The internet is rapidly evolving into its next era, known as Web 3. This new iteration of the internet aims to decentralize power and give users more control over their data and online identities. A key part of this transition is the move towards Web 3 domains, which operate very differently from traditional web domains.
As Web 3 adoption grows, understanding these new domain systems will be crucial for businesses and individuals looking to establish an online presence. This article will provide an overview of the most popular Web 3 domains, how they work, their key benefits, and what the future may hold for these innovative domains.
The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) was one of the first Web 3 domain projects. ENS offers .eth domains that point to resources on the Ethereum blockchain. Here are some key things to know about ENS domains:
- ENS domains end with .eth and can replace complex crypto wallet addresses to make transactions easier. For example, instead of sending funds to 0x123456789, you could send them to John. eth.
- ENS domains are non-fungible tokens (NFTs) maintained on the Ethereum blockchain. This means they cannot be copied or replicated.
- Owning an ENS domain gives you full control – you can point the domain to any blockchain/web2 resource, and sell it, and there is no renewal fee.
- Registration happens through an auction process and the average price for premium names has risen substantially. Short 1-4 letter .eth domains can sell for tens of thousands.
- Beyond simplifying transactions, ENS domains give users an established Web 3 identity and blockchain address. This can be used across Ethereum apps and services.
Unstoppable Domains offers .crypto and .nft domains that also replace long crypto wallet addresses. Key features include:
- Unstoppable Domains work across 40+ blockchains, allowing the domains to be used with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polygon, etc.
- They are stored as NFTs on the blockchain but have traditional DNS integration, so the domains work like normal websites/emails.
- Domains can be purchased for around $50-$100 on Unstoppable Domain’s marketplace and have a small yearly renewal fee. There is no auction process.
- Users have complete ownership and control of their domains. This allows integration with decentralized storage, email, websites, and blockchain logins.
- Unstoppable Domains aims for mass adoption by individual crypto users. The .crypto extension looks and functions similarly to traditional domains.
Unlike ENS and Unstoppable Domains which work with existing TLDs like .eth and .crypto, Handshake pioneered an entirely new TLD system with names ending in .hns, .handshake, etc. Key aspects include:
- Handshake uses its decentralized root zone instead of ICANN, meaning no central authority governs the domain names or root servers.
- Top-level domains are added through an auction process where anyone can bid. If the reserve price is met, the TLD becomes available to register domains under.
- Domain pricing is set by supply and demand. Premium .hns domains have sold for upwards of $300,000 at auction.
- Handshake aims to be an alternative to the traditional DNS system with censorship resistance and no gatekeepers. Domains cannot be seized or blocked.
- Technical requirements like running a full node create barriers to mass adoption currently. Ideal for highly censorship-resistant applications.
Domain services like ENS enable decentralized websites and content storage. Benefits include:
- Sites hosted directly through blockchain-based storage are censorship-resistant. There is no central server provider that can remove content.
- Immutable – Content on decentralized storage cannot be changed or lost, only added to over time.
- Ownership and control stay with the individual rather than centralized platforms.
- Early projects like MetaMask Swarm, IPFS, and Arweave provide decentralized storage and gateways that Web 3 domains can integrate with.
Email is another use case being built out. Users can create email addresses through their web 3 domains. Advantages include:
- Emails are stored in decentralized storage solutions like Arweave rather than on centralized servers. This prevents account or data loss.
- Increased privacy and no data mining compared to traditional email providers.
- Ownership and control stay with the individual.
- Existing solutions are still early stages but progressing rapidly. Some options include Sensemail, Mailchain, and Hubble.
Web 3 domains are still in their infancy but hold tremendous potential to give users control, ownership, and privacy online. Here are some possible future trends:
- Broader adoption – As Web 3 reaches mainstream adoption, decentralized domains could replace traditional domains and DNS for many users.
- New TLDs – Additional top-level domains like .wallet, .nft, and .dao could emerge as popular namespaces on various blockchains.
- Decentralized marketplaces – Domain aftermarkets may shift to decentralized platforms, allowing peer-to-peer sales via NFT transactions.
- Domain interoperability – Projects like DNSSEC allow domains to work across multiple blockchains, increasing flexibility.
- New use cases – Web 3 domains may underpin decentralized identity, authentication, payments, and numerous other applications.
Web 3 domains like ENS, Unstoppable Domains, and Handshake usher in an exciting new era of the internet. By giving users control, ownership, and censorship resistance, decentralized domain systems can provide an alternative to traditional DNS. As Web 3 gathers momentum, these domains will form the foundation for decentralized websites, email, identities, and much more. Their full disruptive potential is still being uncovered, but they represent a significant step towards an internet owned by users rather than institutions.