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Freename tries to bridge DNS and blockchain

Kevin Murphy, February 26, 2024, Domain Tech

Swiss blockchain naming startup Freename has released a service it says it hopes will help make blockchain-based naming systems easier to integrate with the traditional DNS.

It’s called NOTO, and it has launched in closed beta this week.

Freename says NOTO crawls blockchain naming systems (currently its own Freename service, Ethereum Name Service, Handshake Name Service and Unstoppable) to compile lists of domains, and then making those lists of domains available to developers either via an API or downloadable zone files that look like regular zone files.

The idea seems to be that developers using traditional DNS can stay in their comfort zone and don’t have to do the work of figuring out complexities of the blockchain. It hopes makers of browsers, search engines, DNS resolution services and such will be able to more easily add “Web3” support to their software.

Freename also reckons there’s an intellectual property protection story, with trademark owners potentially more easily able to monitor blockchain naming services for abuse.

D3 signs up crypto gTLD client number five

Kevin Murphy, February 15, 2024, Domain Services

New gTLD consultancy D3 Global has signed up its fifth blockchain gTLD client since launching last September.

The company today announced a deal with Core Chain to apply for .core when ICANN next opens a new gTLD application window, currently expected mid-2026.

Core Chain makes a software platform for developers that want to building decentralized applications on blockchains. It says it has over five million connected cryptocurrency wallets.

D3 has recently announced similar partnerships with NEAR Foundation (.near), Gate.io (.gate), Viction (.vic) and Shiba Inu (.shib).

The company says its mission is to help blockchain companies operate on the traditional DNS as well as the blockchain-based alternate naming systems.

WebUnited inks deal to “mirror” country’s TLD in the blockchain

Kevin Murphy, February 12, 2024, Domain Registries

Blockchain domains startup WebUnited says it has signed up its first registry client to a service that allows domain names to be “mirrored” on a blockchain naming service.

The company has inked a deal with Global Domains International, the registry for Samoa’s .ws ccTLD (sometimes marketed as a generic for “web site”), that will let its registrars up-sell matching .ws names on the Polygon blockchain.

WebUnited, a Swiss-based joint venture of domain registry ShortDot and “Web3” naming player Freename, says registrants will be able to use their mirrored .ws names to address cryptocurrency wallets, for example.

The company essentially acts as a registry service provider for its registry clients in much the same way as regular RSPs do now, except instead of putting domains into EPP databases and the consensus DNS, it adds them to a blockchain.

Registrars that choose to sign up to the service will use an “EPP-like” API to access the registry, ShortDot COO Kevin Kopas said. He expects .ws to charge about five bucks a year for the blockchain add-on domains.

Kopas said WebUnited is also mirroring policies found in regular domain names, so if somebody loses their domain in a UDRP case, for example, they also lose their matching blockchain name.

After .ws, ShortDot’s own TLDs — .bond, .sbs, .icu, .cyou and .cfd — are also expected to offer the mirroring service. Because these are gTLDs governed by ICANN contracts, ShortDot first has to go through the Registry Service Evaluation Process for approval.

Kopas said that once ShortDot has completed its RSEP it will be able to supply gTLD clients with template language to get their own RSEPs approved. He said WebUnited has a pipeline of potential ccTLD and gTLD registries that have expressed an interest in the service.

GoDaddy offers free Ethereum blockchain integration

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2024, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has updated its domain management platform to allow users to add their Ethereum blockchain wallet addresses to their domains for free.

The registrar said it has partnered with Ethereum Name Service to offer the service, which will enable mutual customers to transact with ETH cryptocurrency using regular domain names instead of the massive gibberish strings crypto wallets usually use.

It’s free, due to ENS’s release last week of gasless DNSSEC, which links Ethereum to DNS by placing wallet addresses in the TXT records of domain names.

Before this update, ENS said the crypto transaction fees (“gas fees”) involved in validating domain ownership could reach as high as 0.5 ETH, which is over $1,100 at today’s prices.

