Handshake and Namebase: DNS meets Blockchain

I hate ICANN.

Though I agree that it’s a necessary evil, I can’t wait to be rid of centralized, backroom-dealing monopolies on the literal backbone of the internet.

I’ve written about all that before.

But today, I’d like to talk about another player in the space: Handshake.

What is Handshake (HNS)?

Much like ENS, Handshake is a decentralized ledger focused on providing an immutable record for domain names on the internet. HNS is the cryptocurrency of this network.

What this means is that anyone can register and manage TLDs (think .com or .org) instead of a single private company owning them all and leasing them to the rest of us.

As of today (Feb 14, 2020), Handshake has opened bidding on the first round of TLDs, excluding the top 100k domains and existing TLDs to avoid conflicts.

What is Namebase?

Namebase (a private company) is a product through which regular people can register and manage TLDs on Handshake (a public blockchain).

On Namebase, you can buy/sell/use the HNS coin, which is necessary to register TLDs like .poop or .coin.

User-friendly products like Namebase are critical tools for enabling easy management and transacting for regular users – though, you could alternatively use the Handshake CLI or other products as well.

How can we use Handshake TLDs?

Well, you can’t.

Yet.

In order for Handshake TLDs to work, we all need to agree that we’ll use them.

Unless we all want to use them, browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Brave won’t feel the need to add support for Handshake. And though there are ways to use it without browser support, the whole thing won’t really work out until they do.

And Handshake is up against the establishment, big time. ICANN will fight tooth and nail to retain power over controlling TLDs. Verisign wants to retain control over reselling .com etc. Companies like GoDaddy, Namecheap, and even Google Domains will need to consider switching business models and tech stacks.

It’s a whole thing.

But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be worth it! There’s a long road ahead in terms of viability here and I would love to see the vision come to life.

How can we buy Handshake TLDs?

Well, you can’t outright buy them yet.

Just today, Namebase officially launched their very first auction.

The auction consists of an array of TLDs available for bidding, but doesn’t list them all. For the first year, Namebase will be releasing new batches of TLDs for auction every week to ensure that all the TLDs don’t get snatched up by early investors.

Each auction will close after a week and the new owner takes control. Other bids will all be returned to sender, so not a lot of risk in putting your money in (more or less).

Read more about how it all works.

Outstanding Questions

How will Handshake work with existing ENS?

I’m already a fan of ENS. Many thousands of domains have already been registered with ENS and they, too, plan to roll out additional TLDs.

Will Handshake fare well on it’s own Proof-of-Work blockchain?

Instead of building on top of interoperable Ethereum, Handshake is built on its own blockchain. With the fluidity of miners choosing the most profitable networks, PoW blockchains that can’t maintain high hashrate are prone to 51% attacks (not good for DNS…).

Will Brave adopt Handshake?

The only clue to Handshake being included with Brave (the browser with the best odds of giving Handshake its moment) is a single tweet. Browser adoption is key and without it – especially if Brave openly denies – Handshake could be DOA.


I will most likely be throwing my hat in the ring for an experiment with Handshake. Worst case scenario I lose some money on a worthless TLD. Best case, I run the entire internet from my basement.

What do you think?

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