This is part three of a multi-part series on using the Distributed Web. This article assumes you’ve already read parts one and two.
Who Needs a Blockchain Domain?
In the previous article on IPNS I noted that, while permanent links to ever-changing content are great, the links that IPNS created seemed arbitrary and weren’t memorable. In order for the distributed web to really catch on, we need a good domain name system. ENS, the Ethereum Name Service, is one such contender.
ENS combines the practicality of the Domain Name System (DNS) with the decentralization of a blockchain, as well as promising to bring an end to the privacy-disrespecting nature of third party online accounts.
The best thing about ENS is that the names are stored in smart-contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. This means there is no central authority controlling them; there is no DNS provider or governmental power that can take down your domain name when you say or do something they don’t like. This may be a strength or a weakness but as someone who just wants to use it to host an uncensorable blog, I love the technology.
It may be that in the near future, everyone will want a blockchain domain, because that will be the primary way to interact with Web 3.0. Is that a good thing? Who knows… on the one hand it brings power to the user in that they actually own and control their online accounts; on the other hand it could signal the coming of a dystopian future where online accounts are legally tied to real identities and corporations create social credit systems that keep track of people thoughts and behaviors and enforces the correct technocratic-globalist ethics, but that already happens on Web 2.0 so I can’t help but feel this decentralization can only be a step away from that.
What Does ENS Do?
With ENS, you can purchase a .eth address and have it point to your uncensorable website on IPFS.
Beyond that it can point to several different crypto wallet addresses, so getting paid with crypto is as simple as saying “you can send it to houseofedwards.eth, please”.
It can also point to existing online accounts owned by third-parties, like R*ddit and Tw*tter, but you’ll never see me write a tutorial recommending you to do that.
How Can I Buy One?
Unsurprisingly, you need Ethereum to buy an Ethereum Name.
Is It Worth It?
Probably not… yet.
Theoretically, it’s a great deal! All ENS names cost $5.00 USD a year, unless they’re shorter than 5 characters long; those are priced much higher to reflect their scarcity.
The problem with ENS is the E— Ethereum. I reserved my name for 5 years— so that should’ve cost me around $25, right? Wrong. I actually spent close to $300 to buy my name and set the text records.
Ethereum’s gas fees are just too high for this to be a viable option going forward. Fortunately I bought all my Ethereum a couple years ago while it was pretty low, but those prices are still ridiculous.
Ethereum’s developers are working on making gas fees cheaper, that’s one of the first things on their list of upgrades they have planned for the future; but as it stands, right now I can’t recommend ENS to someone who doesn’t already have a bunch of Ethereum waiting around to be used.
Ideally, someone would come along and create an alternative blockchain domain system using a cheap privacy coin with very low gas fees like Monero, but I don’t know of any projects like that being developed right now.