New entrants into the crypto market are often daunted by the responsibilities: how can you keep those private keys safe? Lose the scrap of paper on which you’ve scribbled your keys and seed phrases and you’ll lose access to all of your crypto.
It’s the same for crypto domain names, says Brad Kam, founder of the San Francisco-based decentralized domain name registrar, Unstoppable Domains. Buy one of his .crypto domains, the rarer among them costing upward of $10,000, and you’ll be responsible for guarding the keys to the domain name with which you can host your very own decentralized, censorship-resistant website. Lose it, and you’ll lose access to your .crypto website.
Scared? We are, too. But, just as you can entrust crypto custodians with your Bitcoin, so too —now—can you hand over your keys to your .crypto domain name to a crypto custodian. Today, Unstoppable has announced that you can entrust your .crypto domain names with Gemini Custody, the custodial service run by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
What is a decentralized domain name and why would you want to give them to the Winklevoss twins?
Blockchain-based .crypto domain names, Kam told Decrypt (once again) are unlike the .coms of the world. Whereas the .com domain is regulated by ICANN, the UN body that keeps guard over the Internet and can rescind .com domains at will, .crypto domain names are non-custodial, meaning that their owners have complete control over them. Neither ICANN, nor anyone else, can take down websites hosted on .crypto domains.
That’s because .crypto domains are just tokens held in Ethereum wallets. To be precise, a .crypto domain is a unique NFT, or non-fungible token, the same kind of Ethereum token used by digital collectibles, like CryptoKitties. Since its inception in 2018, Unstoppable has sold 260,000 .crypto domain name tokens to 21,000 customers.
So why, after going to such trouble, would you want to hand over your .crypto domain name to a pair of Bitcoin billionaires? A government could surely overpower the Winklevoss twins, Olympic athletes though they were, and shut down your website.
Kam said that custody services are useful for people who want to keep their .crypto domains safe. “If you are not doing anything with your domain right now, or maybe not doing anything particularly controversial, you may want to store some of them in a custodian for some period of time; you can always move them right out.”
Some of the companies that have bought .crypto domains—among them one unnamed Fortune 100 company; a couple of Fortune 500 companies and several Fortune 1000 companies—have scooped them up so that they can build websites on them later.
“These are traditional businesses. They’re not the kind of people that would be building decentralized websites early. That’s the reason why the custody service is more appropriate for them,” he said.
Whom a .crypto custody service would not be appropriate for, said Kam, is a controversial website, such as Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website that helped Edward Snowden leak his documents about the NSA. A custody service “would be a very, very bad idea for that,” he said. “They would be shut down.”
Appropriateness aside, the very fact that you have the choice to decide who has custody over your domain name is the important part, said Kam. “A traditional domain doesn’t have that property,” he said. As soon as your website requires censorship resistance, you can pull it out of custody.
Said Kam: ”The only reason why the technology is relevant and is an improvement is because it’s self-custody.”