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Handshake is not intended to replace ICANN’s root domain name system. It explains the mechanism design of the decentralized naming system Handshake from five dimensions: technology, society, and governance.
Written by: Ming Ng, Andrew Lee and Cassandra Shi, the latter two are the co-founders of Handshake and D1 Ventures respectively. Compilation: Perry Wang
The name plays a vital role in the perception of human existence and the relationship and interaction with all things in the world. The core of all interaction is the ability of each party to match the name with the specific thing or person it represents.
Names are an indispensable part of human experience, and one can even confidently question whether a certain thing or person has a name, whether he/she/ it really exists.
Correspondingly, names on the Internet are crucial to our online presence. Users, applications, or machines search for resources on the Internet through the name of the resource. This name not only needs to be understood by humans, but it also needs to be uniquely identified by machines among billions of potential destinations.
Matching names with final resources is the starting point for trillions of interactions that occur on the Internet every day. Therefore, in the three core layers of the Internet stack, namely naming (DNS), transmission (TCP/IP), and application (HTTP) Not surprisingly, naming is the initial starting point for these stacks .
Naming requires a unique source of truth, because the name in the namespace must be unique in the entire system. Therefore, an effective naming system can not only be a standard or a protocol, but must also meet all other requirements for running an Internet-scale namespace-including the enforcement of unique names, management of naming records, and extension to Internet access, while still ensuring any Anyone in the place can fully visit.
The current state of namespaces
The name is the most valuable asset on the Internet, but we don’t really own our own name. All key namespaces belong to centralized entities that control these namespaces and take control away from you. This is true for all important namespaces today—the ICANN namespace , Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
Therefore, your name on the Internet does not belong to you, but to the owner of these centralized namespaces. They can delete anyone with just one tap on the keyboard. If your name exists in a centralized namespace, then your effective right to exist belongs to others.
The centralized namespace also determines the viability of users. They also determine the user’s ability to search, match, and communicate with others. They unilaterally set up a framework to limit which protocols users can use, which use cases are allowed, and what information can be transmitted.
These centralized namespaces enforce the power of monopoly with almost no consequences, and also give them some of the most valuable attributes on the Internet today. Verisign, which operates multiple domain name registries, makes billions of dollars every year from the .com domain name system that it controls when its innovation is almost zero. ICANN relies on Carter, who is playing with it. If you are a foreign company, you can arbitrarily increase the price cap of all top-level domain TLDs. Facebook and Twitter have complete control over how users use their names/accounts, and can almost delete pages and user identities at will without giving any explanation.
We can see everywhere that relying on centralized entities poses a serious threat to existence and being discovered by others. The Internet should not have a king, but the ability to eliminate the existence of people and precisely control the way names are used makes the owners of these namespaces the de facto kings/rulers of the Internet.
The world needs decentralized namespaces
Of course, these centralized namespace owners control digital existence, block access, and enforce monopolistic economic models. This runs counter to the goal of decentralized networks, which promotes existence without centralized control or systems. The ability to innovate and create your own business model.
Whether it is a decentralized currency, a decentralized document system or a decentralized server, if these decentralized entities are not included in a namespace used by a large number of people, for the vast majority of users on the Internet, these decentralized entities The chemical entity does not exist at all.
If there is no decentralized namespace that can be widely read by humans and parsed by machines, then users will not be able to widely adopt the decentralized world.
Technical standards for decentralized naming systems
The naming system plays a vital role in discovery, connection and identification activities. As one of the most basic and long-lasting components of the Internet backbone infrastructure, the naming system needs to set extremely high standards for its service life, stability, and technical scalability.
To make a decentralized naming system become a legal namespace in a decentralized world, the threshold is higher. Without a centralized responsible agency, the world must believe that this naming system can maintain a stable state for a long period of time, regardless of any potential turbulence and technological progress, it can keep humans around the world connected.
Therefore, the basic structure of this naming system requires certain key technical, social and governance requirements:
1. Truly decentralized : If the decentralized naming system is still controlled by a small group of people, what is the point?
