Ethereum Name Service (ENS): Everything to Know

By  Beluga Research September 19, 2023

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Summary

  • Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a naming service for the Ethereum blockchain, which allows users to map human-readable names
  • ENS is a decentralized domain name system that allows users to buy and manage domains
  • Users register domain names through the ENS registrar smart contract, which ensures fairness and prevents squatting
  • This offers simplified address systems, increased accessibility and interoperability, but faces the challenges of scalability, transaction fees, lack of privacy and limited adoption

Overview

Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a naming service for the Ethereum blockchain, which allows users to map human-readable names like "jane.eth" to a machine-readable wallet name like "9g182dl42ji8xl." ENS also allows a user to name websites. The point of using ENS is to facilitate the storage and receipt of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, NFTs, utility tokens and other digital assets.

ENS operates on the Ethereum blockchain. It uses smart contracts to manage registration, ownership and resolution. The contracts ensure that the service and the network maintain integrity and security. The contracts also help ENS remain decentralized.

A Brief History

In 2017, Nick Johnson, a developer at the Ethereum Foundation, proposed the idea of a decentralized domain name system. He aimed to create a user-friendly approach to cryptocurrency addresses by connecting human-readable names with wallet addresses. That year, the ENS project launched its initial registrar.

This allowed users to register and manage domain names on the Ethereum blockchain. The project gained significant attention and support from the crypto community. The ENS rapidly grew into the large database and domain management system that exists today.

ENS: Everything to Know

  • Domain Registration : Users register a domain name on ENS by interacting with the registrar smart contract. They select a desired name and submit a bid in ether (ETH). Bidding ensures fairness. After the registrar smart contract evaluates the bids for a name, the highest bidder secures the domain. Unsuccessful bidders get their funds returned. Domain registration also prevents name squatting. This is the practice of a user registering one or more common names with the intention of reselling the names at higher prices.
  • Domain Ownership : Once a user has registered a domain, they have total control of the domain. Ownership is managed through Ethereum addresses associated with the domain. An owner can transfer or sell the domain by updating the ownership records in the ENS smart contract.
  • Resolution and Address Mapping : ENS resolves domain names to cryptocurrency addresses through resolution. When a user enters a domain name in an ENS-enabled wallet or application, the system queries the ENS smart contract to retrieve the associated address. This eliminates the need to manually enter long and error-prone wallet addresses.
  • Subdomains and Hierarchical Structure : ENS supports subdomains, which allows users to organize domains hierarchically. For example, a user who owns "example.eth" can create subdomains like "subdomain.example.eth." This structure provides flexibility and organization for managing multiple domains under one owner.
  • Integration with Wallets and Applications: ENS is widely adopted and integrated with various wallets and applications in the Ethereum ecosystem. Many popular wallets and decentralized applications (dapps) support ENS. This makes it easy to send and receive cryptocurrencies using domain names. Integration enhances usability and accessibility for all users, from beginners to more experienced investors.
  • ENS Name Formats : ENS supports different name formats, including single-word names, multi-word names and reverse resolution. Single-word names are simple and concise, like "example.eth." Multi-word names allow longer names by using hyphens, like "my-domain.eth." Reverse resolution lets a user associate their Ethereum address with a domain name. This makes it easier for other entities to find the user's address.

Getting Started

  • Acquire an Ethereum address and a compatible wallet. Registering a name involves bidding and paying a fee in ether. This system encourages fair allocation and reduces the chance of name squatting.
  • Link the name to an Ethereum address . The association enables others to send funds to a user's ENS name instead of their lengthy Ethereum address. This simplifies the transfer process.
  • Interact with ENS through various wallets and dapps that integrate with the Ethereum Name Service . Wallets and dapps allow convenient management of ENS names, address updates and interaction with other ENS features. ENS also supports subdomains for hierarchical name structures.

Unique Aspects

  • Association of different types of data with ENS names. The different types of data include Ethereum addresses, IPFS hashes, Swarm content and traditional Domain Name System (DNS) records. ENS's flexibility offers users an opportunity to do more than transfer funds.
  • Operation on the decentralized Ethereum blockchain. This ensures resistance to censorship and tampering. No central authority controls ENS names. The system is open and permissionless. .
  • Supports decentralized website hosting through integration with IPFS and Swarm. Users can link their ENS names to decentralized content. This allows visitors to access websites without relying on traditional web infrastructure. Such integration aligns with blockchain's principles of increasing resilience and resisting censorship.
  • Designed to be interoperable with other systems . ENS adheres to the ERC-721 token standard. This compatibility enables seamless integration with wallets, exchanges and services across the ecosystem.

Advantages

  • Simplified Address System - ENS replaces long and complicated addresses with human-readable domain names. This improves a user's experience.
  • Increased Accessibility - ENS allows users to access dapps and services using familiar domain names. Such accessibility makes ENS more user-friendly for newcomers.
  • Interoperability - ENS works with various cryptocurrencies. This expands its usability across multiple networks.
  • Decentralization - The fact that ENS operates on the Ethereum blockchain means users retain full control over their digital identities.
  • Security - ENS reduces the risk of human error in address input. It associates funds with domain names instead of requiring manual entry.
  • Wallet Agnostic - ENS works with any wallet that supports integration. This gives users flexibility to choose the wallet that they prefer.

Disadvantages

  • Dependency on Ethereum - ENS relies on the Ethereum ecosystem. Scalability and/or congestion issues on the Ethereum network affect ENS's performance.
  • Cost - Registration and management of ENS names involve transaction fees on the Ethereum network. The total cost of interactions depends on the congestion and gas prices of this network. Also, popular domain names are often more expensive.
  • Lack of Privacy - ENS operates on a public blockchain. This makes domain name registrations and transactions visible to anyone.
  • Centralized Governance - ENS is currently governed by the Ethereum Foundation, which is centralized. If this entity experiences difficulties, that will negatively impact decision-making and future development for ENS.
  • Potential Name Squatting - ENS poses the risk of name squatting. The practice of bidding reduces this concern.
  • Limited Adoption - The adoption of ENS names is still relatively low when compared to the use of traditional domain name systems.