Behind the Code EP5 Part 1: Alephium Name Service, 'but which one tho'?

Behind the Code EP5 Part 1: Alephium Name Service, 'but which one tho'?

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7 min read

One of the challenges in decentralized ecosystems is when multiple teams develop overlapping solutions. This can lead to redundancy, inefficiency, and fragmentation within the ecosystem. To eliminate any potential biases, let me be clear that while I firmly support open-source, decentralized, grassroots projects as they foster innovation, collaboration, and community-driven development, I also believe that there are trade-offs that usually lead into highlighting key aspects of the project. And so, it is crucial to understand all viewpoints with an open-mind. Today, we will be looking at the practicality of naming services.

Wallet addresses are unique strings of random letters and numbers, making them hard to identify or memorize. This is one of the reasons why a phonebook exists in our mobile wallets. We save our most commonly used addresses, test send it, and confirm receipt before sending the actual transaction. If you're not doing this, then you're a giga degen. Lol.

Nevertheless, naming services aim to humanize our wallet addresses. For example, this wallet address 1AS1Z4wXiPJeeo1MdFg1ti71Ztzrv1Us2tbqSaxN3ctsb can be named using this service as whale.alph. Not only is it now readable and easy to remember, but also, we can now imagine a plethora of use cases. Think about NFTs, blockchain games, and Decentralized IDs, to name a few. In the future, we will see crypto wallets that can be linked to financial background checks. Alephium Naming Service is a powerful tool to onboard the next million users.

To refresh everyone on the story, currently there are two major projects working on Alephium Name Service, and this ANS debacle has three main issues.

  1. A dispute over project naming. Both were named ANS or Alephium Name Service.

  2. A potential cause of user confusion.

  3. Differing views on how a naming service should be implemented and managed within the Alephium ecosystem.

It's a fact that the first name service that surfaced is already in its final phase of testing, which undoubtedly has much participation, has collected much feedback, and is already nearing a token sale. The most current update from the team is that they have partnered with Alphaga, an NFT marketplace that has recently completed its ICO on AlphPad.

On the other side, there's another similar project that went live on the test net. It was Splinter's ANS. I then went to Splinter's Discord thread about this ANS project, which is public and was created inside Alephium's official Discord. There, I saw some well-known and well-established Alephium developers brainstorming together.

To get a clearer view, it's important that we exhaust all resources and try to look at the situation on different perspectives. We have to go back to day one and see how this story unfolded and progressed. Here are my key takeaways on Splinter's ANS thread on discord:

Key Points:

  1. Initial Collaboration and Development:

    • During its early days, FabioB expressed interest in integrating an Expirable NFT (ENFT) standard into the ANS project for managing DAO memberships, suggesting potential collaborative improvements.

    • The initial focus was on using NFTs for names, with suggestions to enhance the service by linking NFTs to web2 domains and incorporating features like badges and encrypted communication.

  2. Launch and Technical Discussions:

    • Splinter's ANS went live on the testnet, and contributors were encouraged to provide feedback on the source code available on GitHub.

    • Technical aspects such as the implementation of forward and reverse name resolution contracts were discussed, highlighting the mechanisms to ensure names and addresses are correctly linked without requiring off-chain processing.

  3. Conflict and Calls for Rebranding:

    • Tensions arose when another team announced a similar naming service 50 days prior on Twitter. This led to accusations of causing confusion within the small Alephium ecosystem by using a similar name.

    • There were calls for Splinter, one of the project's developers, to rebrand their service to avoid misleading users and to respect the prior announcement of the other ANS.

    • Splinter defended the project's approach, emphasizing its open-source nature and lack of revenue generation, arguing that the solution provided was beneficial for the Alephium ecosystem in the long term.

  4. Community Feedback and Resolution Suggestions:

    • Community members expressed their concerns about the negative optics and potential fragmentation caused by having multiple, similarly named services. Some suggested creating a unified naming standard to avoid such issues.

    • Alternative suggestions included renaming the service to Alephium Domain Service (ADS) and focusing on different aspects like linking NFTs to web2 domains to justify potential revenue generation.

Some Considerations:

  1. ANS could be income-generating.

    It is okay. It's like water. It's free, whether you get it from the ocean or wherever. But if there is already a service to bring it into your house and into the glass you're about to drink from, then somebody needs to charge service fees. This is normal, and we all pay our water bills to service providers.

    However, working on something truly outstanding and giving it away for free is next level. Satoshi created Bitcoin with some cypher punk friends and never spent his coins. For Satoshi, it was about the movement, not about the income.

  2. The naming.

    As mentioned earlier, this is normal in efficient decentralized ecosystems. There is no permission needed and eventually, multiple teams will develop overlapping solutions. But the most important question is, which one will be the standard? In general, naming services for Alephium should be named ANS or Alephium Name Service. Speaking of which, the reference implementation is named Alephium Name Service. The author? Polarker. Cheng Wang.

    Reference Implementation: https://github.com/alephium/alephium-ans

Hence;

  • The standard naming system in Alephium should be called Alephium Name Service. Whichever design becomes the standard should be named/called ANS.

  • No one should own the project name "Alephium Name Service". It is not owned by the first one to claim it, not even the last. But will be owned by the one many will use. There will be no confusion once the standard has been selected. However, that's not easily decided on.

  • Usually, the one that is most utilized will be the standard. Either by the devs' preferred implementation, or by the users trusted implementation.

  • It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, though. Imagine there were 100 ANS projects out there. Would you trust sending 50,000 ALPH using a service that's closed-source and centralized? How sure are you that there's no man-in-the-middle attack and that your 50,000 ALPH will end up in the right wallet? Would you really take that risk? And so, the one that will be used by devs, and the users, is likely to be the most fundamentally sound.

  • Splinter's ANS might not even be the standard. It might not even be the other ANS that many currently favor. But let's hope that it is something we can truly rely on. And again, we should name it ANS, or Alephium Name Service.

If you want to learn more about dApps, check out this blog we posted less than a month ago. It's called DEFI Growth on Alephium Explained. Where we discussed core principles in developing high-value dApps.

You may also have noticed, this is just part 1 of the episode. The next two parts will be the interview of ANS and ANS. (yeah, which one? haha!)

The power to choose is in your hands. The gazette is not endorsing anything or anyone here. All we aim to do is to educate and not to force anyone to pick sides. Together we will pave the way.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. It takes a lot of resources to make one. For example, this blog took days of research, hours into contemplating and refining, a lot of coffee beans, sugar and milk, carefully and masterfully put together. Please, don't forget to like and share.

Cheers! ☕


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