2. Focus on the responsibilities of the naming system: The responsibilities of the naming system need to be extremely focused and fast. If the designed function of the DNS system also includes 4K video transmission, imagine that it can operate reliably?
3. Realize trustless access as much as possible : anyone can directly access the namespace in a completely trustless manner without taking up a lot of resources
4. Compatible with other parts of the Internet : allow seamless connection with other applications, users and technology stacks
5. Stability and upgradeability of the protocol level : allow continuous advancement and innovation without disrupting conventional operations
Handshake’s mechanism design
Considering these goals, as well as the overall goals of the decentralized root domain name and authority, Handshake is the only naming system that is fundamentally suitable for use as a decentralized network namespace.
Focus on the responsibilities of the naming system
Let us first consider the inherent complexity of a large-scale naming system like the Internet. Different from other layers of the Internet stack, the naming layer DNS is the only layer in which the system is not the protocol. The main difference between the system and the protocol is that the protocol cannot enforce the uniqueness of the name, and this feature is important for guaranteeing the namespace Normal operation is essential. It can be said that the naming layer of the Internet is by far the most complex layer. It needs to face many competing technical, political and economic needs.
As an independent blockchain, Handshake has the space for self-development and self-management, does not interfere with other projects, and does not have to compete for priority with other use cases (such as games or DeFi) operating in parallel on the same network. In addition, other blockchains also have some basic limitations. For example, the Bitcoin network limits the size of OP, while Ethereum is known for being extremely difficult to synchronize.
If Handshake is attached to another blockchain, the instability caused by the competition for priority between use cases and political interests will cause the core requirement of the decentralized naming infrastructure-stability to vanish. The naming infrastructure must be highly stable, and remember that users, hosting hosts, and developers must all be confident that the name will exist in the same format for a long time. For example, due to the popularity of DeFi, the gas price of Ethereum has soared, and the complex migration of Ethereum to ETH2 has created a high degree of uncertainty for the future operation of the application and whether retail investors will be able to obtain the same access rights as the giant whale .
Finally, creating a native auction system is very complicated and requires highly specific native elements, such as making the tokens unusable for certain periods, and if the HNS token of the Handshake protocol is not a native token, it will also greatly increase the complexity of the system.
Another key consideration is decentralization. Remember, the goal here is to achieve a truly decentralized, uncensorable namespace, free from centralized control and strategy. Anything below this target will be completely redundant.
Ethereum is by far the most decentralized smart contract platform, but it is still not enough as the underlying blockchain for a truly decentralized naming system. Ethereum-based systems must either be strictly unchanged or have to design governance mechanisms with single or multiple signers. For example, the ENS system on Ethereum has a 7-part multisig, which makes it auditable or prevents any future innovations or upgrades. These mechanisms will either hinder future innovation or fail to meet the requirements of decentralization.
How about the side chain solution? The side chain mainly relies on the security of the main chain. Since the priority of tasks must be shared with the main chain, the previous concerns about the priority of multi-task competition remain unresolved in this scheme. In addition, there is currently no decentralized sidechain in the Bitcoin network. Counterparty is a one-way system, Liquid needs a small joint multisig, and Rootstock is currently promoting the alliance, waiting for Bitcoin as the main chain Drivechain to support it.
As for all the problems of proof-of-work PoW, due to the limited number of miners, its foundation is a decentralized competitive relationship, and the concerns of developers, users and miners are clearly different. This is in sharp contrast to Proof-of-Stake PoS, which encourages collusion and centralized management of stakeholders, thereby creating a largely rich political environment.
Therefore, a truly decentralized naming with upgrade capabilities is most likely to be realized on an independent PoW blockchain with a strong hash rate, a strong ecosystem, and miners are confident in the value of the blockchain.
Excellent trustless solution
Compared with other named blockchains, the entire Handshake technology stack is designed to create a human-readable, truly decentralized, fully accessible and secure namespace.
The named data in Handshake is stored in a new data structure called Urkel Tree, which is specifically designed for this purpose. The proof is small and can be verified quickly, so name resolution can be performed with very little calculation.
