Cheaper Names

Blockchain storage is expensive. Since blockchain nodes must have incentive to participate, every transaction in the blockchain includes a fee. Like in the familiar DNS name registration system, every name registration/renewal costs money.

Another problem is the blockchain size and network traffic. If too much information is stored in the blockchain, maintenance of a blockchain node becomes a complex task. It affects decentralization, because only a few big companies may afford maintaining a node. We need to keep the blockchain size small to allow everyone to run a node.

(That’s why it is impractical to store everything - posts, comments, etc. - in the blockchain, the approach taken by some decentralized social networks.)

There are many cheaper alternatives to the blockchain. They don’t have all positive qualities of the blockchain, but may be useful in many cases.

Hierarchical names

Since naming servers are independent from the underlying storage, it is possible to use different storage types for different naming servers. The names may have prefix designating the storage. For example, b.bettan designates the name bettan registered in the blockchain, and m.bosse is a cheaper name stored in a centralized database. A node may ask different naming servers to resolve different types of names.

Another approach is to organize naming servers into a hierarchy similar to DNS hierarchy. That is, test.moera.org domain is resolved by requesting one of root nameservers for the list of nameservers for org domain, then asking one of them for the address of the nameserver for moera subdomain and asking one of them for the address of moera host.

Similarly in Moera we may have top-level names registered in the blockchain and allow them to point to the second-level naming servers for resolving second-level names. For example, to resolve klaus.uacademy name we get the URL of the naming server for uacademy and ask it for the information about klaus name.

Hierarchical names need more requests to resolve, but they are cheaper and allow to extend the namespace without limits. However, the lower-level names lack decentralization advantages. If you registered the name steve.avengers, you are dependent on the central naming server for avengers domain. If you are not happy with it, you may register another name in hydra domain, but you cannot move your previous name to the new naming server. That means you loose all friendship relations you had for the previous name, all access rights, your comments are not yours anymore and so on. Thus, if you need true decentralization, register you name in the blockchain.

(Theoretically it would be possible to move a low-level name to the blockchain, because the blockchain is always checked first and information in it has a priority. But in practice, allowing that will open possibility of hijacking the name by registering it in the blockchain instead of the true owner. That’s because the blockchain cannot use external sources of information (like other naming servers) to prove ownership. To solve this problem we may allow to register such names only when the transaction is signed by the owner of the top-level name. But this way the full power will be again in the hands of the top-level name owner.)

Subordinate names

If you create a local group for your friends or a small event like an Independence day barbecue, it has no sense to install a separate node for it and register a name in the blockchain. You may use the same node and a subordinate name instead.

For example, a node https://omer.levi.family/ has a registered name omer-levi. Then, the owner wants to organize a Passover event. He assigns a subordinate name passover-5779 to it. The full name for the event will be omer-levi/passover-5779 and the corresponding node URL will be https://omer.levi.family/~passover-5779/. The name omer-levi/passover-5779 is not registered anywhere. To resolve it you need to resolve omer-levi first, get the corresponding node URL and construct the URL of the subordinate node using the well-known rules.

Note that the subordinate name does not have a separate signing key (its signing key is the same as the signing key of the senior name), so this mechanism cannot be used to create user accounts. But it is useful for groups, events etc. where each member writes under his own name and nobody writes under the name of the group.

Surrogate names

If you don’t need a human-readable name, you can use random sequences of letters and digits instead of names. If they are long and truly random, you will have an infinite namespace and every name will be unique. It simplifies the naming system a lot.

Every user has a public signing key, which is long and nearly random. Hash of this key in an encoded form (for example, bech32-encoded) may be used as a surrogate name (looks like 0c5xw7kv). In practice, it will be enough to display first 8 characters of the encoded key to the user - it will give about 1 trillion variants and probability of collision will be low enough. Internally though the whole hash should be used.

We don’t need to keep a central storage for surrogate names. The algoritm of publishing and usage of such names is as follows:

  1. The node is installed and generates a signing key, private and public.
  2. The node sends its URL and the public key to a naming server. The message is signed with the private key to prove ownership.
  3. The naming server verifies the signature, generates the surrogate name and stores it in the internal database together with the node URL and the public key.
  4. The naming server forwards the surrogate name and the related information to other naming servers via the peer-to-peer network of naming servers.
  5. Each naming server that receives the information asks the node to prove the ownership of the key. If the proof is received, the naming server repeats the steps 3-4.
  6. The node must refresh the surrogate name periodically. If not refreshed for more than 1 day, the record is deleted. This prevents unused names to point to URLs where the node was located in the past, but now there is a some unrelated site located. When the surrogate name is refreshed, the node URL may be changed.
  7. When the surrogate name is used, nodes and clients query any naming server for the information related to it, as they usually do with any name. The search by the shortened form of a surrogate name should also work.
  8. When the owner writes a post or comment using his surrogate name, he must include the full public key into it. This will allow to verify the signature even after the name is deleted from naming servers.
  9. When a new naming server is installed, it must query from other naming servers all the data about registered surrogate names.

The surrogate names are coupled with the corresponding signing key. If the signing key is compromised, there is no ability to invalidate the key and to generate a new key preserving the name.

But, on the other hand, the surrogate names are much cheaper and more private than other types of names.