process ensures that if I type a crypto-based website such as dtube.crypto in a browser, it connects to a specific website (gets ‘resolved’).
There are a couple of blockchain-name-supporting browsers that automatically resolve these types of URLs, but most typical browsers like Chrome and Firefox require adjusting the settings in order to resolve them.
Contents on decentralized domains are normally hosted on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) as opposed to a normal web server like Bluehost or GoDaddy.
IPFS is a decentralized storage protocol that contains shareable files across a vast peer-to-peer network. Crypto domain owners can use their assets when creating websites and host the contents within IPFS, making them publicly accessible.
Additionally, registering a blockchain domain does not have to be difficult. Buyers only need to have a digital wallet for storage purposes and enough funds to purchase the item. When all these requirements are complete, users can directly go to their preferred BNS website and purchase a crypto domain.
What are Blockchain Domains Used For?
Blockchain domain providers currently have millions of registered names, showing early signs of possibly dominating the web one day. The web3 crowd has already begun flaunting these assets on social media platforms, wallet addresses, and decentralized websites. It can only go up from here (possibly).
Establish a Web3 Identity
Every crypto domain name is unique, making it applicable to anyone who wants to establish their identity across the new Internet of the future. One of its common uses can be found on Twitter, where some user accounts are linked to blockchain-based names. Other social media platforms like Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram are even starting to embrace the same culture.
For instance, if I buy the stark.eth domain name, I can use it as my web3 identity and connect it to all my social accounts. Now, this domain name also allows me to log into different decentralized applications (dapps); you know, like DeFi and NFT platforms. I can connect my domain name to UniSwap or OpenSea, for instance, and trade assets or NFTs using my ‘web3 account’, which I control fully.
It can’t be banned similar to using Facebook. None of my trades will be deleted just because the platform thinks I’m “misbehaving”. No censorship whatsoever. My identity. My rules. That’s web3!
Web3 is also open to users who may want to use online personas instead of their real-world identities to express themselves, which is the reason why they may create aliases through blockchain domains. In fact, some of the greatest contributors to cryptography are anonymous, the most well-known probably being Satoshi Nakamoto.
Besides, why choose boring human faces when you can use an alpaca as your avatar, right? All jokes aside, owners who have multiple accounts can also use their NFT domains in accessing the future metaverse with style.
Replace Wallet Address with Human-Readable Text
Some people have experienced sending crypto only to realize that they’ve sent it to the wrong address. This would have been okay if transactions were reversible, but since blockchains are immutable, this creates new problems for the envisioned decentralized web.
Discerning one wallet address from another can be challenging, especially if you’re in a hurry and it looks like this:
There is no doubt that current crypto wallet addresses are not user-friendly, and this is where blockchain naming services can help. A blockchain naming system is a solution that makes sending funds easier as comprehensible names can lower the risk of committing errors when doing transactions.
Launch Decentralized Websites
Blockchain naming services go hand in hand with IPFS, enabling owners to launch their decentralized websites. But how?
Distributed websites are hosted on IPFS and contain content hashes, a unique identifier for resources found online that functions in the same way as an IP address. However, it identifies content instead of the location.
Blockchain domains are matched to the content hashes. When users search crypto domains, they will automatically be directed to the decentralized website they are looking for. Since the IPFS stores them, owners do not have to worry about their published works being taken down; it is one of its remarkable differences from DNS-based domains.
Additionally, content creators can take full control over their decentralized websites and can use them in any way they want. For example, artists can sell their works, political activists can spread their truth without being censored, and a whole lot of other use cases.
Trading for Profit
Blockchain domains are NFTs too, and they are being traded across NFT marketplaces. You can potentially buy a particular domain and sell it later for a higher price. In fact, one of the current issues in the crypto domain subsector is the number of domain squatters purchasing top-level domains for various reasons, most commonly to profit from reselling.
While it is unethical and we recommend against it, some people have made money this way.
Surfing Web3 Domains
As neat as blockchain domains are, they come with a few caveats since they are still new technology. Over time, these shortcomings are likely to disappear, but for now, you’ll have to work your way around them.
