Both Handshake and 3DNS are ushering in a new era of DNS management, empowering individuals with true ownership of domains, enhancing security, and paving the way for a more decentralized, democratic, and innovative digital landscape. While both aim to revolutionize the domain name space by leveraging blockchain technology, they have distinct goals, functionalities and methods of doing so. This article delves into the technical intricacies of these two platforms to offer a detailed comparison.
Web2 and Web3 domains
A good starting point would be to elucidate the differences between web2 domains (.com, .inc, .wtf etc.) and web3 domains (.box, .eth, .x etc.).
Acting as intuitive pointers (e.g., 3dns.box) to distinct locations on the web, domains correspond to machine-specific IP addresses (e.g., 192.168.1.1). Through the Domain Name System (DNS), the conversion from human-readable domain names to machine-readable IP addresses is streamlined, ensuring users are led to their intended web resources when they input the domain name into their browser.
Web3 domains, provide human-readable domain names for blockchain addresses, replacing traditional numeric addresses (0x1234…) with easily memorable names (lambomoon.eth). They facilitate the resolution of domain names to various types of records, including Ethereum addresses, other cryptocurrency addresses, and content hashes, simplifying user interactions within the web3 ecosystem.
What is are TLDs and SLDs?
It’s also helpful to know the difference between the two. A Top-Level Domain (TLD) is the last segment of a domain name, located after the final dot, used to categorize domains at the highest level in the DNS hierarchy. Examples include generic TLDs like
.org, as well as country-code TLDs like
.uk for the United Kingdom and
.us for the USA. Conversely, a Second-Level Domain (SLD) is the segment directly to the left of the TLD, often representing the specific domain name registered by an individual or organization, like
Main goals of the Protocols
The reason understanding TLDs and SLDs are important, is because it helps when describing the different goals of 3DNS and Handshake. Let’s dive into the goals of each
The main goal of 3DNS is to bridge the traditional web2 domains and their functionalities like hosting websites, with the functionalities of web3 domains like abstracting away crypto wallets - all on chain. 3DNS deals only with SLDs (similar to ENS, UD and others), meaning you aren’t able to make up your own name after the period (.). You could transfer your domain moonlambo.com, but you couldn’t create wen.moonlambo.
Handshake is a decentralized naming protocol who’s goal is to replace ICANN which has traditionally in charge of managing top-level domain (TLD) root DNS zone. By decentralizing the root DNS zone, Handshake facilitates the registration and ownership of TLDson the blockchain, offering on chain ownership and reducing reliance on central, non-profit entities like ICANN. By doing so, they hope to foster a more democratic and privacy-oriented domain name system.
Domain Minting: NFTs, Auctions, and Ownership Models
In 3DNS, domain registration begins with an offchain ICANN registrar. Once a domain is registered here, an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is minted on the Ethereum blockchain. This NFT serves as the authoritative record of domain ownership and is stored in the owner’s digital wallet. 3DNS allows for the transfer, sale, and integration of domains with smart contracts, providing a liquid market for domain names.
Handshake adopts a different approach to domain minting. It uses a Vickrey auction system for top-level domain (TLD) registration. In this sealed-bid auction, participants submit concealed bids, and the highest bidder wins but pays the second-highest bid amount. Once the auction concludes, the TLD is registered on the Handshake blockchain. Unlike 3DNS, Handshake doesn’t work with ICANN and offers a completely decentralized alternative for domain name registration. While handshake’s goal hasn’t been focused on SLD’s, there has been some talk within the communityabout building this functionality on top of Hanshake.
Name Resolution: Browser Compatibility and Decentralization
3DNS domains are resolved in browsers in the same manner as traditional domains. Given its compliance with ICANN, 3DNS facilitates a smooth transition from conventional to blockchain-based domains, eliminating the need for users to adopt new browsing behaviors or software, while also abstracting lengthy numerical strings (such as wallet addresses, content hashes etc.) into human-readable names.
Handshake TLD’s do not resolve natively in most popular browsers today, as they aren’t ICANN compliant. As mentioned above, Handshake aims to replace the root zone file to become the authoritative domain database and replace ICANN, not work with them. For domain resolution, there are some extensionsfor some TLD’s, but much work is needed for widespread adoption as Handshake as the source of truth when resolving domain names. One quick way to resolve handshake names within your browser is to add your full domain after https://hns.to/. So if your domain is pepe.hns, you would type in https://hns.to/pepe.hns. This will resolve to http://pepe.hns.hns.to/and populate in your browser. If you want to try using HNS domains natively in the browser, one that resolves them natively is called Beacon Browser.
Technical Intricacies: Smart Contracts and Consensus Algorithms
Employing a dual-system architecture, 3DNS integrates both offchain and onchain registrars. The offchain aspect abides by ICANN protocols, extending a layer of trust and security synonymous with the traditional DNS ecosystem. On the other hand, the onchain aspect leverages smart contracts deployed on Opimism to validate domain ownership and unlock advanced features like self custody domain ownership.
Handshake is fundamentally a blockchain, utilizing a modified proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism. At its core, it’s designed to manage the allocation and ownership of Top-Level Domains (TLDs). When a new domain is registered on Handshake, a name auction is initiated where interested parties can bid for the domain using Handshake tokens (HNS). The winning bid is sealed, and the tokens are distributed to the network’s participants, incentivizing mining and network security. The ownership and state of the TLDs are managed through a set of smart contracts on the blockchain, which enforce the protocol’s rules and ensure the integrity and accuracy of the data. A biennial “heartbeat transaction” is required from TLD owners to maintain ownership.
Both 3DNS and Handshake offer groundbreaking approaches to decentralized domain name systems. While 3DNS provides a bridge between traditional and blockchain-based DNS systems, Handshake offers a completely decentralized alternative that eliminates the need for centralized authorities altogether.
Your choice between the two platforms will depend on your specific needs and how you weigh the benefits and limitations of each. If you’re looking for a seamless transition from traditional to decentralized domains, 3DNS may be more suitable. However, if you favor a fully decentralized system and are comfortable with a steeper learning curve, Handshake is worth exploring.
Both platforms are at the forefront of a paradigm shift in how we think about digital ownership and internet navigation, offering exciting prospects for the future.