The Ethereum Name Service - ENS Domains


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The Ethereum Name Service

In our first post we explored what Ethereum itself is – an unstoppable, decentralised world computer that executes smart contracts and powers decentralised apps (known as “dApps”).

In this article we’ll explore the Ethereum Name Service, which is built on top of Ethereum.

(We’ll refer to this service as ENS from now on.)

The reason ENS was built was to solve a problem.

You see, Ethereum uses long strings of digits and letters to represent the “accounts” used to store funds. (Every cryptocurrency does this, by the way).

These accounts are also known as “addresses” or “public keys” and they always consist of a leading “0x” (that’s zero x) followed by 40 hexadecimal characters.

An example address is: “0xfDb33f8AC7ce72d7D4795Dd8610E323B4C122fbB

So if that was your address and you wanted someone to send you ETH, you would provide them with that string of numbers and letters, and they would use their wallet to send the funds there.

(Pro tip: you can check the history of any address in existence on a site called etherscan. Here’s a link to the above address, for instance.)

Regardless of how new you are to the world of cryptocurrency, you’ve probably realised such addresses aren’t exactly user-friendly.

Nobody we’ve ever met or spoken to has known their address by heart (and most people end up with multiple address over time as they shift funds to different addresses for different reasons).

Good luck remembering multiple addresses!

That’s where the Ethereum Name Service comes in. It replaces those difficult-to-read addresses with simple, human-readable names.

In doing so, it completely eliminates the need to copy-paste those addresses (or, worse yet, type them out manually – eek!)

ENS eliminates the need to copy or type long addresses

It achieves this by allowing people to buy names (i.e. normal words) and “resolving” those names to the long hexadecimal addresses.

Let’s say your name is Robert. You could buy “robert.eth” and then resolve it to your long hexadecimal address.

You can now tell people to send money to robert.eth, and you’d receive it like normal. It far easier for them to remember your new address and way more user-friendly than having them copy-paste or type-in the actual address.

As you might have already realised, there are parallels with the world of website domain names. The two systems are based on the same principles.

When you type in a web address (e.g. what actually happens behind the scenes is that the dot com address resolves to an ip address (e.g. 123.456.7789.10)

While a website name resolves to an ip address (via DNS), an Ethereum name resolves to a 42-character hexadecimal address (via ENS)

There are other parallels between the two types of naming service. For instance, you can create sub-domains for ENS names, in the same way you can for websites. An example of a sub-domain is where the word “blog” is the sub-domain.

So Robert from our example could create sub-domains like “college.robert.eth” and “holiday.robert.eth”. And have people send funds to the appropriate address (one where he saves for college, the other for his next holiday).

One of the most exciting things about the ENS project is that the team is working on using ENS to mirror DNS records.

Which means you could send funds to robert.eth, but also enter robert.eth into a web browser and be directed to Robert’s website.

And when that happens, these new names become subject to the same rules of SEO that affect their website counterparts. Which would mean you could monetise them.

That would be a game changer.

In summary, this is a very exciting time to be involved in the ENS world. We firmly believe that Ethereum names could turn out to be a good investment, given how rapidly Ethereum is growing.

In In our next article, we look at how to buy an Ethereum Domain Name.

A list of applications that work with ENS

ENS Apps