Web3 domains are publicly accessible, but they usually load slower than traditional websites. It can take a couple of minutes and require multiple attempts to see the content for the first time. They are also difficult to reach because not all browsers support them.
Users who want to explore web3 domains should use browsers that natively support them, such as Opera and Brave. There is also another way to access blockchain-based websites through common browsers like Chrome, Firefox, etc. However, it requires a little settings adjustment. Fortunately, the steps are easy and quick.
Top 5 Blockchain Naming Services
Crypto domains have attracted tons of users worldwide; as it grows, the competition among BNS projects becomes tougher, but the services provided get better from a user point of view. Therefore, the more the merrier.
Let’s explore the leading blockchain-based naming services:
Ethereum Name Service (ENS)
- Blockchain: Ethereum
- Domain Names: .eth
The Ethereum Name Service is known for supplying .eth domains, which owners can use as their web3 identity across Ethereum communities. Unlike with other naming providers, web surfers can visit .eth sites on normal browsers by simply adding “.domains” or “.limo” to the URL.
Try searching vitalik.eth.domains on Chrome.
Additionally, ENS claims to have the most integrations among blockchain naming standards and continuously gains support from other builders across the Ethereum ecosystem and beyond. It also fosters long-term growth by establishing the ENS DAO for its community to collectively govern.
The strategy of ENS is evidently focused on its sustainability. The continuous support it gets from multiple collaborators and partners is proof of acknowledging the system’s advantage over competitors, securing its spot as the top blockchain naming service.
- Blockchain: Polygon, Ziliqa
- Domain Names: .crypto, .nft, .x, .wallet, .bitcoin, .dao, .888, .zil, .blockchain
Unstoppable Domains offers nine top-level domains, some of which come at really low prices (5$-$10). Users can also enjoy free gas fees, helping them stay within their budget. If buying a .eth name is too much right now, then an Unstoppable Domain name would provide a cheaper alternative.
Unstoppable Domains strongly believe that owners should not feel like renting their blockchain assets once purchased. Therefore, it doesn’t charge renewal fees, which is a huge advantage over other competitors like ENS. Holders only need to process a one-time payment for every NFT domain they buy, and they have it for life.
- Blockchain: Multiple
- Domain Names: .bit, .coin, .onion, .bazar, .lib, .emc, .tor
PeerName registers and hosts thousands of blockchain-based domain names across different protocols, including .bit of Namecoin and .coin of Emercoin. It is also capable of providing its services for identifiers that are not stored in blockchain registries like .onion domains, which are accessible through the Tor network for reaching the dark web.
The primary highlight of PeerName is security, as it keeps registered domain names in cold storage, which highly secures assets from thieves and hackers.
- Blockchain: Bitcoin
- Domain Names: .bit
Namecoin powers .bit domains and follow the same goal as Bitcoin: to make websites decentralized and accessible without censorship constraints. It is applicable to tech-savvy crypto users.
People who are interested in having .bit websites must first have a Namecoin cryptocurrency, which can be bought on various exchanges. Additionally, it claims to have lightning-fast speed. For example, a traditional DNS takes 100 milliseconds for websites to load while it only needs 3 milliseconds to do the same thing.
- Blockchain: Solana
- Domain Names: .sol
Bonfida is the premier naming service of the Solana blockchain, allowing users to own .sol domains. Remarkably, it also enables emoji characters as domain names; for instance: metaroids❤️.sol.
Furthermore, Bonfida is more than just a BNS as it strives to build other technological infrastructures that support the decentralized web, such as its own web3 messaging application.
NFT-based domains are new, but their potential is quite massive, just like most subsectors in the blockchain space. Even traditional web content delivery companies like Cloudflare are optimistic about the technology’s development.
Will it replace the current web setup as we know it? Probably. Nobody is certain at this point.
But it’s always an exciting experience to work on cutting-edge edge technologies before it catches up to the masses. While we don’t recommend just buying up blockchain domains like crazy, we believe that owning one that represents your brand is a great way to plant your seed in what could be the next stage of the web. There’s a risk, and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth taking.
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