The rise of decentralized platforms and applications has marked the beginning of a new era of internet freedom, and the advent of Web3 technology, with traditional legal and corporate systems.
Open blockchain technology, Ethereum, and the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) have emerged as frontrunners of open public-goods in the revolution of Web3 blockchain naming systems, offering distinct advantages to the ecosystem, (compared to venture capital (VC)-backed alternatives, like Unstoppable Domains).
In this article, we explore the unique benefits provided by Ethereum and ENS, and we discuss the contentious US Patent No. US 11558344 B1, which some perceive as a threat to ENS and “open blockchain” technology .
Open Source: The Foundation of Decentralization & Neutrality
The foundations of crypto are based on the cypherpunk movement, which championed the encryption wars, and the promotion of open source cryptography and privacy-enhancing technology, in order to safeguard human rights and to advance a society that is open and decentralized.
Likewise, the open-source nature of Ethereum and ENS promotes transparency, collaboration, and innovation. By removing barriers to entry and fostering a global community of developers, these platforms ensure continued progress and adaptation. In contrast, Unstoppable Domains functions as a VC-backed corporation, which may result in centralized decision-making and restricted access to Web3 technology and patents.
Ethereum and ENS embody the core principles of Web3 technology, including immutability, public verifiability, openness, borderless functionality, neutrality, resistance to censorship, and decentralization. As a neutral protocol, ENS empowers users to maintain control over their digital identities and assets.
Conversely, Unstoppable Domains is subject to the influence of its investors, which could hinder its ability to uphold these principles.
ENS & Its Decentralized Governance
The market cap of ENS’s decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) governance token ($ENS) reflects the community-driven nature of the platform, rather than the total value of the ENS protocol. There are no central planners or infrastructure, there are no central controlling systems, and there are no central decision makers.
This decentralized approach allows stakeholders to actively participate in decision-making processes, in “an open, collaboration, publicly-viewable” manner. This system goals are ensuring that the ENS ecosystem remains robust and adaptive to user needs, while securing the protocol from frivolous changes or overtly attacks on the system.
The Controversial US Patent No. US 11558344 B1
The issuance of US Patent No. US 11558344 B1 has raised concerns among open source and open blockchain proponents, who view it as an attempt to undermine the open blockchain and decentralized nature of the ENS protocol. The patent for Unstoppable Domains grants exclusive rights to certain aspects of blockchain domain technology, which could potentially limit innovation and stifle competition in the Web3 domain name space.
The issuance of US Patent No. US 11558344 B1 has generated concerns due to its apparent overlap with ENS’s existing functionality. Below, we will explore the specifics of the patent and its potential implications for ENS and the broader decentralized domain space:
1. Key Components of US Patent No. US 11558344 B1
US Patent No. US 11558344 B1 pertains to a system and method for managing domain names on a decentralized network. The patent outlines a process wherein users can register, transfer, and manage domain names using a blockchain-based system, allowing for secure and transparent transactions. This sounds a lot like ENS protocol, which has existing and been working, since before Unstoppable Domains.
2. ENS’s Existing Domain Management System
ENS is an open-source protocol that enables users to register and manage domain names on the Ethereum blockchain. It offers a decentralized and secure method for managing domains, allowing users to associate human-readable names with Ethereum addresses, decentralized websites, and other decentralized resources. Likewise, this is similar to the Unstoppable Domains patent, but again, ENS had existed first.
3. Identifying the Overlap & Potential Implications
Given the similarities between the patented technology and ENS’s existing domain management system, there is a clear overlap between the two. This raises questions about the validity of the patent, as ENS already offers the same functionality. In some cases, existing technologies or “prior art” can invalidate a patent application if they demonstrate that the invention is not novel or non-obvious.
If the patent were to be enforced, it could have significant repercussions for ENS and other decentralized domain name systems. The patent holder may be able to take legal action against ENS or demand royalties for using the patented technology. This could potentially stifle innovation and hinder the growth of decentralized domain services.
What happens now?
As of today, we've disabled .coin resolution in our libraries and services. Unstoppable domains are self-custodied NFTs, so you still own your .coin domain, but it won’t work with our resolution services or integrations.
— unstoppable.nft (@unstoppableweb) October 18, 2022
RT @[email protected]
Unstoppable Domains disables .coin extensions, illustrating an issue with the idea that "you'll always own your NFT"
— kikuri brainrot 🏳️⚧️ 🍶 (@WatchPrecure) October 22, 2022
4. Challenging the Validity of US Patent No. US 11558344 B1
To address the concerns surrounding US Patent No. US 11558344 B1, stakeholders in the ENS community and the broader decentralized domain ecosystem may need to challenge the patent’s validity.
By providing evidence of prior art, they can demonstrate that ENS was already using the same technology before the patent application.
If successful, this could help preserve the open and collaborative nature of the decentralized domain space, ensuring that ENS and similar platforms can continue to thrive without the threat of legal action or monopolization.
All open-builders may be f*ck*d if this is unchecked? Discuss?
