Instead of sending someone all of your long, complex cryptocurrency addresses…
You could send them one domain name that is mapped to ALL of them…
For example – sending crypto to castlecrypto.zil would automatically map the currency to the right address…
Enter .eth and .zil domains!
In recent years, there have been many controversies over the censoring of content on the Internet. This article will explore how ENS domains or ETH domains may solve this problem and lead to users creating and consuming more of the content they want.
This will likely trigger a gold rush similar to registering .com names in the 90s. Keep reading to learn more and find out where you should buy.
Read on to understand current issues with censorship, and what these new types of domains can do for you.
The problem: recent perceptions of online censorship
Several social networks have recently been accused of banning content based on the political views expressed by it. For example, Facebook and Twitter have often deleted users’ posts or even outright banned users based on “terms of service” violations for allegedly promoting “hate speech.”
While some Facebook and Twitter users have supported these actions, many have argued that “hate speech” is too vague of a term and can easily be interpreted by the owners of these platforms as justification for banning any content it disagrees with.
Because of this problem, many traditional, centralized social networks have sprouted up that claim to support free speech. This includes Gab, Vidme, Blankchat, and others. These networks claim that they will not censor, shadow ban, or prohibit views the owners disagree with.
As these perceptions of censorship have grown, these new networks have gained in popularity.
Blockchain social networks
There has also been a rise of blockchain-based social networks such as Steem, Memo, and Peepeth. In these networks, every post is recorded on an immutable blockchain. In theory, this should make censorship impossible.
But despite this apparent solution, many critics have pointed out that a blockchain-powered social media app cannot solve this problem.
Most readers do not know how to use a command-line interface to query a blockchain. Instead, readers rely on a website that sits on a centralized server to render the blockchain into something intelligible. So while the blockchain is censorship-proof, the website that displays it is not.
For example, a user can post absolutely whatever he wants to the Steem blockchain. But if Steemit.com, Steempeak.com, the Partiko Android app, and every other web portal that displays the Steem blockchain decides to ban all posts from a particular user, that user will be invisible to nearly every user of the Steem network.
Still, blockchain social networks do seem to be more resistant to censorship than other networks. This is because at least there are multiple web portals that display the blockchain. So if one web portal stops showing a user’s posts, the other web portals can choose to show them anyway.
This is not the case with a traditional, centralized social network. In a traditional social network, all posts are stored on a central server owned by the company that developed the network. As a result, users can never be guaranteed that their posts will not be deleted.
The DNS Problem
Although the existence of multiple web portals does make a blockchain social network more resistant to censorship, many experts have noticed a more significant problem: the DNS system.
In order for users to find a particular website, they must enter a domain name into their web-browsers. But in reality, computers do not know how to connect to domain names. For one computer to connect to another, it needs to know the ip address of the other computer.
When a user enters a domain name into his browser, his computer queries a server within the network to find the ip address associated with that domain name. This system requires that there be an authority who can register domain names and make sure that two different people do not end up with the same domain name. And where there is an authority, there is power to censor content.
This is not only a theoretical problem either. In 2014, the government of Turkey blocked Twitter by preventing the local resolving server from giving out Twitter’s ip address. This effectively prevented any user in Turkey from viewing Twitter unless he rerouted his data through a foreign VPN server.
Another example of this problem is the 2017 Etherdelta hack. In this case, a hacker got control of the servers that were used to give out the ip address for Etherdelta. As a result, any users that typed the Etherdelta web address into their browsers were sent to a site controlled by the hacker. This site looked identical to the real Etherdelta site.
When users attempted to log into the hacker’s site, their usernames and passwords were recorded by the hacker, who then used them to log into their accounts on the real Etherdelta site and steal all of their Ether.
Although this was a mistake by the servers rather than willful censorship, it still reveals the central problem of the current Internet. An authority is in charge of who gets access to which website.
And as long as this is the case, users risk being prevented from visiting a site they want to see or risk being sent to a site they don’t want to be sent to.
This is the problem ENS domains attempt to solve.
ENS domains (ETH domains): How they work
An ENS domain is registered using the Ethereum Name System (ENS). All ENS domains end in “.ETH”. So they are sometimes called “ETH domains.”
To register a .eth domain, you do not need to sign up with a registrar such as Name.com or GoDaddy. Instead, the registration is handled by a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain. And once you have registered your domain, your ownership of it is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain as well.
.ZIL Blockchain Domains (Zilliqa)
.zil is a new blockchain domain extension launched using the Zilliqa blockchain. It was specifically design so that .zil domains can work to enable payments in cryptocurrency. The goal is to replace cryptocurrency addresses with human readable names, similar to how a typically web domain name works.
