As decentralization takes hold in its nascent forms, the vision of Web.3, a new kind of Internet based on decentralized tenets, becomes more defined. We’ve seen early adoptions where decentralized apps have addressed specific areas such as payments, file storage and messaging. All of these are part of that Web.3 evolution. The next stage may very well be Unstoppable Domains.
Who is Unstoppable Domains?
Based in the Bay Area, the team at Unstoppable Domains works globally to bring a service that registers domains on the blockchain, as opposed to using a domain name service (DNS).
Since 2012, CEO Matthew Gould and Co-Founder Bradley Kam have led Talkable, a referral program service for businesses. Gould is an economics and finance grad from Georgia IT, while Kam has a political science degree and years of real estate investment expertise. Co-Founder and CTO Braden Pezeshiki founded BuyEthDomains.com and Founding Engineer Ryan Le rounds out the team.
Kam took some time to help us understand the vision behind Unstoppable Domains.
What do they do?
Unstoppable Domains has launched a new domain extension service that may represent a forward leap in Web.3 evolution. They’ve proposed and are now testing out a decentralized Internet naming service using .zil. It’s completely from the standard DNS (domain naming system) that we use now for buying domains and naming and housing websites. Just think of all the .coms .orgs, etc.
This blockchain-based Internet naming service offers a new way of participating in Web.3 by essentially giving people a way to replace their current domains with domains that are live on the blockchain. Upon the official launch, your new website domain would then be like a crypto asset. Not only that, it will be uncensorable.
This .zil domain asset can be moved around peer to peer just like a wallet to wallet crypto transaction. It can also can’t not be taken down by governments or agencies. In fact, it can’t be taken down by anyone. That’s because these .zil domains are on the Zilliqa blockchain and cannot be destroyed. Imagine a world without GoDaddy, where there’s no third party to go to when a government or other authority wants to take down a website.
Think of China, for instance, where Internet censorship is a policy and economic tool. As this decentralized domain naming service takes effect, imagine a Chinese (or any) person having the ability to post website information that cannot be taken down or blocked.
What about illegal content?
On the protocol level, an Unstoppable Domain, as we mentioned, cannot be taken down because it is a record on the Zilliqa Blockchain. While immutable and unalterable on the protocol layer, the second layer will include options for filtering content.
For instance, the Unstoppable Domains’ website search feature will filter out illegal content so their users do not see it. And they don’t go to jail. But, that doesn’t mean the domain is taken down. It is still there permanently and only the user has the keys unless they decide to divulge that information to someone else.
How it works
In its Beta stage, Unstoppable Domains provides several features:
Preorder a Domain
To preorder a domain name, you can look up your name or a business name:
As you can see, these available domains are $10 each.
You can also browse the Premium Domains page to find some sought after names, such as fullnode.zil or halvening.zil. These cost $250 each and are getting bought up as we speak.
Others domain names, like bitcoin.zil, tesla.zil, and crypto.zil, will only be available at an auction beginning May 31, 2019. If you have a trademarked domain (say you own bitcoin.com and want the bitcoin.zil domain), you have until that auction date to submit proof of trademark to Unstoppable Domains to retrieve your domain. After the auction begins, these will all be up for grabs by the highest bidder.
You can add the domains that you want to your shopping cart. Once you’re ready to check out, you’re brought to the CoinBase payment feature, where you can pay in crypto or fiat.
Now you have your blockchain domain forever without any annual renewal fees. If you ever wish to get rid of your domain, you can sell it by making a wallet to wallet transfer to anyone you choose. Originally, the team had planned to charge a $5 annual renewal fee for each domain but announced the change in terms in early May 2019.
If you wish to share information about the new Internet naming service, you can easily grab their affiliate link. For any domains that people buy using your link, you receive 20% on the first $10, 10% up to $100, and 5% for over $100. They’ve also listed some limitations in the affiliate program that you can check out. One such restriction bars anyone from using an affiliate link to a trademarked domain.
According to the Unstoppable Domains website, once you purchase the domain, you have access to “powerful tools to make it painless to manage your blockchain domains.” They offer a backup recovery feature in case you lose your private keys and 24/7 support.
As per the company’s road map, website support and browser support will roll out in late 2019 or early 2020.
Two main benefits of blockchain domains
A number of things set the .zil naming service apart from the standard domain naming service (DNS) we all use today. But two of its features in particular stand out as they endeavor to solve two very large and very real problems:
Problem 1 – Easing the loss of crypto addresses
Just a few short months ago, CEO of QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange, Gerald Cotton, was reported to have passed away, taking the keys to the exchange’s cold storage with him. Maybe he took his own advice and stored the keys on a paper wallet in a safe deposit box. As of yet, no one really knows what happened except that investors have lost upwards of $198 million dollars worth of crypto.
Outside of exchanges, crypto investors are becoming more and more informed about how to safely store their private keys. But the fact remains that over $8 billion in bitcoin is considered likely to be lost forever:
With an Unstoppable Domain living on a blockchain, you could conceivably have your name, say John Doe, as your domain name. Under that domain you can attach your crypto wallet addresses. If you want someone to pay you, the idea is you can simply give them your domain name to receive a payment.
As Co-Founder Brad Kam told us, “The domain is an asset in your wallet. It’s stored in there just like a cryptocurrency, Cryptokitties, or anything else.”
Without this service, in the current system you must handle the storage of your private keys on your own. Or you must trust a centralized source such as QuadrigaCX. Unstoppable Domains is hoping to supply an answer to ‘lost key syndrome’.