What is claimed:
1. A method, comprising: receiving request to resolve a domain identifier of web content;
20. A program; receiving a request to resolve a name identifier of web content;https://t.co/bGkhpeDqa9 pic.twitter.com/cl65Ze4JZl
— GaryPalmerJr.eth.limo 👁 2223.eth 🌱🐇 (@garypalmerjr) January 20, 2023
5. US Patent 2022/0222245-A1: Yet, A Different Patent; Focusing on Blockchain Registry Scaling
(While not directly related to the existing controversy surrounding US Patent No. US 11558344 B1), this other patent application US Patent 2022/0222245-A1, titled “BLOCKCHAIN REGISTRY SCALING,” introduces another perspective within the decentralized domain management ecosystem. US Patent 2022/0222245-A1 is relevant due to its potential implications for the efficiency and scalability of blockchain-based systems and domain registries.
The patent application details a method for improving the scaling of blockchain registries by utilizing a combination of off-chain and on-chain data storage. It addresses the challenges of maintaining large domain registries on blockchains, which can be resource-intensive and slow due to the inherent limitations of blockchain technology. By optimizing data storage and retrieval, this approach aims to enhance the performance and cost-effectiveness of decentralized domain management systems. This also sounds like preexisting systems of the “ENS and CCIP” Open-Web3 protocols.
In the context of this article, US Patent 20220222245A1 demonstrates the ongoing efforts to advance and control the technical capabilities of blockchain domain systems. It underscores the growing interest in developing innovative solutions to overcome the technical limitations of blockchain-based domain systems.
While it is important to address and overcome the technical challenges faced by the industry to ensure the success and widespread adoption of Web3 technology, it is also essential that we as a community remain committed to the principles of open-source collaboration and decentralization.
The Web3 Domain Alliance & Its Potential Impact on ENS
The recent announcement by Unstoppable Domains, the owner of US Patent No. US 11558344 B1, pledging not to enforce its patent against members of the Web3 Domain Alliance has generated mixed reactions within the decentralized domain community.
Below, we will discuss the potential implications of this alliance on ENS and its decentralized autonomous organization, as well as the possible consequences of adopting an alliance model dominated by centralized entities:
1. Unstoppable Domains’ Non-Aggression Pledge
Unstoppable Domains recently announced its commitment not to enforce its controversial patent against other members of the Web3 Domain Alliance. The pledge has been viewed by some as an attempt to assuage concerns about the patent’s impact on ENS and other decentralized domain services.
The owner of this patent, Unstoppable Domains, announced this week that it's not going to enforce it against other members of the Web3 Domain Alliance. https://t.co/ab0QfCWpMA
— Michael Eshaghian, Esq. (@LAIPAttorney) February 24, 2023
On the IP topic, saw last week that UD pledged patent nonaggression toward members of the Web3 Domain Alliance. Previously, UD had made a patent “non-assertion commitment” (below).
It seems this new pledge is a step backwards from the previous commitment. Am I misinterpreting? pic.twitter.com/Rl5Uqxm1Cp
— blockdomains/ (@HnsWorldwide) March 2, 2023
2. The Web3 Domain Alliance: Collaboration or Centralization?
The Web3 Domain Alliance is a consortium of organizations, working to advance the adoption of decentralized domain name systems. While collaboration among industry players can be beneficial, the alliance’s structure could potentially reinforce a centralized model of decision-making.
With centralized entities forming the core of the alliance, decisions may be made through a “round table” of opaque, centralized “kingmakers.” This approach stands in stark contrast to the principles of decentralization and open governance championed by ENS and its decentralized autonomous organization.
3. ENS Under Threat: The Risks of a Centralized Alliance
The Web3 Domain Alliance’s potential influence on Open-Web3, ENS and its decentralized governance model raises concerns about the future of the protocol. By embracing a centralized alliance, the core values of ENS, including transparency, neutrality, and resistance to censorship, could be jeopardized.
If the alliance’s centralized decision-makers were to exert influence over ENS, it might pave the way for a more closed and controlled ecosystem, stifling innovation and limiting user empowerment. This could ultimately undermine the core principles of decentralization and open-source collaboration that have driven the success of ENS thus far.
4. Preserving Decentralization & Open Governance in the Domain Industry
To maintain the integrity and openness of the decentralized domain space, it is crucial to resist the encroachment of centralized decision-making structures like those potentially introduced by the Web3 Domain Alliance. By supporting ENS and its decentralized autonomous organization, the community can help ensure that the principles of decentralization and open governance remain central to the development and adoption of Web3 domain name systems.
Embracing the Future of Web3 Technology
As we move toward a more decentralized internet, the open and community-driven nature of Ethereum and ENS will play a crucial role in fostering innovation and empowering users.
By choosing platforms that prioritize transparency, collaboration, and neutrality, we can help ensure the success of Web3 technology and promote a more equitable digital landscape.
The Future of Decentralization
In summary, Ethereum and the Ethereum Name Service have consistently outperformed VC-backed alternatives by championing open-source principles, decentralization, and community-driven governance. The controversial US Patent No. US 11558344 B1 and the formation of the Web3 Domain Alliance serve as reminders of the ongoing challenges faced by the Web3 and decentralized domain ecosystem.
It is crucial that Web3 community remains vigilant and steadfast in its support for open blockchain systems and the decentralized autonomous organizations to preserve the open, collaborative nature of the Web3 domain space and broader industry. By actively participating in ENS governance and contributing to the development of decentralized platforms, we can collectively address the risks associated with centralization and monopolization in the domain industry.
I am optimistic about the future of Web3 technology, and will continue to support for open protocols (like ENS) that prioritize transparency, collaboration, and neutrality. Together, we can help ensure the success of Web3 and promote a more equitable digital landscape for all users.