Domain names provide easy access to digital properties, but a handful of registrars control the system. Fortunately, Ethereum Name Service, Unstoppable Domains, and other organizations decentralize domains, making it easy for anyone to take control. These services could ultimately pave the way towards a decentralized internet.
Let's take a look at how traditional domains work, how you can use blockchain domains, and the future of the web.
NFT domains decentralize naming for wallets, websites, and more, opening the door to the decentralized web.
How Domains Work
The Internet is a massive network of computers connected through a global network of cables and satellites. Each computer is identifiable with an internet protocol, or IP, address. IP addresses are a series of numbers separated by dots—like 192.168.0.1. In fact, you can enter an IP address to visit any computer that's hosting a website!
Domain names help people connect to computers hosting websites without remembering a long series of numbers. When you enter a domain name, your browser sends a request to a global network of servers that form the Domain Name System, or DNS. These servers look up the name servers for each domain, which then find the correct IP addresses.
The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is an American multi-stakeholder non-profit organization that manages the Domain Name System for the entire world. In particular, the organization permits domain name registrars to sell domain names and make changes to the registry on their customers' behalf.
Blockchain technology is quickly reshaping many parts of the tech industry. For example, decentralized finance, or DeFi, displaces financial intermediaries to make transactions more efficient. Similarly, decentralized domains eliminate the need for domain registrars and make it easy for anyone to take control over their domains.
Decentralized domains use digital certificates of authenticity that assign and verify ownership known as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Blockchain-native domains are smart contracts on public blockchains—such as ERC-721 on Ethereum—stored in owners' wallets, just like a cryptocurrency. You can also point traditional DNS names to the same smart contracts.
There are several benefits to NFT domains:
- Low to no renewal fees.
- You have complete custody over the domain.
- You can do more than host websites.
- There's minimal risk of domain theft.
Many people use blockchain domains to receive cryptocurrency. Like DNS masks IP addresses, NFT domains mask wallet addresses, making it easier for people to send funds. For instance, the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) stores all of your addresses to receive any cryptocurrency, token, or NFT, as well as store avatars and other profile data.
How to Register a Domain
Ethereum Name Service, or ENS, is the most popular way to register personal domain names for trading crypto assets or hosting decentralized websites. In addition to the native .ETH suffix that has the full security benefit of being blockchain native, you can use ENS with DNS names that you already own, including .COM domains.
You can register a domain in a few steps:
- Setup a wallet, like Coinbase Wallet, if you don’t already have one.
- Visit the app (app.ens.domains) and search for a domain name.
- If it’s available, click on the domain name.
- Connect your wallet by clicking on the connect button.
- Follow the three-step registration process.
Once you’ve registered a domain, you can add records for your wallets (ETH, BTC, LTC, DOGE, etc.) and point text records to your email, website URL, avatar, and other meta fields. These settings enable anyone to send Ethereum or other cryptocurrencies to your domain rather than having to memorize a large chain of numbers, letters, and characters.
Build a Decentralized Web
You can also use NFT domains to build decentralized websites. For example, you can point a blockchain domain name to a peer-to-peer hosting platform, like IPFS. Rather than relying on single servers, IPFS leverages peer-to-peer networks to store and retrieve information from multiple nodes simultaneously, reducing cost and improving speed.
In addition to faster speeds and lower costs, the decentralized web doesn't rely on the internet backbone for connectivity and mirrors versioned files across nodes. The result is a much more resilient internet that isn't susceptible to natural disasters, government censorship, or other drawbacks of the current centralized internet.
Many crypto organizations are already embracing the decentralized web. For example, Tornado.cash is deployed on IPFS using ENS domains. You can deploy websites in the same way by using the IPFS.io gateway and creating a TXT record with a DNS link value that points to your IPFS hash, pointing the domain to your IPFS website.
The easiest way to build websites on the decentralized web is using Fleek—a low-code platform for hosting, storage, and gateways. Developers can easily connect their code repository (e.g., GitHub), add any build settings (e.g., build commands), and deploy their websites to IFPS. You can also use its native interface to upload, store, and fetch files from IFPS.
The Bottom Line
Blockchain domains from Ethereum Name Service or Unstoppable Domains make receiving crypto assets in your wallets easier by providing a human-readable name. In addition, the same technologies could help power tomorrow's decentralized web, which will rely on peer-to-peer connections for speed, cost advantages, and privacy.
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