Rethinking the short name reservation process

Thanks to valuable feedback we’ve received from the community, it’s become apparent that our original planned process is less robust than we’d anticipated.

It seems apparent that any workable process will have to integrate a large degree of subjectivity into its decision making, in order to be robust against claims coming from those who don’t represent a legitimate project, product, or group.

We have a few thoughts on how to solve this ourselves, but we’d like to open the discussion up to the community: What’s the lowest overhead, fairest, and most legitimate process by which we can assess requests for short names to be initially issued to existing projects, ahead of the short name auction? The goal here is to ensure that projects that have put a lot of work into building awareness of their name do not have to fight it out for ownership of that name on ENS alongside those who only want to capitalise on their success or extort them for an easy payday.

At first glance this looks like a good use of Token Curated Registries (TCRs), but bear in mind that unlike many applications of those, users here do not have the option to exit the system easily, meaning that if the system is not resistant to capture, it risks producing results that the majority of the community would disagree with.

I’ll post our own thoughts on how to handle this shortly, but I’d love to get some input from the community first, without being biased by our own suggestions.

Thoughts?

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My gut tells me that the only starting point is pure laissez-faire with very little interference. Of course a price tag attached to each top-level domain name is appropriate and my opinion on price has always been to keep it around $5-10/year no matter which name. I like embargoing the top 100-500 actual well known brands for additional scrutiny.

If the ENS policy makers begin to interfere with who owns what, where, and for which products class, at least follow some well documented IP law, and mimic that as best as we/you can.

My hope is that any tribunal, self-appointed jurisdictions, or “masters of names” is kept to real courts and not the ENS. Stick with providing names for anyone who wants them except for clearly extreme cases, like Coca-Cola. But where that starts and ends is the real tough question. Who really should get Smith.eth? Corona.eth, Marine.eth …

For example, I think Status that directly works in the Ethereum space deserves Status.eth far more than any other company, product or brand. For one reason, I can’t identify Status with any other well known name, but I am sure there are some federally registered trademarks using the mark Status. That’s just my opinion for that one case. My opinion might be completely different for another name.

If fighting squatters is the #1 goal, we should spend the time to identify the most likely targets of clear-cut squatting violations in line with the Anti-Cyber squatting act and we might have an easier lives moving forward.

The question here is purely about initial allocation. We’ve got no plans to introduce any kind of arbitration mechanism for names after this initial ‘short name reservation’ process has completed.

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Hundreds (or thousands) of brand names have already been squatted. It is not going to be any different with the shorter ENS names. It is a real weakness that is going to provide for a lot of dissatisfaction in the future. Only in this case, there will be no mechanism for legal restitution. And there are going to be many, many claims of fraud because of this too. That’s the single biggest weakness of ENS (the concept of which I love).

mysubdomain.longdomain.eth is too long. Please reduce domain requirement mimimum chars thanks

Seems like we have two separate situations.

First is the process to reserve short names. I think the existing proposal for reservation (DNS domains and derivatives thereof) is a good one, although perhaps there should be a commitment of a certain number of years’ rental up front (I’m thinking 3) to discourage existing DNS squatters from mass-registering ENS domains.

Second is the resolution process when more than one entity wants to reserve the same name. My inclination here is to have a 3-person panel that decides on these, according to a set of rules agreed upon by the panel after the reservation period has expired. Rationale for this is that we have no idea of the size/scope of the problem so coming up with a comprehensive solution ahead of time is going to be next-to-impossible, but if we come up with a suitable set of rules once we understand what is required that will allow us to build a sensible resolution process.

Once the reservation period has closed and the rules have been published the process for resolution should be relatively simple:

  • Registrants have 1 week to put up a ~$50 equivalent to pay for the resolution costs
  • If only 1 registrant left they obtain the name automatically
  • If more than 1 registrant left the resolution panel discusses according to the rules laid down and comes to resolution
  • In either case the resolution costs are split between the panel members
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Here’s another link to some additional discussion and feedback that caused us to rethink our original approach.

