Flexible Alias or Why ENS is Obsolete

Loredana Cirstea
Jul 18 · 4 min read

tl;dr We are proposing Alias — a homogeneous standard for identifying resources by human-readable qualifiers: EIP-2193 dType Alias Extension — Decentralized Type System, that supersedes ENS.

Reddit post with more discussions here.

Semantic Analysis

This article is meant to analyze current standards used for identifying resources, through a semantic and intuitive lens.

Root->Leaf

From a semantic standpoint, it is intuitive to traverse a path to a leaf/resource starting from its root origin: root > component > subcomponent > leaf. There are multiple separators used to intuitively render such a path: ., >, /, #, :, \.

For example, in object access, in most object-oriented languages, . means refining. It provides access to a property or method of the parent object, respecting the root->leaf order or writing the path to the property.

The same root->leaf order is present in operating system file browsers, menus and sub-menus in applications, breadcrumb UI components. Historically, even when you reference a passage in the Bible, you first mention the Old/New Testament, then the chapter and then the verse number.

Leaf->Root

Characters that symbolize the leaf->root path are: @, <, /. @ means "at" and is widely used in email addresses./ is used to represent mathematical fractions 2/3.

Leaf->Leaf

Characters that symbolize the leaf->leaf relations in natural and programming languages are: -, ,, &, |, =, /, +.

Ambiguities

As seen above, there are symbols with ambiguous meaning, depending on the context. An example is /, which can convey a root->leaf path (e.g. /Users/alice/Documents/Books) or a leaf->root rule (e.g. 2/3 fraction), or a leaf->leaf relation (e.g. in natural language: "he/she").

Existing Standards

We will now take a look at the existing standards used for providing human-readable addressability for resources and how they use the semantic rules mentioned above.

DNS

The current DNS format is leafsubdomain.subdomain.domain.tld. Users can set their own subdomains and domains, buying them from a decentralized network of DNS providers and registrars. They can choose the TLD only from the available options, controlled by ICANN, in associations with world governments.

The hierarchical order of the standard is: leafsubdomain < subdomain < domain < tld. We notice that this order makes the current URL standard heterogeneous and not intuitive: protocol://leafsubdomain.subdomain.domain.tld?query#hash, where protocol > leafsubdomain, but leafsubdomain < subdomain < domain < tld, and tld > query > hash. Therefore, the order changes from meaning >, to meaning < and back.

We also notice that the DNS leaf->root format replaces the IP address (e.g. IPv4: 192.0.2.235, IPv6: FE80::0202:B3FF:FE1E:8329), which has a root->leaf ordering.

This leads to confusion and unpredictability, making it harder for the internet to be machine-readable and intuitive.

DNS for Ethereum/Blockchain

Some of the existing solutions for providing DNS-like functionality for blockchain-based systems are ENS, Handshake, Unstoppable Domains.

These follow the same principles as DNS, while striving to be more decentralized. However, without a central authority such as ICANN, they still need to set a collaboration process, in order to not assign the same domain to different users.

Here, the character . is used to mean a leaf->root rule, which is unintuitive: leafsubdomain.subdomain.domain.tld, where leafsubdomain < subdomain < domain < tld.

For ENS, the hostname can now resolve to an Ethereum address, Swarm or IPFS content, or to IP addresses.

Libra/Move Comparison

Libra has two ways of addressing resources. In Move, developers use address.modulename.resource to reference a resource - e.g. 0x56.Currency.TCoin or even 0x56.Currency.deposit() for resource methods.

However, resources are stored under user accounts as <useraddress>/resources/<moduleaddress>.<modulename>.<resourcename>, e.g. 0x12/resources/0x56.Currency.TCoin.

The . separator respects the root->leaf hierarchical discovery path: from the more general to the more particular, in the direction of writing. A Libra account can contain multiple modules, with multiple resources.

The / separator also respects the root->leaf rule, as an account can have multiple resources.

Alias is Based on Intuition

Alias is based on semantic ordering, following the meaning of the separators that are used. It currently allows the following separators:

  • .: general domain separation, e.g. domain.subdomain.leafsubdomain (root->leaf)
  • @: identifying actor-related data, such as user profiles, e.g. alice@domain.subdomain (leaf->root)
  • #: identifying concepts, e.g. somain.subdomain.topicY#postX (root->leaf)
  • /: general resource path definition, e.g. resourceRoot/resource (root->leaf)

dType, through EIP-1900 and EIP-2157, enables Alias to resolve any type of data — from Ethereum addresses, Swarm & IPFS pointers, to any user-defined data located inside a smart contract.

For more information, check EIP-2193 dType Alias Extension — Decentralized Type System.

dType is akin to Move resources because they are similar to dType structs. With Alias, they will gain human-readable accessibility, akin to DNS. However, DNS/ENS does not have data modeling and is less flexible, while Move resources are (and probably will be) controlled by a centralized entity.

In the new decentralized world, maybe it’s time to break with tradition and inflexibility and retie the knot with intuition and clear semantics.

Loredana Cirstea

Written by

Building bricks for the World Computer #ethereum #Pipeline #dType #EIP1900 https://github.com/loredanacirstea, https://www.youtube.com/c/LoredanaCirstea

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