Rival protocols compete for name collisions.
A panel on blockchain domain names at NamesCon today turned into a fight between Handshake supporters and Unstoppable Domains founder Brad Kam.
Unstoppable Domains recently sued a technology provider that introduced second-level .wallet domains based on the Handshake system. Unstoppable offers a competing .wallet extension in its own system.
The fireworks started during the presentations, when Handshake Protocol co-founder Chris Jeffrey attacked Kam for filing a lawsuit.
The majority of the panel focused on name collisions and protocol conflicts. Here is an example of confrontation:
Thomas Barrett, co-founder of Encirca, which supports many competing blockchain domains, finished a comment on the nature of blockchain domains: …so web3 is about consumers taking back control of their privacy and personal data. So that’s the use case, very different from Web2, that’s really about businesses going online and doing e-commerce.
Chjango U., dWeb Foundation: [interjecting] — and prosecute people to create their territory.
Brad Kam: Can we keep it high? I think we focus too much on Unstoppable. Let’s talk about the industry.
Jeffrey: [interjecting] “No, no, that’s, that’s the most relevant thing to talk about right now because…
Chjango U.: [interjecting] “It’s a precedent.
Jeffrey: [continuing] … these decentralized naming protocols are susceptible to this type of attack. Someone like You [referring to Kam] will use a legacy naming system, like the Trademark Office, to prosecute someone who relies on these protocols. The good news is that I think in the long run you lose. And I say this without any sense of irony or levity: [Unstoppable] is the enemy.
It’s the person [Kam] which these decentralized naming protocols are intended to protect you from. And in the long run, they will die out.
The parties disagreed on the possibility of coexisting more than one blockchain top-level domain. Kam argued that they cannot and that “social convention” will play a large role in determining which area of blockchain should be able to exclude others:
Kam: Imagine what would happen if I had brad.crypto and someone else got brad.crypto there. And then someone trying to send me a million dollars sends it to the wrong person. It is a system that does not work. So what’s going to end up happening here is there’s going to be a… you can’t have more than one TLD operating in the nature of the same TLD. Otherwise, apps simply won’t support it. So what’s going to happen is that apps will say, “Hey, this is dangerous for my users. I can’t… I have to close this. So that’s why naming is actually a social convention, not just a technology. So you have the technology plus the social convention.
Ray King, founder of both a registrar that sells Handshake domains (Porkbun) and a company that sells ICANN-approved top-level domains, but took a neutral stance during the panel , asked who decides which competing protocol gets exclusive rights to a channel. Kam replied
Kam: This is the same as for any IP address. So basically what happens is you have first commercial use, you have market penetration… you have all the same reasons why you can’t launch the McDonald’s restaurant, it’s the same reason .
At this point, an audience member asked how you can ever prevent these types of collisions given the inherent characteristics of blockchain technology.
Question from the audience: I’m just curious how you can prevent collisions in this space, because ultimately blockchain domains are NFTs. And that’s a problem with NFTs in general, ie there’s no authentication, right? So you can create a million NFTs for the same thing, whether it’s a painting, an image, or anything else. And there’s no way to authenticate that, which is basically a core feature of decentralized systems.
Kam reiterated that he thinks it comes down to social convention.
Another audience member asked Kam what would happen in ICANN’s next round if someone applied for a top-level domain that matches the one Unstoppable Domains already operates. Kam replied
Kam: I think that’s a big question for the industry. In the end, what I’m hoping to happen is that…it’s not so much about ICANN, is it. This is the company trying to buy that TLD from ICANN or to buy the rights to that TLD from ICANN. And what I’m hoping for is that companies understand that, you know, the TLDs that have grown and gotten real traction in the marketplace, that they shouldn’t collide. And what is essentially the problem we have here is very similar to the problem we had when launching .com. There was no ICANN when .com was launched. But what happened was that there was a new technology platform that changed the internet and changed the world. And I believe that NFT domains have the same ability to change the world.
Kam argues that no one should apply for .crypto, .bitcoin, .nft or any of the other domains launched by Unstoppable at the opening of ICANN’s new round.
I left the session thinking there’s a reason the existing domain name system works so efficiently: because it is centralized. Despite all the promise of decentralization, people want the benefits of centralized systems that work as they expect.