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I believe it would benefit all ENS domain owners tremendously if Ethereum dapps/projects control their respective domain names. I’ve personally bought and given away over 50 names to teams to encourage them to use ENS. What if the ENS team or EF pre-registered and ‘granted’ Ethereum project related domain names to the proper teams if they would agree to put them to good use? I think non- Ethereum related domains should be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

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It is necessary to proceed from the main goal of creating ENS: decentralization, creating WEB 3.0, independence of ownership on the basis of its own keys, etc. In the future, changing the name distribution policy is simply not acceptable !!! Initial distribution: put a large period of possibility of obtaining an identical name,
but only those projects in the real world that do not coincide with projects in cryptospace, for example Melonport. It’s just a great project, but they had a conflict with an identical brand in the real world. And we must support our projects first.

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Although the initial approach was a remarkable one that tried to achieve perfect fairness, there will always be different parties who compete to register the same domain - and sometimes each of these different parties might even have a “legitimate” interest in that domain. Imho we should thus focus more on what is best for ENS as a whole than on the term “fairness” which will always be a subjective one.

The main issue here is that when we talk about “squatting” we usually talk about a combination of “mass registration” and “people not putting their domains for sale”. While the former aspect is not nice, too, the latter is the one that concerns me. Or in other words, the main issue here is: illiquidity.
With the newly introduced annual fees, it looks like we can incentivize people to sell their domains and make them available for the public. Although the efficient-market hypothesis fails in quite a lot of areas, I assume that a healthy aftermarket can be established for ENS domains which are rather easy to understand, transferable goods. People with a lot of domains may eventually be able to make a lot of money but in the end it counts if a potential buyer is able to obtain and use his domain of interest.

When it comes to the initial issuance of domains to existing projects I wouldn’t even see a problem if existing projects claimed their name and the ENS team itself decided who gets which name, not necessarily based on rigid rules that can be bypassed by smart users. Why? Because although I value how the ENS team tries to create perfect fairness, it is still your system, developed by you. The reason I point this out is because many people who write in this forum have own personal interests which are not always compatible with the greater public good. If people now buy old DNS domains to get valuable short .eth domains, that’s just a workaround and makes absolutely no sense from a systemic point of view so this should not be allowed.

In my personal opinion, referring back to old DNS domains is not so helpful for us generally because when we do this, two things happen:

  1. Mass registration of valuable short names would be limited (in theory) which is a good thing. With the workaround of buying old DNS domains this does not work any longer.
  2. We create a system that looks objectively fair but in reality we just shift the “come first - serve first” approach to earlier times when someone registered a particular DNS domain for the first time.

As ENS is supposed to support most of the other relevant TLDs, I honestly don’t really see the need for such an approach anyway. If a company owns “apple.com” they already have a nice domain which they can even use to interact with the Ethereum network. And if they want to avoid misuse of “apple.eth” they should just have to possibility to buy that name. While capitalism has truly not only positive sides, one of its biggest accomplishments is that a “price” combines many of the different aspects we discuss here which are otherwise not tangible. Now if a farmer has an apple farm and would like to own “apple.eth” (in the future, after the initial issuance process) this will be definitely a question for the courts, not for the ENS team.

I am always a bit worried that the ENS team tries to solve problems for which they don’t have the required ressources or maybe not even legal competences and that these efforts could put the entire project at risk. When I proposed that you could just “decide in the ENS system’s best interest” I referred to the amount of currently claimed domains in the short name claim tool - this looks not so much at the moment and should be manageable. Again, how disputes are handled next year after the initial auction phase is an entirely different question.

That said, keep up the great work!

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Hello everyone,

below you may find some suggestions and or proposal.

Let’s start with a couple of statements: the perfect solution doesn’t exist, so we should try to get the reasonable one. This solution should be (possibly) driven by facts and numbers.

The DNS reservation process it’s a good idea, but the implementation should be focused in order to:

  1. minimize the potential legal impact

  2. to ensure to the real owner of the brand a priority in the registration process.

