September 15, 2022 - 17 min read
The DNS (or the Domain Name System) is widely considered “the internet’s phonebook,” but it has a wide variety of limitations, including centralization, security risks, and privacy issues. With the hope of addressing many of these issues, blockchain domains have become explosively popular in recent times– and their popularity only continues to keep growing.
ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a U.S.-based non-profit, essentially controls the way domain names are distributed, giving it an incredible (if subtle) influence on how the internet works.
While organized by ICANN, DNS data is distributed and is managed on two levels, the first-level, known as the root level, is managed by registries. The second level, in contrast, is managed by registrars.
In the current system, domain name “owners” don’t actually own their domains; they actually must lease their domains from massive industry players like GoDaddy, Namecheap, and Google, in a system that is relatively insecure, has little privacy, and gives these firms a massive amount of control over the internet.
In addition, traditional domains are vulnerable to DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, which can temporarily disable websites by sending them a massive amount of internet traffic (typically done by bot farms, or botnets, computers that are hijacked from unsuspecting individuals).
While DDOS attacks on individual websites pose a threat to individual users or companies, registrars or ICANN are also vulnerable to DDOS attacks and other types of manipulation, which poses a significant potential threat to the health of the entire internet.
Fortunately, there’s a solution, and a variety of companies, including industry leaders like Unstoppable Domains and Ethereum Name Service, are now allowing users to register their domain names on the blockchain, giving users an unprecedented amount of control over their own domains.
Popular blockchain-based domains include .x, .crypto, .coin, .nft, .wallet, and .dao, among many others. Blockchain and crypto domain names are technically NFTs, so these domains are often referred to as NFT domains.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of blockchain DNS and NFT domains, including their pros and cons, the popularity of services like Unstoppable Domains and Ethereum Name Service, the differences between .x and .crypto domains, other blockchain domain providers, and the emerging popularity of Solana domains. For good measure, we’ll also walk you through how to purchase a .crypto domain on Unstoppable Domains.
In many ways, blockchain domains are actually, unstoppable. Blockchain domains like .x and .crypto have a wide scope of benefits, including:
For reference, the Domain Name System Security Extensions, or DNSSEC is a major feature of the Domain Name System (DNS) that verifies responses to domain name lookups. However, DNSSEC keys sometimes need to be removed, which can lead to security breaches and owner lockouts.
However, there are some potential downsides of blockchain domains. These include:
Right now, by far, the industry leader in the blockchain domain space is Unstoppable Domains. The blockchain domain provider was founded in 2018 and is currently led by CEO Matthew Gould and his co-founders Braden Pezeshki, Bogdan Guseiv, and Bradley Kam.
The company started with only two domains, .crypto and .zil, and later expanded to eight more domains in June 2021. This launch was associated with a major Unstoppable Domains airdrop, which also provided $100 million worth of credits for users. The promotion provided users with $3 of purchase credits for every $1 they spent on domains. Another airdrop of $450,000 of NFT domain names was issued in July 2022 in partnership with blockchain protocol UTU.
Unstoppable Domains initially supported only the Ethereum and Zilliqua blockchains, but, on November 21, 2021, they announced that they were extending functionality to the Polygon blockchain (the most popular Ethereum Layer-2 chain), and would even cover all gas fees for Polygon transactions, potentially saving customers hundreds of dollars.
Ethereum and Polygon domains offered by the company include:
At the current moment .zil is the sole domain offered on the Zilliqua blockchain. For reference, Zilliqua is a high-throughput, sharding-based blockchain with smart contract, NFT, and dApp functionality. Its native currency is the synonymous Zilliqa (ZIL).
As with other types of NFTs, you will need a wallet to mint your domain. Unstoppable domains integrates with most major Ethereum and Zilliqua wallets, including popular wallets such as MetaMask, MyEtherWallet, and the Coinbase Wallet. This page from Unstoppable Domains shows you how to link your account with your wallet.
Once you mint your NFT domain, you will still have to search for it in your wallet if you want to use it, which can be tricky if you don’t know how. This page shows users how to search for their Unstoppable Domain domain inside their MetaMask wallet.
Technically, there is no functional difference between .X domains and .Crypto domains. They are both NFT/blockchain domains and have all the benefits and potential drawbacks of other blockchain domain names. However, there are a few things to think about when deciding whether to buy a .x or .crypto domain.
