Why are we still renting domains?

3 min readSep 22, 2020


Isn’t it strange how nobody actually owns their domains? We all just rent them. Somehow we’ve grown accustomed to paying annual fees to corporations just to use their subdomains!

The only way to actually own a domain is by owning the top-level domain — otherwise you're just renting a subdomain on someone else's top-level domain — but these are controlled by an organization called ICANN (.com, .net, .org, .io are all top-level domains controlled by ICANN). Applications for new ICANN top-level domains (TLDs) are currently closed making it impossible to own a domain, but that doesn’t even matter because they charge appliers a whopping $185,000 to review each application.

However, there’s now an alternative to the ICANN TLD system and it’s been backed by credible venture capitalists like Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, and Draper Associates: Handshake.

Handshake is a community-run decentralized blockchain (source code) built to dismantle ICANN’s monopoly. Handshake TLDs are distributed through vickrey-style auctions where the highest bidders only pay the 2nd highest bids, making it entirely possible to win TLDs for free! Bids are placed using the Handshake coin(HNS) and the winning bids are burned from the blockchain, which then creates deflationary effects on the price of HNS.

In other words, the winning bids from Handshake TLD auctions do not get paid to anybody, which eliminates corruption in the distribution of Handshake TLDs. And once you win your TLD, you keep it forever.

Handshake TLDs are also fully backwards-compatible with existing TLDs. Because all of the ~1,500 ICANN TLDs have already been whitelisted, there isn’t any conflict with the incumbent system.

Unlike subdomains, which can have unlimited variations (handshake.com, handshake.org, handshake.net, etc.), there is only one of each TLD. There will only ever be one “handshake/”, there will only ever be one “🤝/” and similarly there will only ever be one of “yourname/”. I personally already own “johnnywu/”, and if you want to protect your name on the Internet, you’ll probably want to act now!

Before you can bid on Handshake TLDs, you’ll need to first get HNS, which can be purchased with USD (currently only available in USA) or BTC (available worldwide) on Namebase.io. Once you have HNS, you can then use Namebase to place your HNS bids and manage TLDs that you win. For some inspiration on how you can use your Handshake TLDs, check out my The .identity Boom article.

Want to learn more about Handshake, meet others excited about it, or get involved with growing its ecosystem? Join the Namer Community at community.namebase/ to get started — we also have Handshake merch! Fun fact: “community.namebase/” is a Handshake domain on the “.namebase/” Handshake TLD.

Happy naming!

Namebase did not create Handshake — we are big fans of Handshake and built our platform to make it easy to buy and sell HNS as well as use, manage, purchase, sell, and bid on Handshake names.




I work at Namebase.io and manage our Namer Community: hns.to/community.nb/. Find me at johnnywu.hns.to.