Let’s do a rough example: www.apple.com was registered by apple in 1987. If I own the domain www.apple.XXX since Jan 1986 according to the actual process I’m legitimate to registrate apple.eth much more than the real apple.

The process of DNS reservation works, in my opinion could be implemented in a more robuste way.

First of all the field should be defined, I’m assuming we’re talking about names where behind there is a brand.

Step 1)

Define a list of top (500? 1000?) brands or companies (we can a have two different list with a lots of common names). Ex. Ferrari is one of the most valuable brand but the company is not in the first top 1000 in terms of capitalization.

Step 2)

Based on the list, performe a check about who owns the .com domain. Reasonably it will be the right company but an evidence needed.

Once that there is an evidence between company and .com domains it can be taken the decision about which DNS allows the reservation process.

Step 3)

Contact each single company of the list explaining the process and let them a reasonable number of days to apply (60?). In the letter it should be written clearly that if they do not apply they will lose the priority in the reservation (for free) and the name will be in auction.

The above steps are just an example about how the process can be more robuste.

The same process can be managed the other way round: it will be more efficient in terms of time but reasonably not in term of costs.

The process shall works as follows:

Step 1) to get an .eth 3-6 digits the applicant shall follow the DNS process giving the evidence of the ownership of .com name

Step 2) if the applicant owns the .com name he reserve the .eth name

Step 3) if the applicant doesn’t own the .com name the company that owns the .com name shall be contacted giving them the priority

Step 4) If the company that owns the .com name doesn’t apply for the registration an auction will start

As mentioned to @chris-remus some post ago in this chat, we help companies in recovering their ens domains. We’re focused mainly on big companies even if from time to time we have some small ones and some private people.

Our perception - in terms of numbers - is that actually companies are not focused on blockchain and less more on ens with some valuable exception.

The general mood is "let’s wait and see what will happens”. If Ethereum (and therefore ens) will be the winning blockchain we’ll take care about all the aspects at that time (in case).

Overall the majority of the company we met are much more worried about facebook globalcoin

This is our contribution to the discussion on this topic.

If you wish to manage this project according to our suggestions, please feel free to do it. In case you’re interested in refine our proposal and deploy it with our help, please contact us in private.
Thanks

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I don’t think this is reallistic. Not only does it require a tremendous amount of work, but large compagnies just won’t be able to organise is they are not yet aware of the existance of ENS or even Ethereum.
The emails will be considered as spam and you’ll never hear back from >90% of them.

Also, Ferrari.eth is 7 characters long and is already registered (but not resolved)

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Hello Hadrien
thanks for sharing your point of view.

According to your statement, I’m realizing that ferrari.eth was not the best example; the focus of it was not on the number of digits. My mistake.

The concept we tried to share is that not always brand value and capitalization of the company match.

iwc.eth match better with concept and digits: high value brand, small company, less than 7 digits.

I apologize for that.

The solution we shared is not “the solution” but a potential one.

In our understanding the questions are:

  1. how can we give to the brand owner a priority in 3-6 digits registration.
  2. How can we avoid that the brand owner sue the ens team in the future for the lack of point 1)

The solution we shared minimize the impact of the above 2 problems.

Is it expensive? There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. My guess is that it’s cheaper than a lawsuit.

Is it unrealistic? I don’t think so. Please take into consideration that we shared the rough idea and not the implementation.

In any case we don’t want to push anyone in that direction. It was just our contribution to the ens community.

Thanks

Here’s a couple of options we’ve been considering:

  1. Hire an existing provider to handle any situations with >1 applicant for the same name. Handle applications with only one applicant ourselves. There are many existing providers who have experience resolving these kinds of issues relating to DNS.
  2. Resolve claims ourselves, but build in a ‘ratification’ process. Once we have processed all claims, we publish a list of resolutions, and users vote on whether to accept the proposed list as a whole. The list is enacted only if a majority (of applicants? ENS users? Ether holders?) approve it. This has the potential to provide for a lightweight process that still provides users with assurance that claims will be settled equitably, without introducing the risk of capture by voters.