The Ethereum Name Service, or ENS, is perhaps the second-largest NFT domain provider in the industry. The ENS domain name service integrates the traditional DNS system with their blockchain-based DNS system, which can provide additional benefits to users. Just like Unstoppable Domains, and, in contrast to traditional DNS providers, users get the security, censorship-resistance, and other benefits of blockchain domains.
However, unlike Unstoppable Domains, ENS permits owners of regular domains like .com to transfer it to their blockchain DNS service, provided they can prove ownership with their DNSSEC registration information. It’s not yet clear if this type of transfer provides all the benefits of blockchain domains, or just some of them.
By far, the most popular domain offered by the Ethereum Name Service is .eth, though other domains, such as .xyz, .pid, .luxe, and .kred are also available. Some domains offered by ENS have sold for incredibly high amounts, with one domain selling for a record $3.5 million.
In March and April 2022, owners of Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs began scrambling to purchase three and four digit .eth domains that would correlate to the specific number of their BAYC NFT. For example, 555.eth sold for $158,000, likely to the corresponding BAYC NFT owner. ENS has reportedly had over 300,000 domain name registrations and $28 million of sales in the first 18 months alone.
While it may be convenient to use your blockchain domain as a wallet, the main benefit of a blockchain domain is the ability to host your own website. When using a blockchain domain to host your site, instead of having your site hosted on a single server, they will be distributed across a network of computers managed through the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS).
The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a distributed protocol and peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data. IPFS permits users to host and receive content much like a peer-to-peer file-sharing service. IPFS consists of a decentralized system of user-operators, each of which store a part of the overall data, which increases the resilience of the overall system.
Unlike HTTP, which downloads files from one server at a time IPFS’s peer-to-peer system retrieves pieces from multiple nodes simultaneously, meaning that it uses less bandwidth and can utilize less bandwidth, or achieve a higher network using the same bandwidth. According to IFPS, the system saves up 60% in bandwidth savings for video content alone.
If you want to host a website on the blockchain, you will need an IPFS hash, which identities your site’s files on the blockchain network.
One your site is up, it is very difficult for government entities and corporations, including internet service providers, to take it down. Though it could theoretically be blocked by an ISP, the site would still remain fully active and could be accessed using another ISP or even a VPN.
However, keep in mind that if you just want to use your domain as a wallet address, you don’t need to go through the hassle of setting up an entire website.
The term NFT means non-fungible tokens, and in crypto, NFTs are digital records of unique assets minted on the blockchain.
Domain names are unique in that you can’t have two similar domain names existing on the blockchain or in the conventional DNS system.
NFT domains are thus blockchains domains that have features associated with NFTs, such as the ease of being traded on an exchange platform. These domains can be bought, sold, stored in a wallet just like NFTs, and several parties can jointly own one or several names.
Yes, Unstoppable Domains can be considered NFTs. By definition, NFTs are records of unique digital assets minted on the blockchain and UD domains are just that – they are unique, and they are minted on their respective blockchain and claimed by the owner.
Additionally, just like NFTs, they can be bought, sold, and traded for profit, and multiple entities can share ownership.
A domain name can only be an NFT if minted on a blockchain that supports smart contracts such as Ethereum, Zilliqa or Binance Smart Chain.
NFTs are digital records of unique assets maintained on the blockchain, but not all domain names are minted tokens. A majority are conventional, and their registration records are maintained in centralized servers administered by ICANN.
NFT domain names are crypto domains minted on a blockchain like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain (BSC).
These names are unique, meaning that two instances of the same name can never be hosted on the network.
NFT domain names are issued under the same principles used in the conventional DNS system, whereby each domain is associated with a single entity, and the records are maintained to avoid conflict in domain resolution.
It should be noted that when using blockchain domain names on the Ethereum blockchain, the domain is converted to an ERC-721 NFT using a process referred to as “namehashing.” According to Unstoppable Domains: “Namehashing is an algorithm that converts a domain name in a classical format (like www.example.crypto) to ERC-721 token id. All .crypto contracts accept a domain name as a method argument in the form of an ERC-721 token.”
It’s unclear if Ethereum domains will be converted to other Ethereum NFT token standards, like the increasingly popular ERC-1155 standard, in the future, or if there is any major benefit to doing so.
