With global internet censorship and surveillance on the rise, a new censorship-resistant internet powered by blockchain DNS is starting to take shape.
What is DNS?
First of all, to understand the advantages blockchain DNS offers we must first look at how the Domain Name System (DNS) works.
DNS can be thought of as the phonebook of the internet.
Human beings access websites or online resources using domain names like google.com. Whereas, web browsers access resources using the website’s Internet Protocol (IP) address.
It is the DNS that translates readable domain names into IP addresses. Thus, without DNS, we would have to memorize tedious IP addresses such as 192.168.31.1.
Therefore, when we type an address such as www.google.com, DNS resolves it into a machine-friendly address and locates the desired web resource.
Furthermore, this name matching directory is not located in a single place. Just like the internet, they exist around the world on various DNS servers that communicate with each other regularly.
One domain can correspond to multiple IP addresses. And some websites even have hundreds of IP addresses corresponding to a single domain name.
As a result, when we search for a website, the server that our computer reaches for is entirely different from the one in which the search began.
This is advantageous as it reduces load times. If there were only one directory, it would take forever to respond due to the massive traffic.
The entire DNS resolution system rests on a centralized model of trust, managed and orchestrated by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN).
Furthermore, it comprises a hierarchy on several levels, with entire domains resolved and broken down at each step.
Bear in mind, this system was introduced back in 1983. And with subsequent iterations and additions, the infrastructure has become quite complex.
However, blockchain DNS technology offers a number of new features and advantages.
Basics of Blockchain
Blockchain technology gained hype back in 2016 and based upon a peer-to-peer network that allows data to be stored on thousands of servers.
The main advantage is that anyone on the network can see everyone else’s entries and transactions in real-time. Thus, making it difficult for a single user to gain control of the entire network.
In addition, blockchain technology also promises transactional transparency. It equips businesses to establish communication networks with companies worldwide, providing all kinds of support, including supply chain, health care, data share, real estate, etc. These established networks are real-time and completely secure.
The simplest example to explain this remarkable technology is Google Doc. When a google document is created and shared with people, it is distributed rather than copied or transferred. It can be accessed simultaneously by all the people who have been granted access.
This is analogous to a decentralized distribution system. No one has to wait for the other party to make changes. In contrast, all the document changes are recorded in real-time, visible to everyone. This makes it completely transparent.
Tech analysts have long been concerned about the centralized monopoly of ICANN over the DNS system. According to them, this centralization increases vulnerability making the system more prone to censorship and cyber-attacks.
Blockchain DNS providers, on the other hand, propose a decentralized naming alternative controlled by no one. This would prevent hackers from intruding into the system and stop governments from suppressing freedom of expression.
Furthermore, since the system utilizes decentralized blockchain ledgers, there is no single point of failure. In other words, Blockchain DNS websites are completely independent of any human-run organization.
The blockchain DNS system is not meant to replace standard DNS but rather work with it. According to a well-known cryptographer Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn, a name should have the following characteristics:
- Security: When a name is typed, we should be able to verify the source of the response.
- Makes Sense: The name must be understandable to both humans and machines.
- Freedom: No central authority should be able to censor or block it.
This principle is named the Zookos Triangle.
Present Systems under Blockchain DNS
The idea of applying blockchain DNS has fascinated web developers from day one.
Currently, there are a number of projects work working towards this goal, with some proposing using new domain name extensions such as .zlt, .bit, .eth, etc.
Another such decentralized internet technology to note is Handshake. It resolves some of the problems with previous blockchain DNS systems, such as name squatting.
Due to the first-come-first-serve nature of DNS, people started to register any name that came into their mind regardless of whether they intended to build a website with that name. This allows them to sell at a much higher price should someone need the domain in the future.
Handshake resolves this problem with a system of sealed bidding. The highest bidder wins but pays the price of the second-highest bid. This provides some incentive to the bidders. In addition, the system is also compatible with traditional DNS.
Other alternatives include Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which is fully integrated with DNS. Therefore, if a domain name holder can prove The Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) registration, he can get the same name on this blockchain service. This provides the perfect amalgamation of DNS and Blockchain.
Advantages of Blockchain DNS
This decentralized system is especially advantageous for countries subjected to state censorship and monitoring.
An example of such a country is China, where people have to register with their own names.
However, with Blockchain DNS, users can register anonymously. Even if the government were to find out, users can switch to another domain name in any other country, merely by updating the name records.
Another significant advantage is that blockchain technology cannot be hacked. Large scale Denial of Service attacks have taken out DNS servers for many hours in the past. However, Blockchain DNS could serve as an emergency backup if something like this were to occur.
Disadvantages of Blockchain DNS
Whilst, there is no denying the advantages of Blockchain DNS, the technology has a long way to go before it reaches mainstream adaption.
Furthermore, there is no unanimous agreements on the technologies implementation, and improvements are needed to make it more scalable, secure, and usable.
This, of course, requires the help of significant players within the industry, such as ICANN, DNS-OARC to establish ground rules. Therefore, expect blockchain DNS technology to take a few years to mature.
With the rise of digital authoritarianism, global internet freedoms are under attack like never before.
However, blockchains decentralized infrastructure offers a fascinating alternative to DNS by circumventing centralized organizations within the worldwide web.
And whilst, it’s too early to predict whether or not Blockchain DNS will replace standard DNS, it is however a promising step towards a free and censorship-resistant internet.