Unstoppable Domains, a software company who are building domains on blockchains, today announced that they have raised $4 million in a series A led by Draper Associates. The company is building tools that allow their users to build censorship resistant domains which make takedown requests impossible.
Tim Draper, managing partner of Draper Associates explained what attracted him to the project via press-release, citing concerns with freedom of speech.
“ By decentralizing domain names, Unstoppable Domains has the potential to spread free speech around the world. Get your blockchain domains and don’t let them be controlled by anyone else, ever! ”
The project which runs on the Zilliqa blockchain will launch in June. Pre-orders for the company’s first domain extension (.Zil) are already open and on the 20th of June, a public auction for more valuable domains will begin. Unlike typical domains, .zil domains are not part of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN), so do not sit alongside the likes of others on a centralised registry controlled by companies, individuals and governments. Though staunchly against the current system for controlling domains, when we spoke with Bradley Kam, founder & Head of Biz Dev at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2019 Conference, he explained that while Unstoppable Domains have no aspirations to have their domain extensions approved by ICANN, they ultimately may have to as a defensive move.
” We would potentially have to get our domains approved by ICANN, but this would probably be more as a defensive move, we don’t need ICANN to sell and distribute domains, but instead we wouldn’t want other ICANN approved domains to be competing with us so we may go and do it defensively, though in reality we are going to be launching soon and ICANN has a frozen process and hasn’t approved a new domain extension since 2013, they are expected to restart again in 2021 or 2022. “
As well as uncensorable domains, Unstoppable Domains also aspire to make cryptocurrency more accessible with a mapping system that allows you to link your wallets to domains. During our meeting, Kam explained the benefits of Unstoppable’s approach, over traditional domains.
” There are 2 things that a blockchain domain can do that a regular domain can’t: The first is to place all of your crypto addresses with a single human-readable name, so you might have your bitcoin address, your litecoin address and your ethereum address all associated to one blockchain domain, so when sending, all you need to know is the address which then looks up the public address on the blockchain and makes the payment. It’s similar to how DNS addresses were added on top of I.P addresses, it’s almost identical thing where we used to have these machine-readable things that humans could never remember, with no personality that couldn’t be searched around, then all of a sudden we replaced it with a name and now people can easily remember addresses.
The second most critical use-case is uncensorable websites, so you can use the same domain to build a website that only you can take down, the way this works is that you have the domain in your wallet like a standard cryptocurrency and you’re the only person who can move it with your private keys and your content sits on a decentralised storage network such as IPFS, so no one can take that down either. In the current domain system, someone like GoDaddy owns your domain and if they get a court order they seize it, if AWS get a court order, they take down your content, so those are the 2 main points of censorship on the internet and they both go away if you use blockchain domains and decentralised storage, so you as the user are the only one who gets to decide whether a website should be there or not.”
The success of the project partly hinges on adoption from wallet providers who will have to support the system, something that has been addressed by the team who will be launching with support from wallets including the already announced Moonlet, an extension based Ethereum and Zilliqa wallet.
“We will have a few wallet partners when we go live, all any company needs to do is to integrate our library, or we have a really easy to use API.”
Though many in the space will relish being able to launch a completely decentralised website, it’s inevitable that people will use the technology to distribute illegal content. Giving the example of Revenge porn, we concluded our discussion by asking how it would be handled when a victim was having images of themselves distributed which couldn’t be removed without the consent of the site owner. Kam explained that this would be handled by a filtering system and would be at the digression of others in the ecosystem.
“At the protocol level, nothing can be censored. That is the only way to build a completely secure system. Only the holder of the private keys can transfer the domain or take down a website. On the 2nd layer, we will support filtering of addresses that are doing something illegal. So if you were to search for illegal content on unstoppabledomains.com, we would not resolve it. This will also be true of our wallet and browser partners. They will likely also support filtering and may do so in slightly different ways, depending on what country they are based in. The idea is that you choose their browser, and your browser chooses your internet. There will also likely be open source browsers that are willing to resolve everything and a user could always do lookups on the blockchain themselves.”