What Is BitNames?

Bitnames sidechain

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Bitcoin has made ownership of a digital value a reality, yet the concept is still something the majority of the world continues to ignore, wrestle with or struggle to understand. We’ve become accustomed to anything digital that can be copied millions of times for little to no increase in cost; anything that became digital went through the same path, such as music and movies.

As the internet continued to improve in bandwidth and reduce in cost, we’ve seen more information, services and products moving online and taking advantage of the distribution of the internet.

So with all this digital abundance, getting to grips with digital scarcity and enforced ownership goes against the grain. Now that bitcoin has opened the door to the idea of digital ownership and enforcement, the concept is slowly seeping into other parts of the internet.

One pain point of the traditional internet has been that no one has the right to digital real estate in the form of their web domain. Suppose you purchased a domain and built a business on it, and provided valuable content or service on that domain. In that case, it can all be taken from you instantly, either by a lapse in payment of your rented domain name or if authorities pressure the register to bring down your domain.

No site on the internet owns its domain, from Google and Facebook to the blog site you registered to talk about the adventures of your cat. They’re all rented space with ICANN overseeing who owns what on the internet.

Since you have no choice in the matter when it comes to hosting a domain, the ability to provide optionality through an alternative service would naturally be disruptive, but if you can bring provable ownership and remove rent-seeking from the space, well, then you’re on to a multi-billion dollar idea.

What does a DNS do?

A Domain Name System (DNS) is the gateway to the internet, or you can say a phonebook of the internet and while it is currently centrally managed. It is essential everywhere, especially in businesses, to define your website’s address. A DNS enables everyone sitting in front of the computer to access your website directly from any location.

In some cases, you might want a certain name and TLD extension like .com, co.uk, or .de, and each address needs to be registered and rented from your DNS. The fees might be negligible for any business, it does prove to be an annoying expense, especially when you need to own multiple domains to avoid domain squatters from trying to steal your traffic and customers.

The altcoin attempt

The idea of a blockchain domain register is not a new idea and has been around for some time. Altcoin projects like namecoin took on the idea early while the idea has also been tried on Ethereum with the likes of ENS (Ethereum Naming Service) and many more.

DNS on a blockchain currently promotes the following upgrades

  • Self-custody is an important feature of the blockchain domain. This makes your domain name decentralised, giving you complete control over the domain. Due to self-custody, a third party can not seize your domain; you will get decentralised websites, sole control, and more.
  • Blockchain domains can not be changed, modified, censored, or purged by third parties.
  • The blockchain domain is directly linked to cryptocurrency wallets rather than websites. 
  • You need software to access blockchain domain names, which is easier. You can also add the domain to your browser extensions to resolve major issues.
  • BNS offers security, enhanced functionality, and openness to use today’s blockchain domain.
  • It gives users more power or ownership and resists censorship. 
  • It can also be used as a decentralised data storage and recovery platform that does not host any content on the central server.

Blockchain Naming Service (BNS) works the same as DNS, but it still requires recognition from browsers and crouse search engines. If your traditional browser doesn’t display these domains and search engines don’t index them, you’re almost non-existent to the normie internet. If you’re a tor service, it might not be that big a deal, but your TAM will be much smaller, and your product won’t make much of an impact.

While altcoin attempts continue to monetise the idea through tokenisation instead of through value application, the idea might still have some merit and could be explored through a bitcoin DriveChain. The proposed sidechain, referred to as BitNames, would tackle several internet use cases such as domain name ownership, HTTPS and universal logins and more.

Domain Registration

At first glance, the most straightforward way would be to snapshot the existing DNS database and use it as a starting point for our new blockchain.

However:

  1. BitNames (the “new database”) requires each domain to associate with a public key (or equivalent). However, this information is not in the existing ICANN DNS database anywhere. (Most domain owners have never even heard of asymmetric key cryptography.)
  2. A snapshot of the database (at a single time) will not include changes made afterwards (even immediately afterwards). This is a problem because BitDNS users deserve the opportunity to test/research BitDNS before adopting it seriously. While they test, they will rely on their existing ICANN domains (for their serious projects/companies/etc.), some of which they will need to register/buy/sell.
  3. The database is large and constantly changing. In fact, (afaik) there is no single “one” database for us to copy; however, several databases work together to become consistent as rapidly as possible.

