Ever since the web was in its infancy and URLs were just starting to be a thing, internet names that are TLDs (Top Level Domains) are administered by ICANN, a centralized organization that has outlived its usefulness for managing internet names in the opinion of many knowledgeable people in the industry. It’s only very recently that legitimate alternatives to this monopoly of-sorts have come into existence, but the one that’s really generating some buzz these days is Handshake.
It is the exact opposite of ICANN, and in particular with the way it is a decentralized naming solution for the Internet that is powered by blockchain technology – another major disruptor in the industry that we’ve also touched on here on a number of different occasions. HNS is the abbreviation for the Handshake naming system, which is a peer-to-peer network and decentralized system using blockchain as a means of offering better control, freedom, and security of the domain and website.
As you’d expect, this sort of development is the type that comes up immediately on radar for those of us here at 4GoodHosting in the same way it would for any good Canadian web hosting provider that likes to have its thumb on the pulse of web hosting technology and options that become available to people who need to claim their spot on the web and use it to their personal or business advantage. The appeal of HNS naming is that it is line with decentralizing the web and allowing for a more fair reorganizing of the Internet.
So how does Handshake domain naming work, and what exactly make it better for individual users? That’s what we’ll look at this week.
Handshake Domains – How Do They Work?
Let’s start here with a basic refresher on domain names. All websites accessible on the Internet are found on servers identified using Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Users aren’t expected to know IP addresses, so internet names are mapped to their corresponding servers by means of a domain name system (DNS). DNS is not centralized, but the ultimate control of names via the DNS system is held by a limited number of interest groups and they don’t always act equitably.
The Handshake name system is entirely different by design. While it also maps names to IP addresses and can be utilized in essentially the same way as the traditional DNS, names are administered by a blockchain model instead of a single centralized entity. What is key here is how Handshake takes decentralized control of the root zone and can then be used for so much more than just mapping to servers in the internet space.
As a decentralized, permissionless naming protocol where every peer is validating and in charge of managing the root DNS naming zone, Handshake meets a much more agreeable vision of how the control of TLDs is made available in a more fair system and one that doesn’t favor some greatly at the expense of others.
It’s really starting to emerge as an alternative to existing Certificate Authorities and naming systems, and it’s a darn good thing.
Distribution of Handshake Names
There is more of a chance with name ‘squatting’, and the Handshake protocol reserves the top 100K domain names according to Alexa.com as well as giving priority on existing TLDs to current owners. As a result and to use one example, Google – which currently leases google.com from Verisign, the controller of the .com TLD – can instead lay a claim to the ‘Google’ name via the Handshake blockchain.
This can be applicable for less competitive domain names too, with the blockchain facilitating name auctions which can be bid on by anyone who is in possession of Handshake tokens. This would deliver a very different owner, user, and visitor experience right across the board, but what is interesting to note is that with an HNS the internet user would be navigating to a website in an entirely decentralized manner and with nothing in the way of censorship related to a centralized authority.
Entities that are currently in existence and able to take domain names away from owners under the current ICANN style of governance would be rendered powerless by a Handshake domain name system powered by blockchain. If you’d like to learn more about uncensorable domain names you can find quite a bit of information out there.
Accessing a Handshake Name Using my Browser
You need to be behind an HNS resolver to access a Handshake name in any internet browser. This is possible with running your own HNS resolver on your device. You can also choose to configure your browser to use a DNS-over-HTTPS server that resolves Handshake names. Easyhandshake.com is one example of such a server and people with even a little bit of domain hosting savvy can easily figure out how to start using DNS-over-HTTPS to resolve Handshake names.
Several developers have rolled out browser extensions to allow standardized access to Handshake sites. Bob Wallet and LinkFrame are examples of two available for Google Chrome, and for Mozilla FireFox you’ll find that Resolvr works very well. Last mention here will be for Fingertip – an open-source, lightweight HNS resolver developed by Impervious and compatible with both Mac and Windows OS.