A website can only be accessed if a system is able to link the URL entered by a user in his or her browser to the server of the website in question. This is called the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS operates as an intermediary system through sending a request on the Internet in order to make the link between the address entered in the browser by the user and the actual access to the site. This is the reason why the DNS is often compared to a telephone directory as it allows to translate the names given by the user into names that are intelligible for machines.
When everything is set up properly to ensure that the DNS can play its role as an intermediary, it is sufficient to just have a device with Internet connection to access the site.
But currently some registrars offer domain names that don’t rely on the traditional DNS. Instead, they use technologies such as blockchain.
In order to be accessible, these domain names require the installation of specific tools such as particular browsers or plug-ins. These constitute additional costs for potential buyers who simply want to obtain a traditional domain name for their website.
These offers present two fundamental risks. The first issue relates to the communication of the Internet regulatory authority ICANN of November 24, 2021. It concerns the risk of confusion for consumers. In fact, it is not easy for the average consumer to make the distinction between these two types of offers whereas the purchase of these different domain names covers very different realities.
The second issue of this alternative resolution system consists of the risk of conflicts between domain names that would be registered through the traditional DNS system and those based on one of the new non-DNS systems.
These possible conflicts include name collisions. Hence, this phenomenon might intensify with the creation of parallel networks. This might occur when the system being used to translate names being entered by users into intelligible names for machines – in this case a non-DNS system – is sent to a DNS system, for which the address corresponds to the address of a different website.
In that case, the user would be redirected to the wrong domain name. These uncertainties could give rise to legal conflicts in the coming years if the new systems become more important.
Sources: ICANN Blog, Buyer Beware: Not All Names Are Created Equal, November 24, 2021, A. Durand
ICANN, Frequently Asked Questions: Name Collisions for IT Professionals