Secondly, HNSD, a highly unique application written in C language, only handles DNS functions in Handshake (avoid using any currency-related elements). Its design mechanism guarantees speed and lightness as much as possible. It is written in C language and can be compiled in every computer system used today. HNSD will verify compact proofs, cryptographically ensure that DNS records are on the Handshake blockchain, and write proofs into the chain with the most workload.
The lightweight parser means that anyone can use Handshake with minimal effort. The compact Urkel proves to bring high efficiency, meaning that Handshake solutions can be implemented on the simplest equipment.
Therefore, Handshake is the only naming system that allows anyone with any level of resources to access the namespace, without any centralized components, and without any level of security trade-offs. Users or applications choose to resolve names by running a full node (HNSD client) or a third-party resolver according to their preferences. In many cases, this accessibility spectrum is the touchstone of trustless name resolution systems.
Compatible with other parts of the Internet
HNS can work with the entire DNS stack in all key ways (technology, solutions, and new systems), without being troubled by the political, economic, and technical burden of DNS.
Handshake will not replace ICANN’s root domain name system, but will expand it. When asked for the name, the Handshake parser first checks the blockchain of the TLD. If it cannot be found there, it will be “returned” to ICANN’s DNS system. Users running Handshake can browse the entire Internet as usual, but now they can also resolve names rooted in the blockchain.
After the root domain name is resolved, there is no difference between the DNS resolution on Handshake and the old Internet system. The resolver follows the domain and subdomain chain indicated by the URL, and connects with centralized and authoritative name servers around the world, which are still running the same software as before.
Stability and upgradeability of the protocol level
Handshake allows any content not exceeding 512 bytes to be inserted into the Urkel Tree as a name. All current Handshake software is configured to only allow reading/writing of formatted DNS records, but it is simple to write software that can use data for other purposes.
In addition, PoW is the most powerful mechanism we have known so far that can provide infrastructure-level stability with a clear upgrade path.
Regarding governance, philosophically, the most interesting thing about HNS is the experiment with the kingless structure. There is no leader, no foundation, and no core team for product launches. Handshake follows the same upgrade path as Bitcoin through soft forks and off-chain social coordination. Facts have proven that Handshake has the most flexible governance mechanism.
Alternative methods such as PoS governance are still in their early stages and have not withstood the test of time. The Ethereum Domain Name System ENS method is more fragile. A group of people holding multisig keys (regardless of their reputation) will control the governance and upgrade of the backbone infrastructure of the decentralized network.
Handshake and Bitcoin are two truly decentralized projects without a king, and the cryptocurrency field should explore new coordination mechanisms. We will discuss this topic in a future article.
Handshake: Extending the Internet to the Sea of Stars
The concept of using a centralized system to control names is fundamentally incompatible with decentralized networks, and decentralized networks need to get rid of any centralization elements.
If there is no widely resolvable and recognized naming system, the decentralized network and all its contents (decentralized server, decentralized document space) will be invisible and non-existent in the eyes of the mainstream world.
HNS is the only namespace designed to withstand any length of time, infinitely expand the use cases, and maintain a complete spectrum of convenience/decentralization.
Of course, it will take some time for Handshake to gain the required widespread adoption, but Handshake’s curvilinear path to gain legal status is necessary for Bitcoin to be recognized as a legitimate store of value and become a major competitor with gold and the US dollar. The verification curves passed are not the same.
By making decentralized networks as accessible as centralized networks, HNS is expected to extend the Internet beyond current boundaries. If you are interested in participating in this historical process, we strongly recommend that you become a part of the ecosystem-join a group, obtain HNS tokens, and occupy a place in this field.
Most importantly, participate in the community by providing code, ideas or just a good atmosphere. Handshake and decentralized networks are still in the early stages of development. The most important thing is that the sense of presence, collaboration, and coordination that all people obtain on the Internet is still in its infancy.
We believe that every Internet user truly has a decentralized name in the world. They can use it absolutely freely and feel safe knowing that the name truly belongs to them. We believe that Handshake will be the system that hosts this vital namespace. I wish you a pleasant trip.