By Michael Calce, Founder and CEO of DecentraWeb
As many people in the domain ownership industry already know, the majority of domain names and web addresses are overseen and controlled by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This governing body can revoke a user’s rights to a domain or name at any time and at will – even for the most seemingly arbitrary reasons.
This cumbersome and indiscriminate bureaucracy has hampered the Web2 community and its development. But the expansion of the Web3 sphere has created a new paradigm, one that presents a truly decentralized frontier for buying, owning, and monetizing domains. Here’s how we got here and where we’re going, thanks to the revolutionary potential of Web3.
A history of monopoly
Shortly after ICANN was created in 1998 in the age of the Web1, the governing body signed a contract with the US government to become its official regulatory instrument. As the Internet has evolved, so has ICANN. It has no part in creating or verifying the actual content represented by the domains, but it oversees who owns the rights to that content and who no longer should.
In order to purchase a domain name, a user must register the name with a domain registrar, which in turn must agree to ICANN’s terms. If at any time the government perceives a user to be in violation of these terms, they will send a letter to ICANN, which may apply sanctions against the offending registrar, the worst being the revocation of their accreditation. . If the government deems seizure of the domain necessary – for example, if the content of a domain violates intellectual property law – the user will also suffer, including losing rights to the address.
Former domain owners who wish to regain ownership of a site revoked by ICANN can challenge the seizure, but they may have difficulty proving that the government takeover is illegitimate due to the intentional vagueness of the terms of the agreement. ‘ICANN. In other words, as the primary and most powerful institution overseeing domain ownership, ICANN is often able to justify its own reasons for revoking a user’s rights, despite critics’ concerns that such practices infringe on freedom of expression. This poses a real threat to online fairness and democracy as we build an ever-expanding Internet.
Think outside of .com
Although still nascent, Web3 is already deepening our understanding of the structure and function of domain ownership. With Web3, users who purchase top-level domains (TLDs) can register them directly and gain full ownership of the rights to the domain.
It bodes well for other areas. Early investors will be able to buy short, catchy domains based on popular terminology or even emojis (.pizza, for example). This increase in variety will allow them to collaborate with companies that deal with these words, phrases or emojis. A .pizza domain owner, to expand on this example, can enter into an agreement with pizza places to allow them to create subdomains outside of their TLD, making the TLD a reliable source of revenue.
The ultimate idea is to build a Web3 marketplace where subdomains can be bought and sold without ICANN’s involvement. With an endless array of exciting domains extending far beyond a single .com address, the space presents exponential growth opportunities for individuals and businesses.
Every man for himself
That’s not to say that all domains will be ripe for picking in Web3. As in Web2, there will be competition. Someone who wants to use a top-level domain they already own can try bartering, trading, or even selling a domain they own. A subdomain can still be created, but if you want a TLD, you’ll have to act fast – or else negotiate.
The goal of every Web3 effort is for the ecosystem to be as decentralized as possible. Unlike Web2, with its oversight by ICANN, there will be no governing body to resolve most disputes or make decisions. In any implementation, TLDs do not have to be permanently owned – there should always be a renewal required, usually after five years, and any TLDs that have not been renewed are up for grabs. This allows the ecosystem to thrive. If a user lets their property expire only to find it taken over by another user, they’ll have to wait for the new term to expire – or haggle with the new owner – to try to get it back.
In the future, domains and subdomains will be used for more than just web pages. These will be our identities, wallets, and digital asset addresses. A good balance is to allow subdomains to be permanent and not require renewal. This means that even if the main domain changes hands, the owners of the subdomains of their assets will remain the same, without interference from anyone, including ICANN.
Decentralized community, centralized identity
In the current iteration of Web3, whether users play games with digital plots or craft avatars for themselves, they appear in the metaverse as anonymous Ethereum contract addresses and mint IDs. Many developers envision an environment where user access to the domains they own is integrated into an existing platform.
Identity incorporation will be the focus of this next phase, and domain names will be key to the process, allowing users to build their metaverse identities and communities through the sale and purchase of domains. Without the identity component, a user is reduced to a website or an address: a company that hits a .brand domain with its brand name, for example, will increase its customers’ website experience and grow its activity. What the developers want is for the Metaverse to recognize the inherent individuality and value of the people who use it.
Keep in mind the big picture
So what are the advantages of owning a domain name without permission – and, in the case of subdomains, permanently? Will it promote greater transparency in how people use and abuse their relationship to the internet and each other? How decentralized should the environment be?
These are the important questions facing Web3 developers as they move forward. Instead of organizations like ICANN dictating a code of ethics in the metaverse, DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations – Internet communities governed by user-run bodies) will vote on the terms of a user relinquishing ownership of ‘a domain. It’s more democratic and it’s easier for a user to understand their offence. While punitive government intervention may be necessary for certain types of content, issues of opinion will co-exist, as they do offline.
As Web2 enters its final phase, the DNS space has stagnated, .com has lost its luster, and the idea of user freedom of expression is increasingly nebulous. So much infrastructure still needs to be created to have a chance of realizing a future that improves these conditions. And we are on our way.
About the Author:
Michael Calce, Founder and CEO of DecentraWeb, is one of the most sought-after security experts in the world. He is Chairman of HP’s Advisory Board and works with many Fortune 500 companies. Michael gained notoriety in 2000 for launching one of the most publicized DDoS attacks in history at the time, taking down Yahoo, eBay , CNN and other leading sites. Since then, Michael’s mission has been to raise awareness of cybersecurity and make the internet a safer place.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.