Nick Johnson and Alex Van Sande, two ethereum developers, have successfully launched today the Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which acts like a domain name service for ethereum addresses, smart contracts, dapps and other services.
Instead of a long, random, very difficult to remember string of numbers and letters which make up a public ethereum address – somewhat similar but far longer than an IP – ethereans can now just bid for an ethereum name, allowing you for example to directly send funds to trustnodes.eth, rather than copy pasting a random combination of numbers and letters.
It’s all very new, so the developers are taking a slow and cautious approach to make sure everything works. That means eth domain names will only gradually become available, with a twitter bot informing everyone of the domain names now being auctioned.
According to CodeTract, 44 eth domain auctions have been opened just hours after launch, with 26 bids in the process which have sent a combined total of 8.48 eth, currently valued at almost $800.
The process seems very simple. You just choose a name you want, type how much you are willing to bid for it, and then wait and see if anyone else wants it more than you or whether it’s yours.
Whatever you bid isn’t spent. It’s not an amount you are paying anyone. It’s all decentralized, based on ethereum’s blockchain, working through smart contracts, so there isn’t any company behind it or anyone you need to pay. The eth, instead, is locked. Once you release the name, you receive your eth back.
Explaining how it works in some detail, Johnson publicly stated that “top-level domains, like “.eth” and “.test” are owned by smart contracts called registrars, which specify rules governing the allocation of their subdomains.”
But initially the ENS is on training wheels for the next two years. Then, it moves to a permanent state once it matures and the code proves itself. Their website says:
“The goal is to replace this interim registrar with a permanent one, which has a target date of two years after launch of this initial registrar. The intervening period will give the community an opportunity to observe the interim registrar in operation, and to submit proposals for a permanent registrar.”
That probably means whoever has bid for a domain will probably have first rights to transfer it to the permanent registrar in around two years. But, if you use the service, do keep up, because the current temporary smart contract based registrar “will not accept registrations in 4 years and any ether remaining on it will become irretrievable in 8 years. [So] Keep yourself informed and be ready to transfer the name in the next years.”
We’ll have to see in the coming days how exactly this works, but the ability to use easily rememberable words for addresses sounds like a very useful feature. If it does attract wide use, it will probably develop not much different than the current convention in regards to emails – that being first name and last name .eth.
Combined with more traditional domain name like functions for dapps, the ENS might make it all human friendly while allowing machines to understand what’s going on. Something that has been very much missing in this space.