HTTPS serving

Setting up HTTPS is cumbersome and expensive – and, these days, more or less required and is even a ranking factor for search engines. In particular, you need to purchase an SSL certificate from one of the trusted centralised gatekeepers of SSL (with the notable exception of “Let’s Encrypt”, which aspires to be free). Since you have to repurchase your subscription every year, so you effectively rent the certificate on an ongoing basis forever.

Then you need to install the SSL certificate, which is sometimes quite a chore involving all kinds of server/OS/site-specific instructions, generous use of FTP/SSH, editing of configuration files, and so forth.

But with big names, HTTPS comes along automatically. Each name is already linked to a known keypair (that is how the “coin” of the name is managed), already publicly available on the blockchain. And, even if no key were pre-linked (or if the user wished to use a different key), the user could trivially add one to their layer-1 JSON (and unilaterally update it whenever they like).

Thus, BitNames-HTTPS is free, permanent, user-friendly, permissionless, and decentralised.

Universal login

App login with your bitcoin wallet is nothing new, with LN-Auth and Slashtags already providing applications with the ability to validate an account based on a bitcoin wallet. However, in the BitName system, it works slightly differently. In BitName, it would be possible to register the BitName “TheBTCManual” and then use “TheBTCManual” as my login at any participating web service that recognises the BitName side chain.

Applications could allow you to log in to their service with proof from your Bitname wallet; for example, Instagram or Twitter would let me type in “TheBTCManual” as my username. It would then look up “TheBTCManual” in the BitNames system and look up the public key there. The application would ask you to sign a message with that key pair.

As long as you have the rights to that private key, then that is how you would log on to Instagram. You could therefore lay a permanent claim to the “TheBTCManual” account on the BitName side chain and on any services that support BitNames.

Manage your online identity

In bitcoin, we’re used to having multiple wallets, your cold storage, maybe a hot wallet to use for regular payments, a Lightning wallet for micro-payments or interacting with apps, and that behaviour could be used for your online identity too. It is certainly advisable for each user to have a few different identities if only to prevent a hacker from suddenly compromising their entire internet life in one fell swoop. A BitName could as a “password manager”. But imagine if the hacker stole your Password Manager login. That would be devastating.

But if you had multiple accounts, such as

  • “theBTCManual-default”,
  • “theBTCManual-important”,
  • and “TBM-throwaway-58930”

If your account is compromised, an attacker would only be able to steal one of those and Your “important” or cold account would still be safe, as would your “throwaway” account (that you use for online trolling, internet romance or whatever).

Blocking list

We all deal with spam in some way, shape or form online, but we all seem to see it as an occupational hazard of using the internet. But if we had a universal identification system that you could plugin into with any service, then blocking people would become easier. 

In a world where all logins are bound to one digital identity and private key– you can “superblock” someone across all platforms or only allow people to interact with you on certain platforms so your work colleagues might see you on LinkedIn, but your TikTok dancing can still be kept a secret.

Follow the DriveChain

I know some bitcoiners might be triggered by the idea, feeling like it ventures too far into the shitcoin territory but remember, every sidechain is opt-in. If you don’t see any value in it, you can ignore it and only focus on the part of bitcoin that interests you and let the market work out if this is a worthwhile use case for a decentralised network.

Either it fails, and bitcoin moves to more productive DriveChains or back to the base chain, or in the future, people might run DriveChain nodes for BitNames sidechain on their computer, which would act as an email client, password manager, nameserver, bare-bones social media feed, and DarkNet browser.

If you would like to learn more about the Bitnames DriveChain, we recommend checking out the following resources:

What do you think of DriveChain? Is it something you feel you would use? How do you think it affects the altcoin market narrative and the continued L1 rotation thesis?

Let us know in the comments down below.

Disclaimer: This article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide any investment advice. It is for educational and entertainment purposes only. As of the time posting, the writers may or may not have holdings in some of the coins or tokens they cover. Please conduct your own thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency, as all investments contain risk. All opinions expressed in these articles are my own and are in no way a reflection of the opinions of The Bitcoin Manual

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