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Blockchain domains pose “significant risks” to internet, says ICANN

Kevin Murphy, May 10, 2022, 10:38:12 (UTC), Domain Tech

The internet could be fragmented and made less secure by the proliferation of blockchain-based naming systems, according to a recent position statement from ICANN’s chief technology officer.

The report, “Challenges with Alternative Name Systems” (pdf) worries aloud about systems such as Namecoin, Ethereum Naming Service, Unstoppable Domains, and Handshake.

It says: “the creation of new namespaces without any coordination (either among themselves nor with the DNS) will necessarily lead to name collisions, unexpected behaviors, and user frustration.”

“The end result might very well be completely separate ecosystems, one for each naming system, further fragmenting the Internet,” it concludes.

It’s a pretty brisk, high-level, 15-page summary of the various alt-root naming systems grouped around the “Web3” meme that have been gaining various levels of popularity over the last few years.

It doesn’t drill too far down into any of them and doesn’t really say much that we haven’t heard from ICANN before about blockchain naming, but it does broadly cover what’s out there, how these systems are used, and why they pose risks.

Opposition to alt-roots is an almost foundational principle of ICANN, documented in ICP-3, a 21-year-old document that dates from a time when alt-roots used standard DNS but with different root servers.

ICANN has in the last year pushed back against the newer blockchain-based alts, most prominently by delaying the sale of some gTLD contracts and forcing registry’s to renounce their ownership rights to gTLD strings.

One new addition to the debate that caught my eye was OCTO noting that a lack of coordination between the various alt-roots in operation today presents similar kinds of interoperability risks as does the lack of coordination between the alts and the authoritative root.

It notes that “at least four blockchain-based naming systems are competing today” and as a result “when developing an application, one must decide which blockchain-based naming system to use.”

“As there is no namespace coordination mechanism between those alternative naming systems, name collisions must be expected,” it says.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 2232 UTC to change the headline from “Blockchain poses ‘significant risks’ to internet, says ICANN” to “Blockchain domains pose ‘significant risks’ to internet, says ICANN”

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Comments (3)

  1. Jared Arms says:

    I support both, ICANN & Unstoppable Domains.

    Both have it’s Pros’ & Cons’, I personally prefer UD Domains over the traditional domain names.

    Why keep paying companies like GoDaddy, for domains renewals if you can simply pay a one time fee to new Blockchain Domains Registries like UD.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      GoDaddy is following the financial models the TLD registries give them. If Verisign, the .com registry, charged a one time fee, GoDaddy could do the same for their customers, or charge a very small renewal fee.

      What you should be asking about UD Domains is how the infrastructure will be maintained if the money flow is one-time. If that requires a constant inflow of new customers, this is not sustainable and is akin to a pyramid scheme.

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