A blockchain startup is bringing the fight for free speech to the domain level.
Unstoppable Domains announced Thursday a $4 million Series A led by venture capital firm Draper Associates. Boost VC, which led the startup’s seed round, was the only other participant in the Series A.
“For global free speech to work, you need to be able to say what you want and you need to be able to operate a business as you want,” Unstoppable Domains co-founder Brad Kam told CoinDesk.
By operating a decentralized domain registry, Unstoppable Domains claims to offer websites that can’t be taken down by government authorities or traditional domain providers. The issue of domain registrars booting objectionable platforms surged into public view after GoDaddy removed social network Gab following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last October.
“In the old world, GoDaddy is the custodian,” Kam said. “In this world, you control the domain yourself and no one can take it from you.”
When asked if censorship-resistant websites may offer a safe haven for toxic content or illegal use cases, Kam said:
“Similar comments were made about bitcoin early on as well. The reality is the nefarious purposes are not the main purposes.”
Users of the service control their own .zil domains, which are stored in a wallet, just like a cryptocurrency. The service is built on the Zilliqa blockchain and the website content itself is stored on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) or other decentralized storage networks, according to the company.
Importantly, Unstoppable’s .zil domains can also serve as human-readable addresses for accepting a variety of cryptocurrency payments.
“Unstoppable in the short term is solving the largest crypto UI problem, creating human-readable addresses, and, long-term, providing the toolset for creating and maintaining uncensorable websites,” Boost VC partner Brayton Williams told CoinDesk. “The way all companies have traditional website domains today, all individuals will have unique blockchain domains in the future for all info and payments.”
The San Francisco-based company was previously funded by the Boost-led $730,000 seed round in December 2018, as well as grants from the Ethereum Foundation (as BrowsEth) and the Zilliqa Foundation. The partnership with Zilliqa led to the creation of the .zil domain extension, which is set to go live after a domain auction in June.
“By decentralizing domain names, Unstoppable Domains has the potential to spread free speech around the world,” Tim Draper, managing partner of Draper Associates, said in a statement.
Kam said the company could potentially offer more domain extensions in the future, though currently .zil is the only one available. The company’s website offers regular .zil domains for $10 and premium domains for $250. Kam declined to share current user numbers.
Added Boost’s Williams:
“The Unstoppable team has proven their ability to ship quality product that has closed contracts with partners and generated significant revenue.”
CEO Matthew Gould and CTO Braden Pezeshki photo via Unstoppable Domains