Web3 Domain Alliance

I recently heard about “the Web3 Domain Alliance – a new member-led group committed to advancing Web3 domains. With leading Web3 players including Bonfida (.sol), Tezos Domains (.tez), Polkadot Name System (.dot), Hashgraph Name (.hbar), Syscoin (.sys), klaytn.domains (.klay), and Unstoppable (.crypto, .nft, .x, .wallet, .bitcoin, .dao, .888, .zil, and .blockchain), we’re on a mission to build a self-regulatory framework to protect people and projects building in the Web3 domain space.”

I didn’t find any discussion of that new organization in this forum - is that something that ENS is aware of and opposed to (there may be perfectly valid reasons for this) or just not aware of?

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I would assume that this was created by them as an initiative towards attracting more users to their platform. Not entirely sure what their self-regulatory framework would consist of. Smart contracts themselves are self-regulatory. I’m curious to see what they want to protect by enforcement in web 3. Sounds like an attempt to have control what users can and can’t do. I’ve never come across and NFT Regulatory Alliance. Or any other for that matter…

I have not heard of them either, not sure if anyone from ENS was invited to it.

Their mission statement:

To protect users and endeavor toward the development of interoperable NFT domain naming systems by promoting voluntary avoidance of namespace collisions with existing Web3 naming systems in the Web3 domain industry.

I’m all for interoperability standards and respect of each other namespace – but I think it’s also important to do the same with ICANN’s namespace and I think some of these in the system–namely UD–are just creating names that will eventually collide with ICANN. It’s ok to respect others names if we all agree on having a as few TLD per domain system as we can.

To advocate for the policy position that NFT domain registry owner-operators create trademark rights in their web3 TLDs through first commercial use with market penetration.

Mmm. That sounds like pre-registering names and having allowlists.

It doesn’t sound like that to me. To me it sounds like basic trademark law and I’m not completely sure why they would make that a key pillar. My best guess is that they want to be able to use trademark law to prevent ICANN or any other web3 domain registrar from being able to use the same TLD. For example, if ICANN or UD or anyone else decided to start issuing .eth names, folks here would be justifiably upset.

However, there is a major downside: if a TLD operator claims trademark in the TLD, that grants them the right to prevent others from using it, including the right to block specific users from registering subdomains.

For example, if I held trademark rights on the .awesome TLD, and someone wanted to register XXX.awesome (or as a more specific example, InvadingNeighborsIs.awesome) for a purpose I didn’t like or thought would likely ruin the brand, I could use trademark law to stop them (saying “that counts as using my trademark, and my holding the trademark lets me stop you from doing so.”) This is very intentional in some of the web2 top-level domains, allowing e.g. people to know that .bank will only have websites of licensed financial institutions, .catholic will only have official websites of the Roman Catholic church, .mil will only have official websites of the US Military, .app will only have SSL-secured sites, etc. and other cases where trademark-like considerations apply. It seems fine for web2 but antithetical to the principles of web3.

In Web2 that’s enforceable through contract law, with the system of contracts between ICANN and various other parties. In Web3 you don’t have that contract law to fall back on, and there’s not really a technical obstacle to competing registrars issuing domains in the same TLD- it’s primarily a matter of competing for market share incl. by convincing browser developers which resolver address to use and convincing registrants which registry to use. Thus, this lobbying position seems most likely to be aiming for a backup option in case mutual namespace respect fails (it would be kind of ironic to have the integrity of such a system rely completely on mutual trust in a permissionless environment). In my view, that backup carries a (potentially hidden but) very big price tag denominated in web3 values, though.

To be clear, I don’t have an issue with the centralization & permissioning possibility even in web3, when that is known in advance. The bit I think conflicts with web3 values is that the registrar can decide after the fact who they do and don’t want in their TLD, instead of allowing permissionless innovation over known rules. Having this ability to decide later as a universal backdoor seems like it conflicts with web3’s principles.

A registrar who says up front they are going to centrally control a TLD and may kick you out at any time is at least being honest about it, and there are appropriate use cases for that. One that says “you can permissionlessly interact with this smart contract, deployed on a public blockchain, to buy the second-level domain*” with “*” meaning “but then if after you’ve invested a lot, I decide I don’t like you, I’ll use trademark law to sue you out of it” is not delivering on the value web3 has to offer. It might be better for everyone if we can leave that sort of behavior in web2.

Also, for what it’s worth, there already is a TLD collision between web2 and web3 for .DOT. Dish DBS Corporation won the web2 version, not yet in general use and Polkadot is running a version for web3. (It’s also not a great TLD for verbal transmission.) The full web2 list, occasionally updated, is here.

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UD hold the - in my view absurd - position that there is an intellectual property right to a top-level domain that extends across different services. They initially attempted to enact this by filing trademarks for each of their TLDs, but their trademark applications were rejected:

Registration is refused because the applied-for mark merely describes a characteristic of applicant’s services.

Despite this rejection they are continuing to try and claim some kind of IP vests in the first organisation to commercially use a TLD. To the best of my knowledge this position is entirely unfounded in IP law, but they are currently using it as a pretext to sue an organisation operating the .wallet TLD on Handshake.

This new alliance looks like a way for UD to further this self-serving view of intellectual property. I would not be keen to see ENS sign up to it; fraudulently using IP claims to stifle competition is the antithesis of what web3 stands for.

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There is a lot to say about this move. The numbers speak for themselves. I’m not too sure what there main objective is with creating an ‘alliance’. An ‘alliance’ is typically used in the context of grouping multiple parties to create an even bigger party so that they can try and prevent or have power over another entity. So it’s questionable to say that at minimum. Their marketing image is campaigned by interesting vocabulary. Vocabulary that has specific intent to portray dominance and power…etc.

I don’t see why there needs to be an ‘alliance’ created and not make attempts to include the ENS. I suppose it might make sense in other perspectives. If their goal is to develop a standard for namespace in web3, one would think that there would be an obvious outreach to include ALL web3 namespaces. ( That is not me favoring for or against, more of a reference to a standard of ethical industry principles that is hip to the inclusive ideology of web3 and subsequent namespace(s).)

“We bring user-controlled identity to the Internet by creating Web3 domains that put you back in control of your data” —and control the standards too?

I myself don’t believe that naming claim to a foundational standards and fair practices organization is where their focus should be for project success. but that is just me–and maybe you too… Also to include the .coin collision issue being another flag that — maybe moving towards the standardization effort might not be in best intertest, at least for right now. Hard corporate feel.

@AvsA I want to mention how this will add a complexity to the effort of decentralized anonymous data analysis.

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