The GoDaddy integration means the process of adding the TXT records has been simplified and can the accomplished in just a few clicks via the usual domain management interface.

Using ENS with your domain does require turning on DNSSEC, which adds some security benefits but also carries a downtime risk over the long term.

Shiba Inu outs itself as crypto new gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2023, Domain Registries

Shib, the developer behind the Shiba Inu cryptocurrency, said today that it plans to apply to ICANN for the .shib top-level domain.

The idea is to have the domain in the consensus DNS root and also in a blockchain and to make the two interoperable.

The company has partnered with D3 Global, the startup launched in September by industry veterans Fred Hsu, Paul Stahura and Shayan Rostam, to work on the application and interoperability platform.

Shib seems to be the second customer for D3. It’s also working with a blockchain company called Viction on .vic.

Perhaps erring on the side of responsibility, D3 is using an asterisk instead of a dot when offering names prior to ICANN approval, so it’s *shib and *vic instead of .shib and .vic.

The next ICANN application round is not expected to open until early-to-mid-2026.

Blockchain domain firm raises $2.5 million

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2023, Domain Services

Switzerland-based startup Freename said it has secured $2.5 million in seed funding to pursue its ambitions in blockchain-based domain names.

The round was led by Sparkle Ventures with participation from Abalone Asset Management, Golden Record Ventures, Blockchain Founders Fund, and Sheikh Mayed Al Qasimi, a member of a UAE royal family.

Freename, which can be found at freename.io, says it enables pretty much anybody to register a TLD on a blockchain and then earn 50% of the reg fee whenever somebody registers a second-level domain in that TLD.

The “free” appears to mean as in speech, rather than as in beer. If I want to register .murphy, it will apparently set me back $4,099, meaning I’d have to sell over 1,600 2LDs at $5 a pop to make my money back. A gibberish string of characters will cost $79. Freename says it does not charge renewal fees.

It also seems to be reserving strings when they match a “brand, organization, or notable person”, weakening the case that blockchain offers
a liberating alternative to the centralized control inherent to the ICANN root.

Terms associated with some crimes also appear to be blocked, as are strings that match existing generic TLDs in the authoritative DNS.

The company says it has issued 5,000 TLDs on multiple blockchains since it launched last year, but of course users need to install a custom browser plug-in for any of them to actually resolve.

Freename says it hopes to help make these “Web3” domains compatible with traditional “Web2” DNS over time.

Blockchain startup gets $5 million to apply for gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2023, Domain Registries

A company backed by some familiar industry names has raised $5 million in seed funding to apply to ICANN for new gTLDs and, it says, bridge the gap between the traditional DNS and blockchain alternate roots.

Las Vegas-based D3 Global is being led by Fred Hsu, one of the founders of aftermarket pioneer Oversee.net. Among its listed founders are Paul Stahura, one of the triumvirate that launched Donuts, now Identity Digital, to apply for hundreds of gTLDs in 2012.

Also listed as founders are Shayan Rostam, who’s currently building Internet Naming Co into a prominent new gTLD portfolio player, former Network Solutions engineer Shay Chinn and investment banker Michael Ho.

These are people with domain industry experience going back in some cases to the 1990s and track records of building successful disrupters, so it’s worth paying attention no matter what you think of blockchain stuff.

D3 says it plans to apply to ICANN for traditional TLDs but will also introduce interoperability with blockchain-based “Web3” naming systems.

Hsu said in a press release: “We are committed to driving forward the convergence of the traditional DNS system and Web3 to make domain names more versatile, secure, and universally accessible.”

It also talks of introducing a marketplace that combines traditional DNS names with blockchain to “significantly reduce the friction traditionally seen in domain name transactions, such as low transparency, high broker fees, transfer delays, and escrow services.”

The funding round was led by Shima Capital with participation from Lightshift, Dispersion Capital, VentureSouq, Infinite Capital, MZ Web3 Fund, Kestrel0x1, Nonagon, C² Ventures, Arthur Hayes’ Maelstrom, Stahura himself.

