This blog post is a recap of Namebase's session at HandyCon 2022. If you'd rather watch the recording, it can be accessed on Youtube here.
Namebase's relationship with Namecheap
As most of you already know, Namebase has recently been acquired by Namecheap.
To clarify, Namebase will continue to operate as an independent entity with a startup frame-of-mind. At the same time, we'll benefit from Namecheap's financial backing, their reach, as well as their reputation as the second largest domain registrar in the world. It's especially helpful to have Namecheap's support given their strong alignment with Handshake's ethos; they truly care about what Handshake stands for and aren't just interested in the profits.
In other words, Namebase gets the best of both worlds — we're able to move quickly as a small startup while also having direct access to the resources of a large established firm!
So, what are we going to do with that?
Our two priorities this year will be:
1. Cementing Namebase as the easiest way to use Handshake. We can measure our efficacy by the amount of time it takes a newcomer to speedrun to setting up their website on a Handshake name.
2. Strengthening Handshake's core value prop, which can be accurately summarized as "true ownership and trustless security for domains".
Namebase: The easiest way to use Handshake
Some of the product improvements coming to Namebase that will help cement Namebase as the easiest way to use Handshake will include:
Rehauling our landing page. The current landing page does little to inform visitors on what is Handshake and the "10,000% gains" just, for the lack of a better word, cheapens Handshake. We shouldn't be telling our visitors that Handshake names are valuable, and rather should be showing them why.
Reducing required block confirmations. We started off with 20 block confirmations to be safe, but two years later, it seems a little excessive now.
Adding progress indicators for BTC deposits, HNS transfers, and name transfers. These are no brainer improvements that will reduce a ton of confusion, especially for the newcomer.
Integrating a fiat onramp. This way anyone can just purchase HNS with their native currency without first going to another exchange just to purchase BTC to send to Namebase, all the while losing value in mining fees.
Expanding SLD gift functionality. We'll give SLD (2nd-level domain) giftees direct access to their SLD DNS records, while also giving the SLD gifter options to revoke their gifts.
Releasing our onramp for newcomers. This includes a demo mode where newcomers can walk through how the auction system works while also being warned about snipers.
Of course, the core value of Namebase is its marketplace, which can now finally get its much deserved attention again. We were focused on zero-to-one improvements last year — Namer News, HDNS.io, Namebase Registry, wHNS — and can now shift back to those one-to-N improvements.
Some obvious marketplace improvements you can expect to see coming include:
Paid sorting. Paid marketplace sorting should significantly improve the quality of names listed by default on the namebase.io/domains page.
Minimum offer. A minimum offer threshold will pretty much eliminate all those 1 HNS spam offers we know so many TLD sellers are receiving.
Portfolio sales. This will enable TLD sellers to sell a group of names together in a single package.
Seller profiles. We're playing around with the idea of combining Handshake logins with seller profiles so sellers will be identified by their Handshake names, just like the Namers in our Namer Community!
Make an offer communication. Majority of marketplace sales come from offers and we want to lean into this. The difficulty with enabling communication is in moderating messages. One idea is charging a nominal 1 HNS to send each message to ensure messages are high quality.
Auto-generated parking pages. When a name is listed without any DNS records, we should automatically set up a parking page website for it.
For sale tab rehaul. The new Seller portal, which will replace the current For sale tab, will greatly improve the TLD sellers' experience by making it super easy to search, list and de-list, or quickly change pricing for names
Handshake: True ownership and trustless security for domains
Some of the ways we're supporting strengthening Handshake's core branding of true ownership and trustless security for domains include:
Launching a decentralized SLD registry. This is a huge priority for Namecheap, who has historically had a strong stance on privacy for its customers. There's a high risk that conventional domains will soon require KYC and other invasive practices, and it's their belief that Handshake will fill the privacy void. A decentralized SLD also enables SLD owners true ownership over their domains, which is currently impossible for traditional SLD holders.
Plugging Namecheap's existing registry into Namebase's. Handshake SLD sellers will get the same tools as traditional SLD sellers, putting them on a level playing field as ICANN TLD owners like Verisign. This will also expose Handshake SLD sellers to Namecheap's customers, which is an audience that already embraces privacy, crypto, and concepts like Handshake. SLD sellers can expect to see their names listed directly on Namecheap's website alongside ICANN TLDs within a month or two.
