AENS – the naming system bringing a social aspect to blockchain interactions
Blockchain is very complex and it’s hard for an ordinary person to get a grasp on this revolutionary technology, right?
Yup, it is. There’s no doubt about it. However, it’s not always going to be like that.
Despite it being around for over a decade, blockchain and crypto are still pretty new and unknown phenomena for a vast majority of the world’s population. Even blockchain developers and experienced computer engineers are struggling to keep up with the enormous quantity of innovation in the field. That’s because it is literally world-changing technology with so many aspects that no single mind can understand it all.
The fact that blockchain is the next step in the evolution of the digital world means there is so much to be done to prepare the basis of the completely new infrastructure that the blockchain community is building. A foundation on which such vital systems like global finances, digital identities, communication networks and much more will be based, has to be built with care, patience, and in a methodical manner.
All the world’s blockchain projects are participating in building the skeleton for this infrastructure system of the future, and that’s exactly what it is at the moment – a skeleton. It’s still very rare in this environment that any serious project is working on the cosmetic or even user-friendly aspects of their network. Only when the protocols are stable, efficient, battle-tested and secure, can a blockchain community afford to spend valuable resources on making the system easy to use and understandable to the wider audience.
Nonetheless, the blockchain community has to start putting some meat on the bones of the proverbial skeleton in order to achieve the goal of mass adoption. Although mainstream adoption of blockchain is pretty much inevitable, the way it comes about will majorly influence the level of trust an ordinary person puts in these systems.
So, how does æternity make it easier for users to access blockchain and use crypto?
You may know that æternity blockchain offers native support for many commonly used, and some completely unique blockchain features: state channels, embedded oracles, a secure, functional, and highly efficient smart contract language (Sophia) and virtual machine (FATE), and a naming system called AENS (æternity Naming System).
All the mentioned features are widely used and logical, but why would a blockchain and its users need a naming system and names?
The Latin proverb says: Nomen est omen – The name is a sign. As humans, we are taught to never trust someone or something we don’t know. And the way we get to know people and things is by their name.
We will always intrinsically be skeptical towards an entity on the blockchain network called for example:
This series of letters and numbers is unfamiliar to us and there is no realistic way we can ever easily remember, or recognize even a small number of such entities.
Just like users of the web prefer remembering DNS names over IP addresses, users of æternity have the option to use names, and those names are part of the decentralized blockchain logic – supporting users to not trust any third party to perform an on-chain name lookup and then substitute the name with an account.
The æternity Naming System (AENS) employs safe, human-readable names in place of the current system of long hashes used for blockchain transactions. Furthermore, AENS enables human-readable names for any account, smart contract, oracle, state channel, hash, or value.
For example: If user X wants to transfer tokens to user Y, user X should simply insert Y.chain name (registered .chain name of the user Y), and sign the transaction, instead of copy/pasting long Wallet account public addresses (example: ak_HhisVXdXWW56UQeKjrREEZeKjVMiB2d71TfDocEdMGEVcAf1Z). Thus, the room for error is reduced.
Names foster relationships and set expectations while providing peace of mind that a user is dealing with the intended party. The naming system brings a social aspect and “individualism” to the blockchain environment, which is still unknown territory for non-developers.
Empowering blockchain adoption and mainstream use, æternity blockchain is “destroying the myth that wallet addresses and other blockchain entities can’t have readable names without being decentralized and secure,” said Yanislav Malahov, founder of æternity Blockchain for GlobeNewswire in November 2019. “We have been in test mode exploring the most efficient means to register names, and we are thrilled to finally launch this system for improving the user experience.”
Auctions for names opened on October 30th, 2019 when the scheduled LIMA hardfork was successfully performed.
Why are names subject to auction?
As mentioned, an account’s unique identifier or public key is linked to a human-readable name through a process similar to buying a domain from a registrar; however, the name system in æternity is completely decentralized. Instead of buying the name from a registrar, a public auction is initiated to register new names.
The auction has two parameters, the initial starting bid and closing timeout after the last bit, which is adjusted based on the name being auctioned.
An auction starts when a valid claim transaction following a pre-claim transaction has an auction triggering parameter. Currently, the auction starts when the revealed name is 12 characters or shorter. For the names subject to auction, a claim transaction is an attempt of a name-claim. It can be followed by another claim from an account different than one set in pre-claim for a given name. For names longer than 12 characters, a claim transaction sets the ownership of a name. The fees collected through the auction then get burned, so that nobody makes a profit from the users. Until now, exactly 205926 AE coins collected in name claiming fees have been burned. It makes sense that more popular .chain names will reach higher prices in the auction, thus preventing a few users from buying out all those short and sweet .chain names.
Here you can read a specification of the AENS and how the auction works, but also what are the protocol fees and protection times. If you are a developer, you can jump right into the documentation and start integrating name functionality into your blockchain application here.
The opportunity to give your æternity blockchain presence a name such as, for example, FredFlinstone.chain, gives you the closest sensation to being face-to-face with other network users currently possible. Being able to claim your business’ name and use it, and let your business associates use it and easily recognize it among many others means so much for the millions of people and entities who are right now getting in touch with blockchain for the first time, but also for those who’ve been in this environment for a very long time. n n Names are an incredibly human phenomenon and without them, life instantly gets impossible. Everyone and everything we know or use has a name, so why not bring that amazing feature into blockchain interactions which are rapidly becoming an everyday occurrence for many millions of people? Blockchain is here to make our life easier and better, so giving it the ability to use names is a natural progression towards a brighter future and a better World.