A layman’s comparison of using different naming systems… and helping you make the call as to which is best for you.
It would seem, sometimes, that all the different blockchains out there each have their own quirky, eerily similar differentiating trait. There are some that claim to be the fastest, some that claim to be the smartest, and some that claim to be, just, flat out best.
Yet, when you unpack these different technological entities, you can get a far better look under the hood with respect to what they can really offer. Most of the time – these improvements are incremental, or seemingly fruitless.
And yet sometimes… sometimes technology makes a leap forward.
For example – when blockchain technology first came to be, everybody was focused on the financial and monetary implications of its potential. How likely is it to topple existing legacy systems, how far will it go in how little of a time, and how much can it (if at all) overhaul existing enterprises and their approach to doing business?
Once that initial fawning faded to the background, everybody started to focus on what it is we actually have in our hands, like – right now. And one of the first things that popped to mind was – how will we know who is who and how to send what to whom? The principle purpose of the blockchain promise was the (nearly) instantaneous transfers of funds to anybody anywhere.
But who will we know to whom are we sending something?
Names on the chain
Any new technology is, in the beginning, complex and difficult to understand. However, as time passes by, so too does the initial, raw technological innovation refine and, ultimately, become more understandable and accessible.
With blockchain technology being the embodiment of digital evolution, many global business sectors – like global finances, digital identities, or communication networks – will have to adapt. Adapting means positioning the business in such a way as to attract wider audiences. These audiences – regular people like you and I (I’m a lawyer by vocation – could not be farther from tech!) – have to be able to use this tech easily.
Firstly, to stop beating around the bush – we would need blockchain names to stop looking like something that comes out of the alphabet cereal box. Who in their right mind could remember:
I mean, you won’t see someone at their high school reunion with a “Hi, my name is ak_kCZqTLYeGhUYUzTy9Ataspd9i7fuo38luiekwjsdcmčaosl8eikhsrjedb8t3” name tag.
So, to get folks on board, blockchains had to begin using human-readable names. Kind of like using DNS names instead of raw IP addresses – makes much more sense, even though the two, ultimately, perform the same function.
The way these would work, most likely, would be to create a technological solution that would enable existing names – the alphabet soup ones – to be mapped out to understandable ones. Existing ones would have to be overhauled, in a way, or mapped to the new nomenclature – in order to not lose existing users and their existence on the chain(s). That would be completely unfair! Entertain a silly comparison: imagine losing your house number because the post office system changed to a random new thing – how would you get mail?
Now, realizing this, blockchains started working fervently on the solutions for this problem. The most popular one is, not surprisingly, the one used by Ethereum. Ethereum made most use of the aura it controls – of being the next big thing after bitcoin to dictate the direction of transformative change. Putting aside the discussions of whether or not this is true, let’s take a look at their naming system – the Ethereum Name Service, or ENS for short.
ENS allows you to have a name like, say, firstnamelastname.eth or superman.eth. Now, this sounds, let’s face it, cool and game-changing, but it comes at a cost.
ENS names are expensive. And I mean really expensive – you can get them on a yearly basis and they are in the neighbourhood of USD 150 a piece. That is, let’s be honest, quite costly. For some people even prohibitively so. Looking at it from that end, is there anything that could offer an alternative?
Well, it would seem that there is.
AENS – Game Changer
The æternity naming system, or AENS for short, is the naming system employed by the æternity blockchain, an advanced erlang-coded blockchain devised and deployed by Yanislav Malahov, known by most as the Godfather of Ethereum.
“Founded in 2016 by Yanislav Malahov, the æternity blockchain project was born out of a desire for a more fair Internet supported by scalable, open-source and cryptographic software, with a commitment to technical excellence.” So it says on its website.
æternity is, by most accounts, a more scalable smart contract platform with advanced built-in features, like smart contract state channels, integrated oracles, a hugely efficient virtual machine – FATE, and – a human-readable naming system, AENS.
AENS facilitates the creation of .chain names, which are similar in their appearance to .eth names. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The differences on the other hand:
As we said, the average price of an .eth name is around USD 150 for the first year. On the other hand, a .chain name costs, at the most, is at least 10 times cheaper. Registering a simple name like, for example, Blake.chain (pretty useful if your name is Blake, let’s face it) would cost, at the time of writing this, USD 8. That’s almost twenty times cheaper.
2. Fees and gas prices
A lot of people these days are getting pretty angry with the increasing gas prices that Ethereum has. In some instances. people were facing over USD 4000 in fees for as low as a USD 5 purchase!
Gas prices work, in a way, as Uber prices during rush hour. The more people in use – the higher the prices are. That means that, ultimately, the more popular Ethereum becomes, the more expensive it’s going to be to use it. That is, kind of, a self-cannibalizing paradox – the better it is the worse it is.
WIth æternity, on the other hand, fees are inherently quite, quite low – sometimes costing less than a fraction of a dime! What’s more, transactions and Smart Contract executions in State Channels don’t incur any fees, æternity says.
Now that’s appealing! 2–0 AENS.
3. User experience
This might come as a hair-splitting one, but the way you get an .eth name is by linking your wallet to the Ethereum service. Setting aside any potential security qualms you might have, presents another step that prevents you from getting it easily.
On æternity, on the other hand, you can get a .chain name from the blockchain’s native Superhero wallet. By marrying useful and convenient, the æternity blockchain allows its users to manage their crypto funds, run their finances, and manage their .chain names.
Now that’s convenient! 3–0 AENS.
4. Loss of names
The Ethereum Name Service does not have a clear expiration date on names, meaning that – even in the case you don’t renew it (or forget to renew it) – it is not clear when, or even if, it stops being blocked for others to attempt to use it. This means that, for example, by losing a private key a user could wall off certain .eth names forever.
Imagine if you were to, accidentally, lose an internet domain. Especially something cool, useful, or generally recognizable. For example, imagine not being able to use “sandwich.com” because somebody lost it. That’s what’s professionally called – a bummer.
Not to mention that this presents an elevated level of responsibility placed on the users – something which might deter regular folks from opting to use blockchain tech, to begin with, because it would be too big of a pressure.
With AENS, on the other hand, the names that do not get extended – expire. This means that .chain names are freely accessible to all who wish to have them – by being brought up for acquisition or auction periodically, in perpetuity. (Not to mention that the Superhero Wallet allows its users to apply for an auto-extension of a .chain name at the cost of a usual æternity blockchain transaction fee – which is almost nothing).
So, names don’t get lost and they are always used by those who wish to use them the most.
The scoreboard says it all. AENS, has all the requisite tools and the needed tech to not only overtake ENS, but to blow it out of the water in terms of usability. The only thing that stops it from going mainstream is the overall scepticism of folks to try and use blockchain tech that they haven’t heard about from enough sources.
It costs us nothing to use it, and by using it – we could benefit greatly from having it. To put it in a different way, by using AENS, we prevent VHS from winning over Betamax
Using AENS .chain names allows the users to have a better, cheaper, more secure experience – with the names that resonate the most with who they are and who they wish to be online. It also allows the users to be at peace by knowing exactly who it is they are dealing with online, at all times.