ICANN turns down money from blockchain alt-root

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2023, Domain Policy

It seems ICANN is turning down free money from blockchain alt-root providers, apparently as a matter of principle.

We hear one such alt-root, Freename.io, tried to sponsor the upcoming ICANN 78 meeting in Hamburg, but was rebuffed.

“At this time, ICANN is not interested in having Freename serve as a sponsor and will not be moving forward with a sponsorship agreement,” the Org told the company in an unsigned email.

Freename had offered to be a general sponsor, and not at the cheapest tier, I’m told.

ICANN sponsorship offers typically start in the low thousands but can get up to six figures at the higher tiers. Sponsorship is overall a very small part of ICANN’s revenue.

Org has become increasingly rattled in recent years with the proliferation of alt-roots, which have been gradually gaining market acceptance while ICANN’s own efforts to expand the domain universe languish in interminable policy knots.

ICANN delayed the sale of the UNR portfolio of gTLDs until buyers renounced their ownership rights to blockchain versions of their authoritative root strings.

Clearly, splashing an alt-root’s branding all over an ICANN stage would be seen as problematic.

Freename.io plans to attend the Hamburg meeting anyway.

.art links DNS and alt-root ENS

UK Creative Ideas, the .art gTLD registry, has started offering its registrants the ability to register names on the blockchain-based alt-root Ethereum Name Service that exactly match their DNS names, for a one-time fee.

CMO Jeff Sass said that for $20, paid in Ethereum coin, registrants can secure their exact-match on the ENS, with no renewal fees.

There’s an authentication system using DNS TXT records to make sure only .art DNS registrants can obtain their matching ENS names, he said.

“We’ve married the two together, so there can’t be any confusion or collisions,” he said.

The benefit of this is that registrants will be able use their .art domains to address their cryptocurrency wallets. Web browsers that support ENS obviously already support DNS, so there’s no real benefit in that context.

.ART is also selling ENS .art names without matching DNS names — and these can include ICANN-prohibited characters such as emojis — but these are priced from $5 to $650, based on character count, and have annual renewal fees.

.art current has about 230,000 registered names, a pretty respectable number for a new gTLD, and Sass said about 60% of them are in the form of firstnamelastname.art, suggesting usage by professional and amateur artists.

gTLD registries selling matches in alt-roots has been a cause of concern at ICANN over recent years, due to legal concerns. Uniregistry’s sale of its portfolio was held up for months because of this.

First two proper registrars join Web3 Domain Alliance

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2023, Domain Policy

Two significant ICANN-accredited registrars have signed up to a body that commits them to, among other things, endorse the position that blockchain-based alt-root TLDs have trademark rights to their strings.

United-Domains and MarkMonitor are among about 50 companies now listed as new members of the Web3 Domain Alliance, the association created late last year by well-financed alt-root registry Unstoppable Domains.

The other companies listed appear to be players in the crypto/blockchain/Web3/NFT space, rather than the traditional domain name industry.

The moves by the two registrars are significant because the Alliance’s platform stands to be a significant thorn in ICANN’s side when it finally opens up the next new gTLD application round, which could happen in the next couple years.

According to the Alliance’s web site, members have to commit not only to promote the market acceptance and interoperability of blockchain alt-root domains, but also:

To advocate for the policy position that NFT domain registry owner-operators create trademark rights in their web3 TLDs through first commercial use with market penetration.

This could be a big problem in the next new gTLD round, as current ICANN policy proposals, developed before the likes of Unstoppable became such a big deal, do not specifically account for claims by alt-root providers.

Trademark owners will be able to challenge gTLD applications if the applied-for string matches their mark, but historically it’s not really been possible for companies to obtain trademarks on TLDs.

Along with the membership announcement, Unstoppable has said that it will not enforce its patents against any Alliance member that implements its standards, provided the member agrees not to enforce its own patents.

United-Domains is part of United-Internet, the same company that runs IONOS, 1&1, Sedo and InternetX.

MarkMonitor, since November, has been part of Newfold Digital, the parent of Network Solutions, Web.com, Register.com, BigRock, SnapNames, and others.