In the early days of the web, to access a website you needed to type in the IP address, a string of numbers that were difficult to remember and almost impossible to guess. Then came human-readable names to make it easier for actual people to surf the world wide web. That shift turned 22.214.171.124 into Decrypt.co!
Cryptocurrency is still very much in the IP address phase: Users need long, difficult-to-remember addresses in order to access the pages they want. That's where the Ethereum Name Service comes in. It wants to make using crypto as easy as surfing the web.
Below we explore how it works, where it comes from, and how you can secure an emoji domain name.
What is the Ethereum Name Service (ENS)?
The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a lookup system. It links information to a name. It is not a naming service just for Ethereum; it is a name service built on Ethereum. It offers a secure and decentralized way to address resources using human-readable names. It is a totally distributed domain-name provider that allows anyone to buy and manage domains. That means you could send ETH or ERC20 tokens to “realsatoshi.eth” instead of to “8e866f012fb8fb…”
Who runs ENS?
Nick Johnson and Alex Van de Sande of the Ethereum Foundation led the initial development of the ENS.
In November 2021, the project airdropped ENS tokens to users of the service and established a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, to manage it. (The legal entity connected to the DAO is True Names Limited.) ENS token-holders use their assets as company shareholders might; they can make decisions about pricing, protocol changes and how to manage funds within the treasury.
The introduction of ENS tokens had the added benefit of transitioning the project's funding model away from grants. ENS tokens are tradable for U.S. dollars and other cryptocurrencies on crypto exchanges, providing a financial lifeline to the project's developers.
What’s so special about it?
The ENS is built on Ethereum’s smart contracts, making it more secure, private, and resistant to censorship than the internet’s Domain Name Service (DNS). The team behind ENS see internet-naming infrastructure as a fundamental component that therefore should be open, decentralized, community-driven and not-for-profit. On a technical level, the ENS can make use of the existing Ethereum ecosystem, meaning it is highly programmable and can interact with other smart contracts outside of naming.
What else is different?
The ENS, unlike some of its competitors, does not want to replace DNS. The ENS focuses first and foremost on providing distributed, trustworthy name resolution for Web3 resources such as blockchain addresses and distributed content. By contrast, projects such as Namecoin, Blockstack, and Handshake are making efforts to replace DNS.
Did you know?
.eth domain names are actually NFTs. If you want to transfer a registered .eth name to a different person, you would send it just like any other non-fungible token.
Inside the ENS
Under the hood, ENS is basically two smart contracts. The ENS registry records all the domains and subdomains, as well the owner’s details and the link to the Resolver, which is another smart contract that handles the translations from names to addresses or other types of resources and vice-versa.
ENS runs similarly to the Internet’s DNS, in that it has a hierarchical system that allows the domain owner total control of any subdomains. So realsatoshi.eth can create wallet.realsatoshi.eth and email.realsatoshi.eth.
How to get your own ENS domain
Using an Ethereum wallet like MetaMask, you can visit manager.ens.domains to search for available domain names. Once you have found your domain, the system will walk you through registration, which will require you to confirm two transactions from your wallet. You will also have to select how many years you want to register a domain with rent costing $5.00 a year (paid in ETH). Now, as the owner of that domain you can set up the different addresses or information you want that name to link through as well as any subdomains.
Did you know?
You can register unicode in your domain name, which means you can claim an emoji ENS address. So you could maybe use 🤘🤘🤘.eth for crypto donations to your Satanic temple? Visit ethmojis.com to claim your emoji-based Ethereum domain today!
What can you do with ENS?
The best thing to do with ENS is to replace your long, unreadable Ethereum address with a friendly, memorable ENS address such as realsatoshi.eth. This makes it easier to receive crypto assets as well as enter your ENS address into Ethereum dapps without needing to copy and paste the long public address.
Aside from this, the decentralized web is being built on the partnership between ENS and the file storage system IPFS. A great place to start is at almonit.eth, where you can search a directory of decentralized websites. You can access this site as it is written with MetaMask enabled or—thanks to their efforts in bridging Web3 and the internet's DNS—you can add .link to decentralized websites and access them without MetaMask or special browsers.
What else can you do?
ENS is not just .eth. In 2021, ENS allowed sites with any of the more than 1,300 top-level domain names—such as those ending in .com, .org, or .edu—to integrate directly with ENS. Thus, if you own realsatoshi.org, you can link it directly to realsatoshi.eth so visitors can view content and send money to the exact same place.