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Exploring the idea of decentralized DNS

Web 3.0 continues to evolve, and decentralized systems of all types are becoming more important. But while many brands and business owners already understand the importance of cryptocurrencies, they don’t yet realize just how important decentralizing DNS could be for the security of their websites and domain names.

Odds are, your brand relies on its domain name for business recognition, drawing customers to your e-commerce site, and much more.

Today, let’s take a hypothetical look at a decentralized domain name system (DNS) running on the blockchain. We’ll consider how this might work and how this concept could help your brand if, one day, decentralized DNS becomes a part of Web 3.0.

Understanding domain name systems 

To fully grasp how a decentralized DNS could benefit your business and the Internet, you first have to understand how domain name systems work.

Think of the domain name as the official website address on the Internet. Every website has a domain name that is registered with a specific registrar or registry operator. You can think of the hierarchy regarding domain names as looking something like this:

  • Domain names are given by…
  • Domain registrars, operated by…
  • Registry operators, which work with…
  • DNS servers, which are overseen by…
  • IANA or Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is part of the…
  • ICANN or Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

Your domain name is guaranteed to be unique because it is assigned a specific, unique address overseen by ICANN.

While this domain name system works most of the time, it is also inherently centralized. That makes it a prime target for hackers and other types of cybercriminals. If, in the unlikely event that ICANN was compromised or hacked, the entire DNS could collapse as a result. Cybercriminals can also commit fraud by taking a website’s existing domain name and capturing traffic going to that domain name by posing as a legitimate site.

decentralized servers

What exactly is a decentralized DNS?

A decentralized DNS or blockchain-based DNS system is a potential solution to the above possibility. Think of a decentralized DNS as a domain name system that doesn’t rely on a centralized authority or hierarchy.

At the time of this writing, the nature of domain registries and ICANN means they are entirely centralized. But by introducing blockchain technology into a DNS, the private database of domain name systems, numbers, and identifiers could become public.

Instead of only being held by one organization, all domain name information would be distributed across computers in a shared network. Every computer that is part of the network would have the same information, and if there is ever a change to the information, that change would need to be verified by every computer on the network.

How would this result in higher security? It means that a bad actor wouldn’t be able to make a change to a domain name’s information without immediately giving themselves away. This is the same reason why decentralized systems are so popular for cryptocurrencies; they inherently result in greater security since it is almost impossible for a hacker to make a change without being noticed.

In this potential system, once someone registers a domain name, no other person would be able to claim the same domain name unless it is legitimately sold. All operations, sales, and other activities would be spread across the decentralized network, acting as a sort of collective registrar that keeps track of everything.

Checklist on the blockchain

Benefits of blockchain-based DNS

Indeed, there could be plenty of advantages to the Internet adopting a blockchain-based DNS in the future. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits one by one.

Resistance to Censorship

For starters, any decentralized DNS would be much more resistant to censorship. Right now, domain names — and, thus, the addresses of all websites on the Internet — are totally controlled by one organization and one authority. This centralized system is very vulnerable to censorship.

Imagine an instance, for example, where the government orders ICANN to censor certain websites that go against its views. This could easily happen with the current DNS setup.

With a decentralized DNS, the blockchain would be distributed, and no one entity would control everything. While censorship could theoretically still be possible, it would be much more difficult and practically infeasible, even for the federal government. That’s a great thing for fans of freedom and free-flowing information.

Anonymity

In addition, a decentralized DNS would be much more anonymous. Bitcoin transactions are already anonymous, but so all transactions on a blockchain-registered domain would be as well.

For example, someone could purchase a new domain name on a decentralized DNS without giving away their identity. Not only would this be better for their personal security — they wouldn’t have to put their personal info out on the Internet for an identity thief, for instance — but it would also be better to ensure fair business transactions so that buyers and sellers couldn’t discriminate against each other.

Increased Security

Speaking of security, a decentralized DNS could provide greater security to everyone participating.

Again, that’s because a decentralized DNS would make it impossible for any system or bad actor to take control of everyone’s domain names or decide who gets a new domain name

Right now, domain owners rely primarily on SSL certificates and centralized certificate authorities to verify site identities. But because blockchain systems are inherently tamperproof, any decentralized DNS already has this authentic attribute.

A visitor could go to a new website, knowing with 100% certainty that the website was legitimate and not a fraudulent site set up by a malware producer or other cyber-criminal. This would be great for the Internet as a whole, in addition to brands that want to increase trust among their visitors or core audience members.

Possible challenges in adopting decentralized DNS

Adopting decentralized DNS across the Internet comes with several important challenges that can’t be ignored.

For example, a platform being built on blockchain technology doesn’t automatically make it decentralized. Cryptocurrency exchanges prove that these centralized systems are popular among new users for Bitcoin and other crypto tokens. So the creation of a decentralized DNS would have to be undertaken very carefully.

Furthermore, right now, the cost of a domain name is fairly cheap (with some exceptions). If the DNS model moves to a completely decentralized system, things could become more expensive, at least in the short term. It would take some time for the free market to determine a fair cost for a high-demand domain name or web address, for instance. This could make securing good domain names more difficult for small businesses and new or aspiring entrepreneurs.

Should DNS become decentralized?

Overall, decentralized DNS offers an intriguing way for the Internet to handle future domain names and domain name changes. It could be more secure, more anonymous, and better for the free flow of information for years to come.

While decentralized DNS isn’t yet available, at least on a wide scale, it may happen in the future. It’s worth considering the pros and cons now so we can be better prepared if it happens.

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Gary Stevens avatar

Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens is a web developer and technology writer. He's a part-time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor. More articles written by Gary.

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