Are Unstoppable Domains Actually Stoppable?

Unstoppable Domains, based out of San Francisco, California, USA, was founded in 2018 and is currently the most popular blockchain domain service. Smart contracts and non-fungible tokens are used to deliver on their promises of censorship resistant domains. Using NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain and others, content on IPFS and compatible browsers and extensions, do these compartmentalized solutions actually deliver on the essential promise of a domain that is unstoppable?

Protected Domains
Before you can own and operate a so-called “unstoppable domain”, you must first buy it, and here you run into the first obstacle. Not all domains are freely available for purchase, as they have an incredibly extensive list of ‘protected domains’ which the company is holding onto for purchase by people and companies apparently far more important than you and I. Share a name with a celebrity? You’re out of luck. If you do manage to get your hands on a domain that another entity eventually lays claim to by trademark, the company has a solution for that, too. If you haven’t transferred ownership of the NFT out of the company’s hands, they will revoke your ownership of that domain and kindly refund your money. In other words, they’ll just take it back.

Centralized Functionality
Unstoppable domains also offers additional functionality that includes cryptocurrency payment addresses attached to your domain name as well as usernames for websites and apps. Unfortunately all of these associations are accessed by logging in with your e-mail address to your Unstoppable Domain account. What this means is that you do not have ultimate control of all this functionality and you rely on a third party for such access.

Content Censorship
In order for owners to host a website, they upload the files unto IPFS, a peer-to-peer protocol for hosting and sharing content. However, all content is indexed by unique identifying numbers and therefore subject to self-censorship by coercion. If, for example, content were deemed a threat to the security of a particularly aggressive state actor and this state were to declare hosting of such content a high crime subject to great personal and financial penalty, then users would be far less likely to host the content, potentially compromising its availability. The hosting of content can only be made genuinely censorship resistant if the users hosting it are blind to what they are hosting–there must be plausible deniability.

Browser Chokepoints
In order for users to visit the website you associate with your so-called unstoppable domain, they must use third-party browsers or browser extensions. The list is impressive, including native support from Opera, Brave and extensions for Firefox, Chrome and Edge. However all of these on-ramps are themselves subject to control and censorship. The relationship between user and host is not direct, it is not peer-to-peer, it is mediated and therefore vulnerable.

Conclusion
Just as with the example of Uniswap, a service does not automatically become censorship resistant simply because it exists in abstract form on a blockchain, even one as distributed and theoretically censorship resistant as Ethereum. Providing a robust internet service is far more complicated than simply moving cryptocurrency between addresses. Distribution, functionality, hosting and access must all be decentralized and censorship resistant and this is only found with a comprehensively peer-to-peer ecosystem.

Genuine Unstoppable Domains of Utopia P2P
The Utopia P2P Ecosystem began offering genuinely unstoppable domains in the form of UNS (Utopia Name System) NFT records on November 18, 2019. That is the date the peer-to-peer network went live after nearly 6 years of covert development by a dedicated and anonymous team calling themselves the 1984 Group. UNS records are available on a first come, first served basis, without any discrimination between companies, celebrities and the common user. They offer domain hosting, username and payment address functionality without any reliance on third parties. UNS records, once purchased, are yours forever without any renewal fees and enable users to host their own website anonymously and securely inside the Utopia ecosystem using the native idyll browser.