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Registrars warn customers, but is it enough?
Handshake is one of the many competing systems trying to bring the concept of domain names to blockchain. It competes with Ethereum Name Service, Unstoppable Domains, and a handful of other initiatives.
It’s unique in that a couple of mainstream domain name registrars offer the domains alongside traditional domain names. For example, Namecheap sells domains in 14 Handshake top level domains. That’s notable because Namecheap is one of the largest registrars; it typically sells the second most new .com registrations each month behind GoDaddy.
Handshake domains don’t work like normal domains. So do consumers understand what they are buying? It’s an important question for both the registrars that offer the domains and the domain name ecosystem as a whole because it can be tarnished by consumer confusion.
To combat confusion, registrars provide notice to customers about what they’re buying. But the prominence of these notices varies between registrars.
Handshake domains at Namecheap are presented differently depending on if you search by the extension or just the keyword.
For example, if you type in a second level string followed by .c (a Handshake TLD), the result shows the word Handshake in a blue circle, and there’s an informational tooltip:
Handshake search result at Namecheap
If you hover over the tooltip, it says:
Handshake domains are new TLDs based on a distributed and decentralized blockchain-based system. They are not yet compatible with most traditional DNS systems. Learn more.
If you don’t search directly by name, then Handshake domains are on a separate tab with a notice at the top:
Image of Handshake tab on Namecheap
There is no additional notice once you add the domain to your cart.
Porkbun has a much more visible warning. When you search for a domain, there’s a notice at the top of the page. There’s also a Handshake logo next to the name in search results. Hovering over it shows this tooltip:
Handshake is an experimental and permissionless naming protocol that uses blockchain technology to create a decentralized root zone. These names currently require special software or network configuration in order to resolve, they do not behave like normal domains.
So far, it’s roughly the same as Namecheap. But if you want to register the Handshake domain, Porkbun takes it up a level to alert customers about what they’re getting.
First, there’s a pop-up box warning the consumer about the risks of Handshake. Customers must click a button to continue. Once they get the shopping cart, there’s another warning similar to the first. It reads:
Experimental Name Warning
No Refunds, No Exceptions, Don’t Even Ask, Seriously
Handshake is an experimental and permissionless naming protocol that uses blockchain technology to create a decentralized root zone, as opposed to a centralized root zone regulated by ICANN. You can read more about the Handshake protocol at handshake.org
There are no guarantees with Handshake names. You may not be able to renew Handshake names upon expiration and there’s a chance that the TLD you purchase the domain on top of could stop functioning prior to expiration.
Because Handshake names do not use the same root zone as other domains on the internet they do not currently, and may never, resolve like normal domains. These names require special browser plugins or network configurations. Furthermore, Porkbun services such as email, SSL certificate generation, and others don’t work on Handshake names.
With Handshake names there is an inherent risk of collision with names on other blockchains, other naming technology, and with ICANN regulated domains. There are no guarantees that the Handshake names you purchase are unique or that they will not collide now or in the future.
It reads like one of the risk warnings in an SEC filing.
Is what Namecheap and Handshake are doing enough?
I think it depends on who the consumers are.
Some customers go directly to these registrars with the intent of registering a Handshake domain. For example, someone might hear about hey.tx and head over to Porkbun because they know they can register a .tx domain there. They probably don’t need a big warning.
The trickier issue is with the typical domain registrant, who might not be aware.
Porkbun certainly seems to have a very strong warning. (It’s worth noting that Porkbun previously intermingled Handshake domains with regular domains with an added icon, but it no longer does this.)
EnCirca also offers Handshake domains, along with other blockchain namespaces. It has a tooltip next to search results, but the warning isn’t as prominent. That said, EnCirca specializes in unique domain names, and I think most customers there are aware of what they’re buying.
It seems that only time will tell if these warnings are enough to help customers understand what they are buying.
Categories: Domain Registrars
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NetOperator Wibby says

Yes.
Alexandra M. says

They are only showing up in the search if one clicks on a special button and there is enough prominent information that explains the distinction. Is ICANN doing enough to explain their domains to regular customers?
ICANN: “Hey you are actually not *really* buying this domain, ultimately we own everything and should we so choose we can take this domain away from you for whatever reason we deem acceptable. So keep paying the ICANN tax so we can keep this useless job built upon a government monopoly where we not only leech, but actively oppose technological innovation that would eliminate the need for a parasite like ICANN”
Ludwig Peterson says

Is ICANN warning the people at all and making them aware of the icann tax that they have to pay so the vampires at ICANN can get paid for fighting science that would bring progress to the internet but eliminate icann’s raison d’être. You know the answer.
jimmy says

How many ICANNT domains are bought but not even used once? Right, probably about 98%. That’s because people keep buying them as an investment for the future. So why the bad faith roleplaying?
bhartzer says

They also need to explain to customers that they’re responsible for protecting their Handshake domains. Because if they’re stolen they’re most likely not going to be getting them back. (I.e., there is not UDRP for Handshake domains).
Alan W. says

