The name of our project is Ethereum Name Service (ENS). Its meaning seems obvious, right?
The last two words, “Name Service,” are straightforward: the project provides naming services. A user provides a human-readable name (e.g., ethereum.eth), and ENS returns a machine-readable identifier (e.g., 0xfB6916095ca1df60bB79Ce92cE3Ea74c37c5d359).
But what does the “Ethereum” part mean?
One interpretation I often hear is that it means ENS is a naming service for the Ethereum ecosystem. After all, the most common use-case for ENS is to have an ENS name resolve to an Ethereum hex address.
While it’s true that ENS provides naming services for the Ethereum ecosystem, that interpretation of the name is misleading.
That’s because ENS can and does provide naming for non-Ethereum things. In fact, here’s how ENS is described on our website:
ENS offers a secure & decentralised way to address resources both on and off the blockchain using simple, human-readable names. (emphasis added)
In addition to resolving to Ethereum hex addresses, ENS is used right now to resolve IPFS and Swarm hashes for decentralized websites, as well as to resolve Tor .onion addresses. We’d like to eventually add support for other cryptocurrency addresses. And we’re also working on using ENS to mirror DNS records.
In other words, the “Ethereum” part more accurately signifies that ENS is a naming service built on Ethereum. The Ethereum blockchain and the ENS smart-contracts are simply the infrastructure of this naming service.
This is, of course, different than the infrastructure of the traditional Domain Name System. Using the best designs of the 1980s when it was launched, it has a hierarchal server system centrally controlled by private entities. It works (mostly) fine, but we believe ENS can improve on this infrastructure, being more secure and offering users greater control over their names.
So when you think of ENS, don’t just think of it as the name service for Ethereum. Think of it as a new piece of naming infrastructure for the whole Internet.