Adding DNSKEY, RRSIG, and TLSA records to Namebase's nameserver. This support is key to replacing Certificate Authorities, which is actually the original reason why Handshake was created.
Onboarding strong brands to their Handshake domains. Doubles as both adoption and marketing!
Creating no-coiner onboarding programs. Handshake is an elegant blockchain teaching tool for newcomers — it's incredibly easy to see how the DNS root zone is centralized and how a blockchain could help, not so easy to understand how the financial system works or why NFTs exists. Many of our community members' first blockchain was Handshake, which served as their gateway into other blockchains.
Sponsoring Namer Community Directors to speak at blockchain conferences. Our community has a global presence, we should take advantage of that!
This may seem like a lot, but it's our belief that we can accomplish all of the above by the end of 2022, or at the very least before HandyCon 2023!
Namebase's stretch goal
A common source of critique of Namebase has been its centralized nature as a custodial service. Decentralizing our assets has always been in our plans, but we've previously been focused on zero-to-one efforts. Since non-custodial wallets such as Bob Wallet by the Kyokan team already existed for Handshake, we chose to prioritize building other products and features that simply didn't exist before. Now that we've refocused on one-to-N efforts, we can also revisit our plans to decentralize the assets on Namebase.
This is a huge endeavor that we must execute carefully and correctly, so we're unsure whether we can accomplish it by the end of the year. That said, we've already had preliminary conversations with the Kyokan team on potentially partnering on this effort and they seemed receptive to the collaboration. For now, you can imagine pushing a "decentralized assets" button in your Namebase account's settings that will automatically transfer your account's assets to a browser extension similar to Bob Extension.
Progress since last HandyCon
In just this past year, the Handshake community has made tremendous progress all-around.
Sentinel dVPN users now automatically resolve Handshake, Bittrex and Bitrue exchanges listed HNS, Handshake had its own 3-day track at Namescon Online, you can now use your Handshake name with IPFS, ICANN has explicitly acknowledged Handshake, Opera has committed to resolving Handshake, and of course Namecheap has dove all-in into Handshake.
Meanwhile, the Handshake community launched the Namebase registry that enables TLD owners to sell SLDs on their Handshake names, hMail that enables anyone to use their Handshake names as an email address, Handypedia that anyone with a Handshake name can log into and edit, HDNS.io public DNS resolver that anyone can connect to, Bob Extension that anyone can use as their Handshake wallet, Fingertip that enables desktop users to trustlessly resolve Handshake without running a full node, and Beacon that enables iOS users to trustlessly resolve Handshake without running a full node .
This was all accomplished last year alone, and we don't see any reason why the speed of progress this year should be any slower! At the very least, you can expect us to do our part as outlined above.
How you can help
If you're brand new to Handshake, then your first step is to get a Handshake name!
If you're already a Namer — someone with a website set up on their Handshake name — you can step up to become a Director in the Namer Community by becoming a leader in the community. Some specific ways you can become a Namer Community Director that's also aligned with Namebase's priorities include:
Serve as the "bridge" between Handshake's community and another community. This is perfect for Namers who are already involved in other communities, and the main responsibilities of a bridge is just to share important updates and serve as a point-of-contact between our communities.
*This role has been filled by philippe/* Keep tabs on blockchain conferences and events happening around the world. This helps us identify which events we can send our Namer Community Directors to attend as representatives and speakers for Handshake.
Conducting business development on behalf of Handshake. This includes onboarding reputable brands to use Handshake domains (what often resonates is mirroring onto Handshake names as a disaster recovery or insurance policy), onboarding communities to use Handshake domains (branded community domains are really exciting even amongst our internal community), or services in the existing DNS stack (such as cPanel).
Once we've finalized our current hiring efforts, we'll also be hosting regular community calls, which provides ample opportunities for Namers to share feedback, surface bugs, and ask for support. Until then, come swing by the Namer Community to see how you can get more involved with Handshake!