How would option 1 be funded?

As for option 2, not sure about a single vote on the whole list. It may be that one clash was decided on one criterion (e.g. trademark) and another on a different criterion (e.g. legitimacy in Ethereum ecosystem) so attempting to bundle them all together as “acceptable” or “unacceptable”.

How about going for a dissenting approach for option 2? If one of the applicants disagrees with the result they can pay to have it reviewed by another internal panel or by an external arbitration board (as per option 1). As long as the method of resolution is published with the results they should have enough grounds to decide if they want to challenge or not.

Here are my thoughts, having participated in our internal discussions and read the comments. Thanks to everyone’s who’s contributed to the thoughtful conversation here!

1 - Internal vs. External Resolution

I’m still undecided on this. I’d have to better understand how existing DNS claim disputes get resolved.

Thinking through this since our initial internal discussions and reading the above comments, I’m leaning toward doing this in-house. It seems like this is what the community favors.

Putting trust in the ENS team, rather than an unknown third party without crypto experience, seems to be the preference.

2 - Ratification Process

I agree with @jgm that an all or nothing vote may not serve us well. That said, it may be tough to get people to review and vote on every dispute, for example if the list is large.

We could allow individual vetoes. People only veto the decisions they care about.

The process would exclude the disputing parties. Yet this entire process feels cumbersome to design and starts in a TCR direction. My suggestion is we don’t go there.

Many talented teams are working on TCRs and nobody’s developed a design that’s widely accepted yet. I doubt we’d be able to do so in a short period of time. It’s also not an ENS core competency or activity.

3 - How about a “lock-up” or “non-transferrable” period?

Instead of committing to paying for multiple years up-front, as suggested by @jgm, maybe names registered through the registration process are non-transferrable for a period of time, e.g. 12-18 months?

This would give the registrant the ability to use the name for its intended purposes. It would discourage squatters, since they wouldn’t be able to sell the name for an extended period of time.

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So if someone tries to claim very generic name (eg: hello.eth) by buying internet domain and if no one else ended up claiming the same name, does ENS team decide subjectively? I am not sure the difficulty of handling dispute may necessarily relates to whether it has > 1 claim or not.

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You could do something like Augur’s dispute/forking process. The final step would be forking the platform and letting end-users decide which system they want to use. Augur’s history suggests this likely won’t actually happen, the threat of it is enough to cause the prior stages of dispute to resolve “correctly” (where correct is essentially “what future platform users will want”).

Downside is the contract work required to implement Augur’s system high and thus risky, and the UI for everything is non-trivial. This is very much not a “low cost” solution to the problem.

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Just my two cents on the dispute mechanism: In B2B transactions predetermined panels are very common. Basically, anyone trying to participate in the transaction (or in a contract irl) has to agree to let a jury panel decide cases that aren’t straight forward. In particular if there are rules (like the rules 1–3) in direct conflict with each other, the panel gets the final vote, the participants agree beforehand that they will accept the rule. Normally each participating party gets to nominate an equal number of experts to sit on the panel.
For ENS, this could be one participant for each registrant and one person from the ENS team if there is an equal number of participants or two members of ENS if there is an odd number of registrants. The idea would be to have a panel with an odd number of participants so that a majority vote is always possible.
The panel would rule by majority vote.
Each panel would have to exchange arguments, but the eventual rule would be final, putting an end to a otherwise possilbly lengthy process. Also, it would do away with the staking approach as that would favor wealthy (in terms of tokens) registrants.

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If a name has more than one applicants, all the applicants would have to pay a dispute fee.

I like this idea.

My concern with this is that it’s easily evaded. Anyone intending to resell can have the name assigned to a contract, and reassign ownership of that to the person they sell it to.

Everything’s open to discussion, but if we’re going to subjectively review applications, I’d rather not automatically grant any just because they were the only applicant.

My concern here is that ‘exit’ doesn’t really make sense in a naming system. A split, with two different systems, puts all users of both systems at risk.