We recently did a deep dive on ENS (Ethereum Name Service) domains, and how they can help decentralize websites/apps with their Ethereum-based naming system.
To do a quick recall, ENS domains (domain.eth) are the decentralized alternative to DNS domains, built on Ethereum smart contracts. You can register them, and point them to your website to have a censorship-proof Dweb point of access.
However, ENS names are much more than just domains for your site, and their adoption could signify a bigger change to the overall web. Yes, ENS names can be your web’s address, but they can also be your identity, wallet/bank, payment processor, and much more.
All at the same time.
That is because ENS can reference multiple resources at once, like IPFS hashes for a website address, ETH addresses for payments/wallets, and even Twitter handles, emails, and avatars. ENS domains can encompass an entire online entity with its underlying pieces and translate them into a single, easy to use, and decentralized address.
These multi-address/record domains work contextually. Yourdomain.eth could be your personal CV website, but when entered in a compatible wallet service by someone trying to make an ETH transfer to you, it would detect the ETH address set up behind that domain’s record and act as a human-readable form of your 42-character wallet address!
The main benefit of this multi-address/resource capability is that ENS unifies and facilitates many complex web services into a single resource.
Traditionally, when you make a commercial web or web app, you would need a bank account, Stripe or an alternative for payments, your DNS domain name, a hosting platform, an authentication model or profiles for users if you offer it, and so on. Each of these pieces of your web infrastructure work separately, and usually rely on private third parties.
On the other hand, with ENS, all of these services are either encapsulated already, or easily integrated, and are open resources. By using an Ethereum address -or other crypto- as the core of your ENS domain, you resolve both the payment gateway and bank aspect right off the bat, under the same address that will be your domain name as well.
And when it comes to authentication/profiles, you can easily leverage ENS subdomains to offer users a quick way to create accounts they can link to their own addresses, following a simple structure: user.yourdomain.eth. Even inside of your platform, ENS can become your naming convention for the internal assets your users manage, after all these names are NFTs as well and that could power a lot of interesting applications.
It’s not minor to say that ENS gives you easy access to an open decentralized infrastructure. With the Ethereum ecosystem and IPFS alone, you have access to an infrastructure that can easily cover all needs above without having to rely on a centralized entity that isn’t as unified as ENS and its pieces are.
Like Balaji S. Srinivasan said in this Twitter thread, real names weren’t built for the internet. They don’t carry out metadata behind them. They are mostly descriptors, tied to other main identifiers: usernames, domains, emails, bank accounts, that are platform-specific and that you need to recall, build, and share separately. Real names are secondary online identifiers, and at times they are more risky than useful.
ENS, on the other hand, is built for the web. Its adoption could help simplify the overall web experience tremendously for businesses and individuals. Imagine if by simply knowing a business’ pseudonym you could connect with them, pay, and interact with them without having to know a specific identifier for each different use case.
Or, from an individual’s perspective, imagine having a single .eth domain name that acts as your global pseudonym for your online presence; with subdomains referencing different actions: pay.johndoe.eth, connect.johndoe.eth, hire.johndoe.eth.
With ENS, domain names (or pseudonyms) could become the main online ID of an individual/entity, representing the vast array of underlying layers it has to offer and effectively unifying all identifiers and use cases under a decentralized name.
What’s more, not only ENS encompasses username-like fields such as ETH addresses, but metadata as well. As of today, when you register an .eth ENS domain like MyName.eth, you could add the following records to it:
- ETH/BTC/Doge/LTC/Atom/Dash +40 other wallet addresses.
- IPFS content hashes.
- Custom text records
- Github handles
- Twitter handles
- Email addresses
This opens up the playing field tremendously for custom use cases in the future. Any platform could add their custom records to ENS and enable users to take advantage of this naming system; or any person could build up their custom online identity, referencing all relevant aspects easily: financial, social, professional, etc.
One of these future use case opportunities is using ENS to create central, user-owned storage identities for individuals.
In our vision for user-owned storage, via our work in Fleek and Space, we see that one key hurdle in decentralizing storage and giving users full control over their data is switching the traditional platform storage paradigm: instead of having users store data in a platform’s storage they don’t own and control, platforms should store user data in a user-owned storage that’s controlled by a user who gives access to the information they need to function.
That is why we believe that Ethereum key-based accounts are the future of authentication, because they do that very thing for accounts. They provide a unified online identity for users, where instead of holding platform-specific accounts, they could authorize platforms to connect to their unified pseudonym.
If we add a user-owned storage behind a ENS unified pseudonym, users could potentially sign up to new services and platforms and automatically have their user data and information stored in their personal storage accounts, closing the ownership/decentralization circle even further.
This is one of many use cases to be explored in the storage field, but one of the core concepts in rethinking how we build storage to be user-owned.
With their extreme versatility and compatibility, ENS domains have proven their worth in facilitating access to decentralized applications and services.
Now, having matured and grown in use cases, it is time to think of them as an amazing unifying point for entities in the next evolution of the web, where different sub-aspects of an entity can be aggregated and handled in a seamless and unified way.
Check out the ENS documentation site for further use case examples and experiments you can make in your Dapp! You can get started with IPFS+ENS hosting in Fleek, so get building and share with us your latest project 👋