Handshake is a P2P DNS-compatible decentralized and license-free protocol that secures the Internet providing its own solution to CAs (Certificate Authorities) replacing such authorities as ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) that oversees Domain Name Systems (DNS). Handshake provides users with decentralized access to DNS resolution thus making the internet available even in the conditions of internet censorship.
The protocol presents an alternative to the back-end infrastructure that is used to help your device to find the right site. At the time of writing, the DNS is a part of internet infrastructure distributing network and handling queries from billions of internet users. The query from each of us is sent to a resolving server, which must find the IP of the site needed at the moment.
Handshake focuses on decentralizing domain registration, authentication, and analysis. Each member of the system is in charge of the management and validation of the root DNS naming zone. The team behind the project is headquartered in San Francisco. The project was incubated by the Purse.io team and debuted in August 2018.
Handshake was created to establish a decentralized network, which would use crypto-economic incentives for coordination of consensus on the association between names and certificates. Internet security is based on trusted CAs confirming the connection of the user to the right server or node. Therefore, the dependence upon definite players has been formed as they serve the interests of corporations. When some failure of trusted CAs occurs, it compromises the security of the internet affecting the whole networked infrastructure and imposes catastrophic risks on its participants. DNS has a range of critical vulnerabilities and Handshake tries to solve the problem.
The whitepaper of the company says that the project doesn’t try to replace DNS – its goal is the replacement of the root zone file and the root servers. The result of this experiment should be the global allocation of names. The trusted third parties providing services to us actually prevent the web from true decentralization. Handshake tries to improve the situation and provides an alternative delivering key management and server or service authentication. It strives to create a way to do a decentralized lookup of name records so that one could produce hashes and keys for the identification of resources over decentralized networks.
This idea has been around since the early days of Bitcoin. If DNS is a protocol that maintains a distributed list that helps to find the location of URL, it’s possible to deliver a more secure way of maintaining a linked list and blockchain can serve perfectly for it.
It may seem that the replacement of the backbone of the internet requires huge changes. But in fact, it doesn’t. At that the advantages of the process are evident. For one, the resilience of the internet considerably improves. It becomes less vulnerable to censorship and hackers’ attacks. Handshake can work seamlessly with the existing DNS system providing a new road to the familiar destination point. Centralization of Internet services doesn’t let the internet space develop by the original concept and vision of the Internet, but it can become possible with the Handshake platform.
Handshake uses a proof-of-work consensus algorithm that employs computational power. In addition, the platform implements Blake2B + SHA3 algorithm, and Bitcoin-NG technology to increase the throughput indices. It also supports smart contracts on the UTXO model. For instance, when the domain name auction is conducted, smart contracts are employed.
With Handshake, any person will be able to register top-level domains. The list of top-level domains (TLD) is limited at the time of writing and this change can become explosive as many new domains will appear. The holders of popular TLDs will be able to sell subdomain access to their domains.
There is a capability to store SSH fingerprints in DNS nowadays with the help of OpenSSH. Using HNS resolver the person verifies SSH fingerprints in a decentralized way. The installation of SSH software is not required for that. A valid trust chain can be created without asking for permission.
Optimization of the Merkel tree is one of the biggest achievements of the team working over Handshake. Named as FFMT (Flat-File Merkel Tree), it significantly improves the search making it faster, adds some functionality and decreases the required amount of storage space. Handshake tries to create a more secure and resilient Internet, which would bring more social benefit via the P2P system validated by the members of the network. The system explores new ways of building a more decentralized internet with the assistance of the required tools.
Handshake tokens and ICO
HNS is a utility token with the total supply of 2,040,000,000 HNS that can be used on the platform for name registration, for instance. The purchase of domains is conducted through a Vickrey auction using HNS coins. It is possible to transfer, register and update internet names using the HNS. Users can initiate auctions and place bids for top-level domains that use HNS. Thus, on February 29, the Handshake platform closed the auction for the sale of a top-level domain name .crypto. There is no need to explain why this auction became top-grossing. The winner has paid 1,088M HNS tokens, which was equal to about 153 thousand USD at the time of writing.
One can buy HNS on such platforms as Namebase, Hotbit, Gate.io, and WhaleEx. It’s necessary to sign up on Namebase to register Handshake name. Then the platform creates a custodial wallet for its users automatically.
The ICO was conducted on May 30, 2018. The sponsors of the project obtained minority participation (7.5%). In general, the amount of 10.2 million USD was collected from individuals and funds. All this sum is going to be spent on developing free and open-source software projects. The Handshake model has become a kind of experiment in a self-sustaining alternative source of no-obligation FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) community support. There were 1.36B coins initially available for distribution, so 70% of this amount was allocated to the FOSS community. The list of notable sponsors includes Paul Veradittakit, Roger Ver, Jun Hasegawa, Fred Ehrsam and Michael Ma.
The Handshake team
The platform was developed by a group of prominent practitioners in the crypto ecosystem. Initially, it was an initiative of Joseph Poon, the person who founded Bitcoin Lightning Network. He united his efforts with Andrew Lee, CEO of Purse, and Christopher Jeffrey, CTO of Purse.