While Unstoppable Domains and Ethereum Name Service are by far the top blockchain domain companies on the market, there are quite a few others competing for a strong place in the industry. Some of the best-known options include:
Solana is proving to be one of the fastest and most popular blockchains on the market today. Despite concerns about outages and centralization, Solana has a highly committed community, and Solana NFTs are already available (and quite popular) on major NFT marketplaces like OpenSea. With all the hype around the blockchain and its various benefits, it’s no surprise that Solana has launched its own domain naming service, Solana Naming Service.
The Solana Naming Service allows customers to buy .sol domains using an auction system, with prices starting at just $20. Like all other blockchain domains, it also functions as a wallet address, allowing owners to quickly send and receive Solana and other cryptocurrencies using their domain. The Solana Naming Service can be found on the associated Bonfida website, where users can search for domain availability and initiate the auction process for available domains.
Just like those buying Ethereum domain names need an Ethereum-capable wallet, those buying Solana domains need a Solana-capable wallet, like Phantom. Currently, users need to purchase $FIDA, the native token of the Bonfida platform to buy their domain, with average prices sitting around $25. $FIDA can be purchased on major exchanges like Binance, Coinbase, or FTX. Alternatively, they can purchase Solana ($SOL) and swap it for $FIDA on a DEX (decentralized exchange) like Raydium. To prevent mass purchases, purchase auctions involve a 3-day waiting period, and if no one else has made an offer on the domain, it will go to the original intended buyer.
Below, we will demonstrate the process for purchasing a blockchain domain from Unstoppable Domains. We will also show how to claim your domain with a wallet, in this case, a MetaMask wallet. We have borrowed this guide from Crypto Explained.
1. Signing Up: The first step towards purchasing a .crypto domain is to visit Unstoppable Domains at unstoppabledomains.com and sign up.
2. Choosing Your Domain: Next, enter in the domain that you’d like to purchase.
3. Add to the Basket: Now, add your domain of choice to your basket by clicking “Add to Cart,” then, click on the basket. You will now be brought to your cart.
4. Checkout: Now that you’ve gotten to your cart, click “Checkout” if you’re okay with your purchase.
5. Pay: You can pay with several options, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Cryto.com Pay, which gives you 10% off.
Below, we show how to claim your .crypto blockchain domain from Unstoppable Domains by using a MetaMask Wallet.
1. Select Your Domain: The first step is to click “My Domains” on the top left.
2. Claim The Domain: In this example, we will show you how to claim your domain with ETH. To do this, you will need to have enough ETH in your MetaMask wallet. After ensuring that you do, click “Claim With ETH” on the bottom of the page.
3. Email Verification: Next, click “Send Code By Email”.
4. Get Your Code From Your Email: Login to your email and copy the code from the email you’ve been sent. Then, paste it into the box below the “Claim Process Started” heading.
5. Choose Your Crypto Wallet: If you don’t want to use WalletConnect, the Mew Wallet, or the Coinbase Wallet, choose the Web3 wallet (as previously stated, we will be using MetaMask in this tutorial.
6. Choose MetaMask as your wallet.
7. Connect to MetaMask: Connect Unstoppable Domains to MetaMask by clicking “Next” and then click “Connect.”
8. Sign The Transaction in MetaMask. Click confirm to finish.
9. Start The .Crypto Claiming Process: Once the transaction process is initiated, click “View Domains.”
10. Pending Claim/Finish: Now, when you look at your domain, it should say “Pending Claim.” When the transfer is complete, the “Pending Claim” will change to a purple button saying “Manage.”
Blockchain/NFT domains like .x and .crypto provide a wide array of benefits to users, including increased security, censorship resistance, and the opportunity for true ownership, which prevents users from needing to pay expensive renewal fees.
Right now, however, these domains are still in their infancy, and no more than 15-20 domain name extensions are available, which could limit the popularity of blockchain domains. In addition, users still only have a limited ability to convert traditional domain name extensions to true blockchain domains. In addition, most major web browsers do not provide the native capability for users to access NFT domains, which could be a major barrier to adoption.
However, if the popularity of these domains continues to grow, the amount of available extensions will likely grow as well, popular web browsers will begin to offer native access to blockchain domains, and users will likely be able to register traditional domain extensions, like .com, .org, or .io on the blockchain. If these things happen, blockchain domains could transform the internet as we know it.
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