Problem 2 – Internet Censorship
Within the current DNS system, governments can intervene with domain registrars such as GoDaddy and essentially shut a site down. This is happening all over the world. China is one example.
“In the first half of this year, the internet regulator Cyber Administration of China said it had shut down or revoked the licenses of more than 3,000 websites.”– Li Yuan, Independent
Incidentally, of those 3000 sites taken down by Chinese officials, Google, Facebook and Twitter are among them.
With a blockchain based domain, government officials will have no one to turn to as the domain registrar is no longer an accessible and controllable entity. While they may be able to ask second layer applications such as hosts or browsers to shut down a site, the best they can do is have a site removed from that application. The domain is a permanent fixture and can’t be removed, but access to it can be denied by certain providers.
What happens next?
Once our website content is stored in this decentralized manner, we are basically part of the new Internet. It kind of takes us back to the 1990s when most Internet applications we know today were not yet invented. So we have this raw Internet, stored and secured on the blockchain. What will happen next?
An answer to that question really depends on the creativity and work of people that join this decentralized domain process.
At first, the content will be stored using a web builder tool. That data is then put into an IPFS (Interplanetary File System), which is a distributed file system where you can store and track file versions. You’ll be able to put in an IPFS that is associated with your domain. So when a browser looks up your name, it can access the IPFS file for it. Other means of hosting your own content in this new, censorship-resistant way are currently under development.
What you can do now
Right now you’re able to pre-order .zil domain names for $10.00 each. Premium domains are also available for $250. Once you buy up the domain, you’ll have a web address that will have the following features at launch in late 2019 or early 2020:
Uncensorable – No one can shut it down. While in the future we may see different browsers creating variable filters, in the beginning, these will be raw, immutable, Internet places.
Transferable – If you’re buying and selling domains to make money, you basically now have a brand new market. Only this time, when you want to buy or sell a domain, it’s much simpler. In fact, it’s essentially the same as sending some ETH wallet to wallet.
Looking to the future, there are several ideas that come to mind. Such as when you want to sell or transfer an online business. It could be simplified this way by sending the crypto asset (your domain name) to the receiving party, as quick as a crypto transfer.
Alternatively, crypto enthusiasts may have a new and better way to hand down their crypto assets. Thus far we have very few options for safely conveying key phrases, passwords, and wallets so they can easily be transferred to a family member or colleague.
But for the foreseeable future, those entrepreneurs that buy and sell domains (a/k/a Domain Flipping) would be a probable first use case for the .zil naming service. Kam noted that the team also expects the development of domain exchanges, where you can buy and sell domains, to become an integral part of this new Internet.
The Zilliqa Foundation gave a grant to Unstoppable Domains to build out their .zil naming service on the Zilliqa Blockchain. According to EthNews.com, Zilliqa is a “contract-enabled platform for payment processing and dApps focused on speed, security, and scalability.” These contracts are built using Zilliqa’s unique smart contract language, Scilla.
In January of 2019, Singapore-based Zilliqa transitioned from the Ethereum Blockchain to start its own mainnet. They’re currently working on their coin swap, and it was just reported that Binance will be supporting the switch. Additionally, an update for users was recently published on Medium for help in understanding the Zilliqa coin swap process.
The Zilliqa team has been developing their blockchain since June of 2017 and by September of that year, they had a private testnet going. Their public testnet wallet has been created and sharding has undergone rigorous testing. Now developers are getting ready to try their hand at building DApps on the Zilliqa Blockchain.
Zilliqa’s platform features sharding as their solution to the scalability problem.
What is sharding?
Sharding has been a means for increasing database efficiency for years. It essentially splits up a database into smaller working units. With blockchain sharding, the network is subdivided into subnetworks. That way, transaction processing and operation executing can be done in tandem as opposed to using the entire network to process every transaction or operation simultaneously. In tests, Zilliqa has reached 2828 transactions per second:
There are some people who think that sharding may only be a temporary solution to scalability, or that it creates centralization. You can read more about that debate this article about Ethereum’s sharding program. Zilliqa has also posted a video about sharding that may help in understanding.
Unstoppable Domains is rolling out their .zil naming service first but also plan to offer .eth domains in the future. Another unique feature they are developing is to enable omni-crypto payments, which gives users a little more flexibility than just using ETH, as on the Ethereum Mainnet. Currently, a Zil faucet is running on the Dev Testnet Network so participants can receive a small amount of Zil for testing purposes.
Anyone involved in the crypto space has encountered the permanence of blockchain, as well as the inherent censorship-resistant and security features. Maybe you’ve posted a Steemit post – you know that’s never going away; no one can change it, no one can delete it. You probably have traded cryptocurrencies on a blockchain. You know it’s unstoppable.
Now decentralization has a new family member – domains. So, if this is the new Internet, we are kind of at the same place we were in 1995. Starting from scratch again, only this time we already are well versed in what the Internet is and can be. Not to mention we have a global population who is tech-savvy and already embracing cryptocurrencies.
Buying and selling a domain with Unstoppable Domains is set to become a quick, peer to peer transaction. While entrepreneurs who buy and sell domains to make money represent just one use case of Unstoppable Domains, they certainly exemplify one that has clear potential.
Other opportunities, when you think for a moment, may soon follow, for instance:
- Hosting services
- Browsers and browser filters
- Data analytics
Until then, what we can do is check out this new phenomenon of buying a domain outside of the normal registrar services we are used to. And be a part of taking Web.3 to another level.
Also published on Medium.