Unstoppable Domains builds domain names on blockchains, meaning that each domain name is a non-fungible token (NFT) stored inside the user’s cryptocurrency wallet instead of within a traditional, centralized registrar like GoDaddy.
Practically, this means Brave users will be able to navigate to 30,000 decentralized websites and 700,000 blockchain domain names registered with Unstoppable Domains, drastically expanding access to Web 3.0.
“The entire domain name system is a suite of smart contracts living on the blockchain, which means that when a browser like Brave wants to go and resolve a website, instead of going and pinging the DNS servers, they go and read the blockchain directly,” said Unstoppable Domain co-founder Brad Kam. “That’s how they find the record. And so what is unique and different here is really around custody and ownership.”
How it works with blockchain domains
Unstoppable Domains makes blockchain domains decipherable. Blockchain domains are essentially suites of smart contracts, software written on a public blockchain. They can work as a naming registry for crypto wallet addresses, for example, or they can point to content hosted on the blockchain, like a website.
Kam describes the domains as “your user name for crypto,” akin to a decentralized Venmo. So while my Venmo address is really [insert long string of alphanumeric characters here], what someone searching for me might see is “Ben Powers.” Right now, any wallet address on a blockchain is a string of long, random characters.
Some examples of existing domains include Brad.crypto, an NFT art gallery owned by Kam himself; and vault74.crypto, a decentralized chat with 4k streaming and file sharing.
Typically, we understand domain addresses on the web to take us to a site where we can view content. Blockchain domain addresses can also host content; for example, Kam has a NFT gallery website at his domain.
More commonly, blockchain domain addresses are used for payments. These .crypto domains work inside of 50 different crypto wallets and exchanges. According to Kam, you can just send money to Brad.crypto, for example, because that’s essentially his username for the crypto web.
At its core, the idea is that this makes decentralized tech easier to use.
Brave has previously integrated a crypto wallet where you can send money and Brave has also integrated the decentralized storage network InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Kam acknowledged that both of those technologies are extremely powerful, but he suggested that easy-to-remember domains make them easier to use.
“So you can now send me money in the Brave crypto wallet with Brad.crypto, and instead of having to go and find my crazy long 30- to 50-character IPFS hash in order to go see my decentralized website, you can just type in Brad.crypto and see my decentralized website,” said Kam. “So just like how it works with the consumer internet today, you need a domain name system in order for this technology to be easy enough to use that it can go mainstream.”
Domain Name Systems and Web 3.0
The DNS is the system that runs the web, resolving the search for long, numbered IP addresses with the common .com websites we are familiar with today.
For the almost 30 years of history of DNS there’s really been one DNS system the entire internet has been using.
“This is really the first time we’re seeing browsers have embraced an alternative system,” said Kam. (Unstoppable Domains also recently integrated with the browser Opera.)
Kam sees this adoption as somewhat of a watershed moment for the decentralized web and for alternate DNS systems in general. The traditional DNS comes with a long approval system, regulatory bodies and various committees. But on the blockchain, using something like Unstoppable Domains, anybody can launch anything.
In a sense, the fact that browsers are able to resolve these .crypto domains is proof blockchain domain name systems are as valid as the traditional DNS.
“Browsers are kind of the access points for decentralized websites but there are no decent-sized websites without browser support,” said Kam. “They’d be up there but who cares? They wouldn’t be accessible to you and me.”
That’s why browsers are critical to the success of the overall decentralized web idea.
“I like that there’s no trust involved with this solution,” said Brave’s co-founder Brian Bondy. “I think it’s a much better way to do it via owning NFTs, basically, and whoever owns that private key is the only one that really has access to the ownership of that domain. I think it makes a lot more sense.”
The issues with centralization
The lack of centralization means that decisions about a domain can’t be arbitrarily made by any one body, there isn’t a need to keep subscribing as once you own the domain: You own it forever and it can’t be taken away.
Centralized DNS providers struggle with, or enable, all of those issues.
For example, in 2020, GoDaddy was hacked using social engineering techniques and employees were tricked in transferring ownership and control of targeted domains to fraudsters. In November, hackers were able to redirect traffic intended for a number of crypto platforms.
“A domain hosting provider, ‘GoDaddy,’ that manages one of our core domain names incorrectly transferred control of the account and domain to a malicious actor,” said crypto trading platform Liquid CEO Mike Kayamori in a blog post. “This gave the actor the ability to change DNS records and in turn, take control of a number of internal email accounts. In due course, the malicious actor was able to partially compromise our infrastructure and gain access to document storage.”
In April of this year, a man in Argentina was able to register the country’s local Google domain (google.com.ar) for a few bucks after an error was seemingly made at NIC, Argentina’s centralized government-run service registry that sells all “.ar” domains.
The error was remedied a few hours later, but shows both the control (and lack thereof) these centralized entities have.
Echoing Kam, Bondy said two big areas where Brave will benefit from native support for Unstoppable domains are their wallet and IPFS sites. Overall, though, it will just open Brave users up to access a lot more content.
Bondy said a lot of the time, .crypto domains will point to an IPFS site. These sites are not really easy to access, given the InterPlanetary Name System (IPNS) uses a long string of characters that users have to memorize to access the sites.
“That’s where things like Ethereum Naming Service and Unstoppable Domains come in and give you a really easy way to be able to have immutable IPFS content,” said Bondy. “So you can change the content of your website on IPFS, and you can just remember a really simple thing like, like Brave.crypto for example, and it gets served over that.”
The other value-add is for their wallet. When you’re sending cryptocurrencies to another user, usually you have to input a long string of characters.
“That’s kind of error prone,” said Bondy. “You can make a mistake or it looks scary. You don’t really know who it belongs to at a glance.”