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On a global marketplace for name reservation

I am not a Bitcoin expert. As always, this article is a quick effort to summarise my opinion on some subject. In this case, the subject is marketplaces for names.

What are some examples?

I'll start off by listing some examples of naming marketplaces.

Twitter and Gmail:

Common examples that we might all use, are . These have a kind of free, although now more rate-limited than they used to be, first come first served system of name reservation. e.g. "jack" or "jill@gmail.com".

Moneybutton

A more Bitcoin SV relevant example, where they allow reservation and resale of names which are used as identifiers in one's email address. e.g. "ryan.x.charles@moneybutton.com". This is first come first served, and perhaps only rate-limited by how much one is willing to spend on names.

Counterparty

An example on Bitcoin Core which offers the ability to mint tokens. Token names have to be purchased through burning coins, must be upper-case and must be constrained to a stock ticker-like number of characters. Again, this is first come first served and rate-limited by how much one is willing to spend on names.

DNS:

You get the idea..


In all of these cases, it is very likely that if you want to buy a name from the party that holds it, you can do so if you offer them enough compensation. There might also be some cases where the middlemen can take a name from one party and give it to another, sometimes righteously and sometimes not. And in other cases where the blockchain is used as a source of authority, you might have no recourse if a malicious actor has the name that is tied to your reputation. 

What problems do they have?

Here are some problems with naming marketplaces.

Squatters

If you have a name uniquely identified with you, it is very very unlikely you will be able to get it if someone else already has it. You might be able to get Twitter to confiscate a Twitter handle from someone. I wouldn't be surprised if Moneybutton would give or confiscate it and resell it to you for their nominal fee, if someone was acting as you or using it in a malicious manner. DNS has some system that favours the rich and powerful, and maybe also you if it is being used in a manner that allows you to take it. Counterparty is tied to the blockchain, so you could sue the services that index the protocol.  

Artificial scarcity

Your name is very common and is perhaps John Smith and you go to reserve "John Smith", but some other person has already reserved it. Now every person looking for any John Smith is going to find "John Smith" who on the balance of probabilities is not the one they are looking for. Then they are going to find all the other John Smiths using some variation on the name.


Naming marketplaces allow someone to block you getting the name that obviously relates to you. They allow someone to take the name you equally have a right to. If they cannot be reliably used to find the correct other party you want to get in contact with, then what good are they? If the name as read can't be used to know that the owner of that name is guaranteed to be the party you are interested in, then what good are they?

Why not just a identity key that never gets displayed that related to a unique identity?

What alternative is there?

If anyone can declare any name then everyone gets to use their preferred name, and there is less value in claiming a name maliciously. Because names are not tied to identity, every user can edit their contact list and alter the name for any contact overriding any name they were given for that contact. By removing any involvement with any approved naming marketplace confusion and complication is removed.

This then leads to the question, how do I find someone? Easy, you get their Bitcoin identity information from their web site. Or from them directly. Or from them by email. Or from a third party. You associate a level of trust with that information based off embedded claims that you can check with a service like Tokenized's oracle services, or based on whom you obtained the identity/contact information from (I trust this because Keith gave it to me).

Summing up

I do not believe that global naming marketplaces add anything of value. In fact, I suspect that they make the user experience more complicated and provide them with a worse experience for having to be forced into having a globally unique name. I believe we can do much better than this by not tying our applications to any naming marketplace.

Note that I qualify this with global, my personal opinion is that Paymail address style identities are a good intermediate measure for the short term. Like many other things that we could do a lot better, we need to do what we can now not wait for things to be ready for the ideal replacement. But unless there's a compelling reason for global naming marketplaces, I suggest no-one use them.

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