After a failed initial launch, an effort to create a decentralized domain register on top of the ethereum blockchain is ready for round two.
The Ethereum Name Service (ENS), a leaderless domain system spearheaded by Ethereum Foundation employees Nick Johnson and Alex Van de Sande, originally opened back in mid-March, but when two critical bugs were found at the last minute, the team shut down the launch to regroup, fix problems and hunt for overlooked issues.
But, still, the team is remaining diligent should anything else go wrong.
What's in a name?
So, why does ethereum need a name service anyway?
The idea is that humans naturally don't do well with hexadecimal addresses. Such addresses are long, too difficult to type out and simply not user friendly.
For example, it will be much easier to do simple things like send ether (the token of the ethereum blockchain) to 'alice.wallet.eth' or pull up content on Swarm (etherum's decentralized storage space) by typing 'alice.swarm.eth', rather than cutting and pasting, or worse having to type, '0x123f681646d4a755815f9cb19e1acc8565a0c2ac'.
Johnson told CoinDesk:
The ENS will come in handy for a number of ethereum resources, for example, smart contracts, wallet addresses, data storage project Swarm hashes, public keys on ethereum's privacy-minded messaging layer Whisper and more.
In summary, the ENS does two things. It allows users to register domain names, which are then run by smart contracts, which spell out the rules for letting users create subdomains. And it works like an address book, resolving those names with their underlying machine identifiers.
Once the initial ENS becomes active on the main blockchain, anyone will be able to register a top-level domain name ending in "eth" using an open auction.
But because ENS is undergoing a 'soft launch', not all the names will be available at once. Instead, names will gradually become available over an eight-week period. Short names (anything less than seven characters) won't be available at all for about two years, until the system is upgraded.
In choosing a name, you initiate an auction. The auction has two parts: a three-day sealed bidding period, where you enter the most ether you are willing to pay, and a two-day reveal, where bids become publicly viewable.
A hidden bid ensures that people will not lay in wait and overbid you in the final moments of an auction. New bids are prohibited in the reveal stage.
You won't lose money on the bids. Any ether used to purchase a name are held in a separate deed account against your name. Deeds become transferable only after a year. Once you relinquish a name, you get your deposit back.
As Johnson explained to CoinDesk, the purpose for the auction and deed program is to avoid a "land rush" whereby speculators grab popular names and hold on to them for resale. And to establish a fair price for names.
With this plan, Johnson is confident the launch will be a success this time around, concluding:
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