.zil is launching with support for Ethereum and Zilliqa and is slated to be open to the public in June 2019.
Domains are NOT part of the traditional DNS, but you will be able to transfer them since they are stored in a cryptocurrency wallet once the network is live. They are known as “alternate roots.”
Registry and resolvers
The Ethereum name system consists of two parts: registry and resolvers.
The registry is a smart contract that contains a list of every single domain and subdomain. Within the registry are three pieces of data for each domain:
- The public key of the owner
- The resolver contract that should be used to resolve the domain
- The amount of time that servers should keep a cache of the domain’s data
The resolver is the smart contract that supplies an ip address for the domain. The ip address is kept as a record on the blockchain, just like other pieces of information.
In theory, this should prevent servers on the network from lying or being mistaken about which ip address corresponds to which domain name. Since the blockchain is public, any server that gives incorrect information should be discovered immediately.
As a result, censorship should be impossible in this system.
Current uses for ENS domains
In the future, ENS domains should point to websites with multimedia content similar to what we have now in the centralized web. But this will require more robust solutions to the problem of decentralized storage than what we currently have. In the meantime, here are a few immediate uses for ENS servers.
Named ETH wallets
In the cryptocurrency community, we are used to handing out a long string of characters as an address for payment. But having to cut and paste a public key every time we accept payment forces us to accept risks we may not be completely comfortable with.
For example, it’s possible to cut and paste the wrong address and lose our crypto forever.
With an ENS domain, however, we can have all of our payments go to our .eth address. And the name of that address can be something memorable. If we run a bakery, for example, we can ask that payments be sent to “smithbakery.eth” instead of 0x99a6d66c833080558B2E63f30e011Bd0a92C6436 or some other gibberish.
And since the correct Ethereum address will be associated on the blockchain with this domain name, we won’t have to worry about a hacker getting control of the DNS and sending our payments somewhere else.
Providing Swarm content
Swarm is a system for decentralized file storage and retrieval. It is similar to the World Wide Web, except that it does not require content to be hosted on a particular server. A Swarm client can upload data to the network and then go offline.
Unlike with traditional Internet, this data will be stored on the various nodes of the network, preventing the website from going offline when its creator shuts down.
The Swarm network is still in a very primitive state. And there is currently no incentive system to ensure that nodes continue to store data that is desired by the community. As such, it is not currently a reliable way to store data.
Still, if you want to create a swarm website, you can currently do so. Use this tutorial to get started.
For now, publishing Swarm content requires volunteers to help store it. So it isn’t currently censorship-proof. But in the future, it should be a way for users to publish whatever views they hold, without fear of having it deleted by an authority.
Providing IPFS content
Another option for creating a decentralized website is to use Interplanetary File System (IPFS). IPFS uses cryptographic hashes to identify content instead of relying on a host computer. It was not specifically made for the Ethereum blockchain. And for that reason, it is less popular for ENS domains than Swarm is.
However, it has been around for a while. And because of this, it may be more well-developed and easier to use than Swarm.
If you want to create a decentralized website using IPFS, here is a tutorial for how to point your ETH domain to the relevant content.
Nodes on the IPFS network can maintain a blacklist of hashes that they refuse to transmit. This is implemented mainly to protect the nodes from being accused of facilitating piracy.
However, the developers of the network have no power to actually remove content from the system. Only the individual nodes can make that decision. And if they do so, other nodes can choose differently. So if a user of IPFS is targeted simply because of his political views, any censorship attempt is unlikely to be successful.
Browsing the decentralized web
The previous sections described what you can use an ENS domain for if you own one. But what if you just want to browse the content on other people’s ENS domains?
We found that http://theswarm.eth/ and http://swarmapps.eth/ were the only ETH websites that had any content. And even then, they only loaded when using the ENS Gateway addon. But hopefully more sites will be available soon.
In recent years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the problem of online censorship. The ability to control what content can be published has fallen into the hands of large social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. These networks are owned by individuals. And these individuals can delete posts or even entire accounts.
Blockchain social networks have attempted to solve this problem by publishing content to the immutable blockchain. But this only solves part of the problem. There still remains the problem of domain name registration.
In the past, the lack of a decentralized system for domain name registration has led to incidents such as the banning of Twitter in Turkey and the Etherdelta hack.
This article has explored one solution to this problem: the creation of ENS domains. We’ve gone over how the Ethereum Name System works in detail. We’ve also explored some current uses for this technology right now. And we’ve provided some resources you can use to get started with an ENS domain.
This system is still in its infancy. But because of its value in helping people to find content they like and to express themselves, it will likely play a significant role in the world in the future.
More domains for sale
“Censored section of Green Illusions by Ozzie Zehner” by Mutant669, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0