The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) was designed as a distributed, open, and extensible naming system based on the Ethereum blockchain. The main mission of ENS is to help users translate complex identifiers in Web3, for example, cryptocurrency wallet addresses, hashes, and metadata into readable names (domains) to be registered in the Ethereum blockchain afterward. Users can connect their domains and wallets’ addresses to the service. Every time they want to receive a transfer, they can give the sender their ENS domains instead of a complicated wallet address. Also, ENS makes it possible to associate metadata or interface descriptions with the Ethereum blockchain. At the time of writing, the ENS system has managed to grow an extensive ecosystem. Thus, it works with such apps, wallets, and browsers as Coinbase, Rainbow, Trust Wallet, Uniswap, Etherscan, OpenSea, Brave, Opera, Metamask Extension, Status, etc.
ENS was launched as a public good infrastructure in Singapore in 2017. True Names Limited (TNL) is responsible for the core software development which includes the ENS app, open source libraries, and core smart contract.
At its core, ENS is very similar to the Internet’s Domain Name Service (DNS). First, both technologies pursue the same goals. Second, they operate on a system of dot-separated hierarchical names called domains, with the owner of a domain having full control over their created subdomains. However, these two systems have different architectures. ENS uses Web3 and is based on the Ethereum blockchain, which isn’t controlled by any government institution that makes ENS domains private and secure. DNS domains of a user can be transported to the ENS system, though.
Thanks to the underlying decentralized system, ENS is resistant to censorship and cannot be controlled by any institute. In addition, ENS domains may be connected with files downloaded in the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Everyone having special plugins can have access to them. Finally, domains are based on Ethereum which means that they can be sold on the NFT marketplaces. Moreover, ENS provides rewards for anyone who finds a bug in the system and helps to make the platform better. The value of a reward depends on the severity of a bug. Rewards can be sent over only to smart contracts.
The ENS architecture consists of two key elements. The first one is the ENS registry, which stores all the domains and subdomains and basic information about them such as the owner (a user or a smart contract), the resolver, and the cashing time-to-live for all the records. If users follow specific rules defined by a smart contract they are issued with subdomains of the domain by a registrator. Users who own a domain may change its name and the names of subdomains and define the resolver of the domain.
The process of turning domain names into addresses is performed through resolvers, which often come in the form of smart contracts. General purpose resolvers are used for simple tasks. The resolver determines the methods it has to implement to provide a record based on the type of this record.
Also, it’s worth adding that the ENS system uses Namehash in order to derive a hash from a name while preserving its hierarchical properties and having to handle human-readable text strings within the system. Namehash relies on the UTS-46 normalization process to ensure that invalid characters aren’t allowed to take part in hashing and uppercase and lowercase characters are treated equally.
The ENS Foundation
The ENS Foundation is a non-profit foundation company based in the Cayman Islands. It has three directors: Nick Johnson, Brantly Millegan, and Kevin Gaspar. They are responsible for the daily functioning of the foundation. The supervisor controls the directors and makes sure that they work in accordance with Cayman Islands law. The ENS DAO that governs the protocol has significant power over the foundation. Users may vote to delete some of the directors, make them take legal actions on behalf of the Foundation, or fully wind up the Foundation.
The ENS token
In November 2021, the team standing behind the project decided to launch the ENS token to make it easier for the public to manage its governance. The tokens were distributed to the ENS DAO which makes decisions about the ENS development. On November 9, 2021, 100 million tokens were airdropped to the community. They were allocated the following way: 18.96% for core contributions, 0.58% for launch advisers, 1.25% for future contributors, 1.29% for external contributors, 0.05% for translators, 2.5% for select integrations, 0.25% for keyholders, 0.125% for active discord users, 25% for airdrop and 50% as community treasury. Also, users who had their domains before the airdrop got extra tokens.
The ENS delegates take control over the ENS treasury, its funds and the “.ETH registrar” contract that is in charge of the pricing and registration mechanism for “.ETH” names.
The ENS team
ENS is an open-source system, however, its core software development is under the responsibility of the company TNL.
The Executive Director of TNL is Khori Whittaker. He started his career as a fifth-grade teacher and later worked for Decker Communications as a Training and Sales Executive. In addition to working for TNL, he is the President and CEO of Lighthouse Academies, Inc. It is a network of K-12 charter schools in New York, Indiana, and Arkansas. TNL’s Frontend and Solidity developer is Jeff Lau and JS and another Solidity developer is Makoto Inoue.
The Creator and Lead Developer of TNL is Nick Johnson. In 2008, he started working at Google, first as an SRE, and then as a Developer Programs Engineer. He had been working for the Google App Engine team since the product launch. In 2012, he left Google to work at Smart Sparrow, a Sydney startup in the sphere of E-learning.
At the time of writing, the ENS root is controlled by four of seven multisig, with members of related projects as keyholders. These multisig include Nick Johnson from TNL, Dan Finlay from Metamask, Aron Fisher from Colony, Martin Swende and Jason Carver from Ethereum Foundation, Sergey Nazarov from Chainlink, and Taylor Monahan from MyCrypto.