If you are interested in cryptocurrency and other decentralized technologies and you own a website, or are thinking of starting one, then getting yourself a decentralized web address really is a ‘must buy’ addition to your site.

When I say ‘decentralized website address’ I mean, of course, a website address which uses decentralized DNS services. DNS simply stands for ‘Domain Name System’, and is the system which connects a human-readable website address (such as with the IP address (or machine-readable location) of the server which is hosting that website.

Normally, DNS uses central authorities. These central service providers maintain databases listing website addresses and the IP addresses they are connected with. When you type in a website address your computer sends a request to a DNS provider, which replies with the IP address of the server you need to connect to.

Advantages of Decentralized DNS

  • Registering a domain name through a blockchain-based decentralized DNS system is cheaper than using a domain name registrar and centralized DNS.
  • Decentralized DNS respects your privacy – it does not require you to provide personal identification that can then be used against you, for example by governments seeking to stifle dissent or crack down on independent media.
  • Governments can seize or block regular domain names – this is not possible with decentralized DNS.
  • They increase consumer choice and competition.
  • The money spent on your domain name will help to support the maintenance and further development of other decentralized public services.

Registering A Decentralized Domain Name (The Right Way)

In order to get a decentralized domain name for your website you may need to have a dedicated IP address. If you have dedicated server hosting then you will probably already have this, but if you are using a cheap shared hosting account then you will need to buy one. Fortunately it is not too expensive (I think I paid a little under $20 with Namecheap) and most hosting services will be more than happy to accommodate your needs. On some hosting accounts all you will need to do is to submit your .bit website address as an add-on domain and then you will be able to use it for  your site.

Registering a DotBit Decentralized Domain Name

The most famous and widely used system available today is Namecoin’s .bit service. This is fully decentralized and censorship-resistant, and is very cheap and easy to use.

In order to get a dotbit domain name for your website you will need to have a dedicated IP address. If you have dedicated server hosting then you will probably already have this, but if you are using a cheap shared hosting account then you will need to buy one. Fortunately it is not too expensive (I think I paid a little under $20 with Namecheap) and most hosting services will be more than happy to accommodate your needs.

The first step is to download the Namecoin software. You may have to wait for a while so that your wallet can download the Namecoin blockchain and synchronize with the rest of the network. Once it is ready (the tick symbol in the bottom right will go green) just click ‘Manage Domains’ from the navigation menu along the top.

You can now register a new domain name very easily. Just type in the name you want in the text field at the top. Leave the d/ in place and don’t bother typing the .bit at the end – so for example it read d/cryptorials when I registered the address for this website. Once you hit submit a new dialogue box will appear for you to configure your domain. There are various different configuration options, but you will probably want to either add your hosting account’s nameservers under ‘DNS configuration’ or your IP address under ‘IP Configuration’ if you have a dedicated IP (see the dot bit hosting section below for more info on configuration). You can also just leave all of that blank for now: although it is free to add this configuration info when registering your domain, the cost of an update to add it later is very low (o.005 NMC at the moment).

Once you’ve added all the configuration options you want, you can then click ‘ok’ and that’s all there is to it! You will need to wait a couple of hours for the registration to be confirmed by the network, however, and it is important to leave your wallet open while this happens

Your domain name will expire eventually and you will have to renew it, but you don’t have to renew very often. You can always check how long you have left (in blocks) from your ‘manage domains’ page.

Registering a NXT IP Alias

An alternative system is provided by NXT. NXT aliases can be used for various purposes, just one of which is to use them as a website address.

When you register a new alias from the NXT wallet (click ‘Aliases’ from left menu, then ‘Register Alias’ from top right) you can select from three different types using a drop down menu. You can use this to associate your alias with either a regular domain name which you have already registered (in which case it will still rely in the usual DNS system) or you can add an IP address.

nxt-aliasGetting a Decentralized Web Address (The Easy Way)

If you don’t mind paying a little bit extra and trusting a third-party to control your domain names on your behalf then there are specialist registrars you can go to such as Peername or the new GetDotBit which is offering your first domain free for a year. They will make it very quick and easy for your to register your name across multiple platforms, but please do be careful with this as if the registrar disappears you could lose your website address.

Decentralized .Bit Website Hosting and Configuration

You can run a dot bit website on any web hosting account, just as you would for any other type of domain. If you have a dedicated IP address for your hosting account then the easiest way is probably to click the IP Configuration’ tab from the ‘Update Name’ tab which will appear when registering the name and which you can also access from ‘Manage Domains’ by selecting the appropriate name and clicking ‘Configure Name’. All you need to do is to enter your IP address in the box and then people will be able to use your .bit address to visit your site!
If you are using a shared web hosting account then you may not have a dedicated IP address. The other option is to add the nameservers of your hosting account under ‘DNS Configuration’. You will then also have to add your .bit domain name to your hosting account through the control panel they provide you with. If you have a cPanel hosting account, for example, you just go to ‘add-on domains’and either create a folder for your new website or point it to a folder you’ve already made and then add the domain! You may get a message saying that this isn’t accepted and you must use a valid registrar. If this happens then please do contact the support team for your hosting account – I did this for my hosting after experiencing this issue and they manually added my .bit domain within an hour (so you can now visit http://cryptorials.bit!!)

Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Web Hosting

If you like dot bit decentralized DNS then you would probably also prefer to use decentralized web hosting services rather than regular commercial services. Unfortunately there are some difficult technical issues in making this happen, so your options are limited, but there are some things you may like to take a look at: