Chain Names — the æternity naming system enabling the first NFTs
It has been a popular perception, for the longest time, that the very concept of a blockchain is very complex and that it is most difficult for an “ordinary person” to get their handle on this revolutionary new tech. However, this aura of confusion and convolution has dissipated as of late — especially with the ever-growing popularity of NFTs.
A non-fungible token consists of digital data stored in a blockchain. The record of ownership of an NFT is recorded on a blockchain — and can be transferred allowing for trade. And traded they have been: non-fungible tokens have taken the world by storm in the past few years, with total sales topping USD 17.6 billion in 2021.
Still, it is important to break down the very concept of an NFT — its “non-fungibleness.” This, essentially and simply put, means that it cannot be mistaken for any other token on the blockchain, making it unique, special, and an inherent representation of its creator (for example, in cases of digital art).
Now that we’ve established this key groundwork, let’s take a look at AENS — the æternity naming system.
AENS — a Step Forward
Aside from offering native, inherent support for many advanced blockchain features — for example, state channels, embedded oracles, a secure, functional, and highly efficient Sophia smart contract language, and the FATE virtual machine — the æternity blockchain also brought the æternity Naming System — AENS.
AENS has been around since 2018 — making it easy for all of the community members in the æcosystem to recognize each other and acquire unique representation of themselves on the æternity blockchain. AENS facilitates the creation of .chain names — which are human-readable by nature because they are created by humans.
As the Latin proverb says: Nomen est omen — the name is a sign. The most powerful and potent sign of knowing one another is the name itself.
To express this in an example. Which of the following would you more easily remember and wish to use for yourself:
Having a ridiculously long alphanumerical string is not only difficult to remember and recreate — but is also impossible to elegantly use, not to mention recognize. Just like users of the web prefer remembering DNS names over IP addresses, users of æternity have the option to use names. AENS enables human-readable names for any account, smart contract, oracle, state channel, hash, or value — making it easy to check who it is you’re dealing with.
Not to mention the vastly reduced room for error and overall, general peace of mind for the users.
By furthering blockchain adoption and fostering an environment which will, ultimately, lead to easier mainstream use, the 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 of 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.”
Here you can read a specification of the AENS is available and how the auctions for the names work, as well as what are the protocol fees and protection times. For all the developers out there — feel free to grab a look at the documentation and start integrating name functionality into your blockchain applications!
You may be asking yourself right now what auctions are? Well, unlike with the ENS (the Ethereum Name Service), AENS does not have fixed prices for the .chain names themselves — instead, users are encouraged to bid amongst themselves and, in that way, formulate the price on their own, organically.
Now that we’ve seen how it works — how exactly are these .chain names NFTs?
Well, as you might have noticed so far:
Names are not fungible — there can only ever be on Batman.chain or RogerFederer.chain
Each name is represented and safely guarded by the underlying blockchain, making it impossible (without the consent of its owner) for it be transferred elsewhere or mistaken for another. This means that much like an image of a Bored Ape or a CryptoPunk are unique and, in a way, art — so are .chain names. As much as these can be traded and transferred while preserving their uniqueness — so can .chain names.
It would appear that the æternity blockchain has been an innovation in this field without even those creating it being aware!
However, there is an important twist — .chain names, if not used and continuously claimed by their owners, can expire. This ensures that .chain names are always, at all times, with those individuals who care for them the most and have the most use for them. In contrast to what has traditionally been considered an NFT, .chain names will never sit in a wallet, forgotten, had only for the sake of having them. (Make sure to follow the ongoing discussions about this feature of .chain names on the æternity forum, here!)
.chain names are, and have been for the longest time now, a properly useful NFT — something that even your grandmother would understand, be able to read, and grasp the concept behind.
The æternity blockchain gives everybody an opportunity to define and design their blockchain presence. Like having an NFT be your twitter pic, you can now have an NFT be your name. Using a name of your choice for yourself, or your business, gives you an opportunity to craft your representation in a detailed, nuanced way — to have it be perfectly tailored to your heart’s desire.
A .chain name is what will set you apart from others in the blockchain sphere who cannot be as easily identified and recognized. This is especially important now when blockchain technology is on the cusp of mass adoption and those getting into it can spot and remember your .chain name in the same way that they remember other names!
Blockchain is here to make lives easier and better, so empowering it to use real, proper names is a natural progression towards its integration into all spheres of life.
PS. Of course, .chain names are not the only NFT developments with æternity. The new AEX-141 NFT standard is set to do all that ERC-721 does, and more (thanks to Sophia!), while retaining full compatibility.
Stay tuned for more developments!