ENS, HNS, & Unstoppable Domains…What’s the difference?
Karim Ahmad
Publishing Date
November 19, 2022

The growth of blockchains has impacted many industries, bringing much-needed innovation and allowing organizations to focus more on solving the issue of centralization.

Today, several blockchain solutions focus on improving how people use the internet. But, it can be a bit confusing, especially as many of these tend to interpolate with each other.

Handshake (HNS), ENS (Ethereum Name Service), and Unstoppable Domains are prime examples. So, what are they, and how do they work?

What Are Handshake (HNS) Domains?

The domain space is rife with conversations about handshake domains. To understand HNS domains, it's important to know about Handshake (HNS).

Handshake is a P2P network domain naming protocol that's entirely decentralized. Handshake is looking to shake up the conventional domain naming landscape by leveraging blockchain technology.

Currently, all domain names are overseen by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). While that's not a bad thing, it's still deeply centralized. As a result, many claim that such systems are exposed to increased risk of hacking or censorship.

Handshake domains are different, as they use a coin system to register each domain. Currently, Namecheap is the only major domain registrar through which you can register a Handshake domain.

More importantly, Handshake domains don't resolve using your web browser, which means you'll need to use a VPN, a browser extension, or use the Handshake software to access Handshake websites. That's a major limitation that is definitely hindering the growth of Handshake domains.

At the moment, Handshake domains suffer from limited access. Think of it as a tech demo for the future: it's promising but not practical in its current stage. At the moment, most website owners simply can't justify securing a Handshake domain in lieu of a traditional one, especially since browser support isn't available.

What Is the Ethereum Name Service (ENS)?

The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a decentralized app based on the Ethereum blockchain. Currently, crypto addresses are long and winding combinations of letters and numbers.

These are obviously difficult to remember, posing a problem for regular users. The Ethereum Name Service proposes a viable solution: replacing these long and confusing alphanumeric strings with a simple URL similar to a conventional website URL.

In fact, the concept is very similar to a dynamic DNS, which maps website names to their IP addresses. ENS uses the same formula, aiming to map a crypto address to a website URL, making them easier to share and read.

The Ethereum Name Service relies on two smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain: the Resolver and the ENS registry. The latter is a database of all domain names, whereas the former resolves domain names, turning them into readable addresses.

At the moment, the race is on as users try to secure ENS domains before they're all scooped up.

Unlike Handshake domains, several mainstream browsers are capable of resolving ENS domains. At the moment, the supported browsers include Brave, Opera, Puma, and MetaMask Mobile. Support for Safari or Chrome isn't available yet.

At the very least, you'll have to pay $5 to secure an ENS domain, which excludes the gas fee. You can try out different ways to reduce your Ethereum gas fees too. And, in order to secure an ENS domain, you will also require a crypto wallet, such as MetaMask.

ENS domains can expire, and it's important for owners to renew them regularly. To purchase an ENS domain, you'll have to use an ENS token, which can be traded on different markets.

ENS domains often use .LUKE or .ETH extensions, operating in the secondary domain zone. You can't get a top-level domain through the Ethereum Name Service. Since ENS relies on smart contracts, it adds a level of anonymity and decentralization that's hard to achieve otherwise; you don't have to provide any billing details or personally identifiable information when making a purchase.

ENS domains fall under the purview of a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization). Community members have the option to vote on the ENS Constitution if they hold the ENS token. This brings with it a sense of ownership, allowing any holder to make a submission and hold a vote to determine the course of developments.

What Are Unstoppable Domains?

Unstoppable Domains are custom NFT domains that offer more functionality than a standard web address. You can use Unstoppable Domains for transferring cryptocurrency, creating a universal username across the decentralized web, and letting owners create a single identity across multiple platforms.

Unstoppable Domains were first introduced in 2018 and have risen in popularity throughout the community for several reasons.

For starters, you only pay a one-time fee to secure an Unstoppable Domain. This is in stark contrast to conventional domain names, where you have to pay an annual renewal fee. More importantly, these domains are incredibly secure as they're built on blockchain technology.

More importantly, since the owner has full control over the domain names, they don't have to worry about censorship issues at all.

Unstoppable Domains generally use .crypto for domains on the Ethereum blockchain or .zil for domains on the Zilliqa blockchain. So, instead of a .com domain, you could either use a .zil or .crypto domain, which does affect the domain overall.

Unstoppable Domains are sold as NFTs, so you can't use a registrar to buy them. However, just like NFTs, you can sell your Unstoppable Domains to another party if you want.

Unstoppable Domains vs. ENS vs. HNS: What Should You Use?

The domain name industry is changing dramatically, and ENS, Unstoppable Domains, and HNS offer alternatives to people versus a traditional DNS.

ENS and Unstoppable Domains already have practical uses. You can register popular ENS or Unstoppable Domain names and resell them as scarcity sets in. In time, with better uptake, Handshake may reach a similar level.

These exciting projects are sure to grow as Web 3.0 begins to revolutionize internet privacy and offer new ways for people to connect and leverage technologies.

This article was originally written and published by Karim Ahmad




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