You should first learn about the technology before commenting on it.
The process of transferring away a handshake domain is, by design, more complex for this reason and gives a long and generous window for the owner to revoke it.
Let me turn the tables, what makes such things as UDRP possible in the first place? A middleman, with biased opinions and flawed judgments – so the “UDRP” thing has the hidden cost of also opening up attack vectors by which you can be robbed of your domain by totally legal means i.e. abuse of reverse hijacking and such.
Don’t pretend that ICANN isn’t creating more problems than they are actually solving, because solving those problems is not in their best interest as a parasitic organization that prefers lining their pockets over progress.
NamerTips says

This article CLEARLY has an angle. The question about whether registrars are doing enough comes down to “what point Mr. Alleman is looking to make based on his experience with HNS domains” and ultimately “what each individual registrar offering HNS domains is looking to achieve”.
A “fair and balanced” assessment of this article MUST begin with pointing out Mr. Alleman implies that enough “is NOT” being done by certain registrars to notify customers about Handshake domains. In the same breath, he subtly implies they are in fact doing enough to notify customers about the caveats of “renting centralized domains”. How? Not once is there ANY mention of whether there are centralized domain disclaimers etc.
As stated earlier, whether registrars do enough comes down to “their goal”. Some people have raised questions about why a registrar like Namecheap (the second largest registrar of centralized domain names in the world) would be offering a name option that has “functional caveats”. Speculation ranges from “they’re invested in the future”, “they’re working on behalf of ICANN to cripple HNS” and/or “they’re just making a buck”. Only Namecheap knows.
Now, registrars operate their platforms as they so choose. This means they make “strategic decisions” about how they describe “their services”. The fact certain registrars don’t explicitly state centralized domains can NOT be owned, and can be reclaimed for any reason, could make a disclaimer about Handshake names seem like “bias against HNS” or “a betrayal of their primary centralized offerings”. Nevertheless, they make a statement with/without disclaimer.
With the aforementioned stated, it’s important to note that alternative naming systems have been vilified by many people with centralized interests/bias for some time. (The reasons for this could spawn an entire article by itself.) This has fostered a default narrative that centralized domains are somehow “pure” and alternative naming solutions are “inherently bad”. In reality, this is NOT the case. Why?
It’s because “their scaled coexistence is speculative at this point”. This is the registry disclaimer that SHOULD exist.
@NamerTips on Twitter
Andrew Allemann says

I think you’re overlooking that each of these registrars has sold traditional domain names for years and are now selling domains that are fundamentally different. If a site sold blockchain domains only for years and then started adding ICANN/regular domains, then yes, they should put some sort of notice as well. That’s not the case here.
Will says

Completely agree. The average person buying a domain probably wants to put up a website that easily resolves in a traditional browser and send emails from a gmail account.
Just like with your example, If ENS started selling .io it would confuse their audience.
Steve says

“Handshake domain” is an oxymoron.
One akin to an NFT.
Ponzi schemes for the tech age.
Moo says

milk the crypto bros then burn down the crypto registrars
Will says

Hey all, Will here from MoonKid.org
I own MoonKid and Moons – both HNS TLDs available on EnCirca and Porkbun (both are great registrars). However, I don’t feel registrars aren’t doing enough to inform the typical domain registrant. Who, let’s be real, probably isn’t surfing domain name forums or understands DNS.
We are 10-15 years (if ever) from Handshake becoming a somewhat realistic option for the average person.
Another key concern is that Handshake is a decentralized naming protocol. Yet, we are paying yearly for SLDs to be on a centralized registrar, thus, somewhat defeating the purpose of the protocol.
Just my two cents as someone in the space. HNS is fun for people deep into domaining. If you really want to get in early I recommend getting a namebase account and buying your own TLD. It’s pretty cheap. That’s it from me.
Laura C. says

That argument doesn’t really hold up if you from the point of view of the “typical domain registrant” since the typical domain registrant are overwhelmingly investors and those usually don’t understand dns to begin with. There is enough information displayed for those who actually bother to read the information displayed before they click buy, anyone who is lazy and could not bother would ignore additional info anyway.
>We are 10-15 years (if ever) from Handshake becoming a somewhat realistic option for the average person.
Says who? What is this projection based upon? Surely nothing scientific, it’s pure guesswork on your part. You know what else? Handshake sites do already work, because it’s just regular dns, but the moment it becomes accessible with 0 config, it’s over for ICANN anyway, that’s where handshake becomes the de facto standard. Again it _already_ works *now*.
“Another key concern is that Handshake is a decentralized naming protocol. Yet, we are paying yearly for SLDs to be on a centralized registrar, thus, somewhat defeating the purpose of the protocol.”
– Huh? Buying from a centralized registrar is your choice, you can literally buy a decentralized domain directly for cents or even ~ 0 dollars (if no one competes with your bid). No one forced you to buy from a centralized register now did they?
Honestly such misinformed takes are just weird beyond belief.
Laura C. says

Wrong. The average domain buyers are overwhelmingly domain investors.
Again the information is publicly displayed and easy to understand for anyone with an IQ above 80. If someone prefers to be lazy and ignore the displayed information it’s on them.
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