ENS: Ethereum Domains and Web 3.0 Identities
Ethereum Name Service or ENS is a protocol for the creation and management of decentralised domains.
What are internet domains?
Each device connected to the internet can be identified by an IP address, for example, “22.214.171.124”.
There is an IP address for website servers, but also for smartphones and computers of users connected to the network, called “clients“.
From the client’s point of view, the IP address of the servers makes it possible to locate them and communicate with them in order to receive the contents of the sites they host.
However, what the user types or sees is not directly the IP address, but the domain. In fact, the IP, as a series of numbers, would be difficult to remember and recognise.
An example of a domain is “www.youngplatform.com”. As is evident, each domain must be unique in order to be able to point to a specific site.
What allows each public IP address to correspond to a unique domain is the DNS, the Domain Name System. Through dedicated servers (name servers), this system translates IP addresses into domains.
The DNS is a hierarchical system, which includes Top-Level Domains (TLDs), and subdomains. In our example, the TLD is .com, while “youngplatform” is a subdomain of .com.
Typically, to create a website, you have to turn to companies that offer centralised domain registries, such as Google Domains. Here you can buy domains for websites.
Ethereum Name Service wants to change this system, decentralising it.
What is Ethereum Name Service?
Ethereum Name Service is an Ethereum-based project that has been online since 2017. Its protocol was created by two members of the Ethereum Foundation, Alex Van de Sande and Nick Johnson.
ENS mainly addresses two problems:
- The complexity of cryptocurrency wallet addresses
- The centralisation and intermediation of sites in Web 2.0
ENS allows you to buy a domain registered on the Ethereum blockchain, and thus have complete control over it without intermediaries.
ENS domains come in this form: example.eth.
A blockchain domain is not just any domain: the blockchain has the inherent ability to record data and process payments. This means that you can also use the blockchain domain to receive cryptocurrencies and NFTs, in the same way as you would use a wallet address. With a .eth domain, you can receive not only native Ethereum tokens, but also Bitcoin tokens.
In short, instead of 0xa3C1E324CA1ce40db73eD6026c4A177F099B5770 you will have, for example, “greatesthodler.eth”.
Clearly, this makes it much easier to send cryptocurrencies on the blockchain without errors. It only takes a glance to check and double-check the address.
Is it possible to create a website on Ethereum?
While it is possible to receive payments with an ENS domain, creating a real website is more complex.
There are various potential advantages:
- Nobody can shut down the site instead of the domain owner
- It is not necessary to go through centralised intermediaries
- On commercial sites, it is no longer necessary to use payment, banking or authentication services.
- The contents of the site can be hosted on decentralised peer-to-peer networks such as Sia Skynet, Arweave or on the better known IPFS.
IPFS stands for InterPlanetary File System, and is an alternative protocol to HTTP, which relies on nodes connected to each other in a peer-to-peer network. Similar to a blockchain, any file or medium uploaded to the IPFS is stored on the network due to the fact that other nodes in the world have a copy of it.
The integration of ENS with IPFS, e.g., through Fleek, makes it possible to build decentralised and distributed sites.
At the moment, however, a number of obstacles stand in the way. First of all, the browsers compatible with these domains are the less popular ones, such as Brave and Opera, and require the installation of extensions. Secondly, the user experience is still very lacking in all respects.
ENS and web 3.0 identities
If an ENS domain replaces your website and wallet, why not use it as a digital identity? Many active DeFi users already use their ENS domain as their Twitter username, for example.
This gives an idea of what social networks could look like with Web 3.0, and how areas that are separate in Web 2.0 are converging: exchange of value, sharing of content and identity.
Being unique, similar to an NFT, ENS domains can be resold on marketplaces such as OpenSea.
Tokenomics and the ENS airdrop
ENS started as a project in line with the ideals of decentralisation, putting the community at the centre. In fact, 50% of the token supply went to the DAO Treasury and 25% to an airdrop.
Compared to most airdrops, which reward whoever spends the most money on a project, ENS rewarded timing, i.e., how long everyone had owned their domains and the level of domains obtained. All this, if done before 31 October 2021.
Those who were eligible to participate in the airdrop can redeem ENS tokens until 4 May 2022.
The potential of ENS for Web 3.0
ENS acts as a bridge between social networks, cryptocurrencies, communities and web 3.0 sites, which is why it still has a lot of potential to develop.
A first step towards the usability of ENS is the integration with DNS. While ENS initially only offered .eth domains on Ethereum, as of August 2021, ENS also supports DNS names (such as .com, .money). This means that any company can take its DNS domain to ENS and use it as a decentralised wallet, username and website.
A further step in the protocol could be to allow the use of Ethereum to access any site, just as Google or Facebook are used today.
ENS is not the only protocol of this type, but it is generally the best known and is distinguished by the fact that it is designed for subdomains, is built on top of Ethereum, is governed by a DAO and has its own tokens.
In fact, ENS is not only limited to Ethereum; it can support other protocols, blockchains and domains. The right integrations could bring Web 3.0 ever closer.