Handshake is a decentralized naming solution for the internet. It provides a blockchain powered alternative for allocating ownership rights to Top Level Domains (TLD). That’s right - ownership as opposed to the current system where internet names are leased from a centralized authority.
Handshake represents the best bet for the internet users of the world to be able to own the internet names they use. TLDs are currently administered by ICANN - a centralized organization that has proven unfit for managing internet names. Handshake is a Proof of Work Blockchain. Check out this guide for more information on how to mine Handshake.
How do Handshake (domain) names work?
For those that are wondering what domain names are and how they provide a crucial backbone for the internet, here is a quick and simple refresher on domain names. All the websites in the internet actually sit on servers which are identified using Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. The thing is, it’s hard for users to remember a specific IP address. To solve for this problem, internet names such as coingecko.com are mapped to their corresponding servers via a domain name system (DNS). DNS is relatively distributed and decentralized but the ultimate control of names via the DNS system (a root zone) lies in centralized hands that have shown a willingness to abuse their power.
In comparison, the Handshake name system (HNS) also maps names to IP addresses and can be used in essentially the same way as the traditional DNS, except that names are administered by a trustless blockchain instead of a corruptible, centralized entity. Specifically, Handshake takes decentralizes control of the root zone. In fact, Handshake names can be used for so much more than just mapping to servers in the internet space. In my opinion,there’s no better concise summary than that found on the Handshake website:
“Handshake is a decentralized, permissionless naming protocol where every peer is validating and in charge of managing the root DNS naming zone with the goal of creating an alternative to existing Certificate Authorities and naming systems.”
How are Handshake names distributed?
To deter name squatting and to help transition the existing internet names that most people are familiar with from the existing DNS system to the HNS system, the Handshake protocol reserved the top 100,000 domain names according to Alexa.com and existing TLDs for their current owners. That means that Google, which currently leases google.com from Verisign, the controller of the .com TLD, can claim the “google” name from the Handshake blockchain. Similarly, Verisign can claim the “com” name from the Handshake blockchain.
For all the other names, the Handshake blockchain has Handshake name auctions which can be bid on by anyone with Handshake tokens. When I say all the other names, I mean all the other names - including random jumbles of letters and numbers. Check out this guide for more information on how to bid on a Handshake name in a Handshake auction.
An example of how a Handshake name would work
Let's take the recognized CoinGecko internet name as an example. CoinGecko is one of the reserved names on the Handshake blockchain because it is one of the 100k most visited websites in the world. Once the CoinGecko name is claimed on the Handshake blockchain, users that are behind an HNS resolver will be able to type “coingecko” into their browser URL text field and will be directed to whatever internet server that CoinGecko’s owners would like to point to.
In the above example, the internet user would be “navigating to” the CoinGecko website in an entirely decentralized manner without relying on a censorship prone centralized authority. There would be no entity in the world that would be able to take the CoinGecko name away from its owners. In sharp contrast, there are several entities that can technically take the name coingecko.com away from its current renters. This is why Handshake is so powerful - it uses blockchain technology to create uncensorable names.
When it comes to internet names, owning is better than renting.
How do I claim my Handshake name?
Individuals or companies that currently control domain names that are reserved in the Handshake blockchain can claim the names and start having their Handshake name resolved by following instructions available on DNS Live.
How do I access a Handshake name using my browser?
To access a Handshake name in your internet browser, you need to be behind an HNS resolver. This can be accomplished by running your own HNS resolver on your device. Another option is to configure your browser to use a DNS-over-HTTPS server that resolves Handshake names. Easyhandshake.com is such a server and that website features instructions on how to start using DNS-over-HTTPS to resolve Handshake names.
Please leave your questions and suggestions for future Handshake guides in the comments below!
Here are some links to Handshake resources:
CoinGecko Handshake (HNS) page
CoinGecko Namebase exchange page with trading volume history
Handshake Exchanges: Namebase.io, HotBit.io, GateIO.life
Handshake Block explorers: https://hnscan.com/, https://hnsxplorer.com/
Handshake source code: https://github.com/handshake-org/hsd
Handshake SPV name resolver (HNSD) source code: https://github.com/handshake-org/hnsd
Handshake resolver: https://nextdns.io/, https://easyhandshake.com
Active Handshake names: https://dns.live/
Documentation Site: https://handshake-org.github.io
API Docs: https://handshake-org.github.io/api-docs/index.html
As a former editor at sites like CCN and BlockExplorer, Caleb has been writing about blockchain technology since 2013. He holds a MSc in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia and believes that decentralized blockchain technologies such as Handshake are our best bet against a centralized, censored internet. Follow the author on Twitter @bitxbitxbitcoin