"An Empirical Study of Namecoin and Lessons for Decentralized Namespace Design"

Namecoin is a Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency that aims to create a secure decentralized namespace — that is, an online system that maps names to values, but without the need for a central authority to manage the mappings. In particular, Namecoin focuses on establishing a censorship-resistant alternative to the current centralized Domain Name System (DNS).

In a new paper to be presented at WEIS 2015, we report the results of an empirical study of Namecoin. Our primary finding is that so far Namecoin hasn’t succeeded at this goal — out of about 200,000 registered names, only 28 represent non-squatted domains with non-trivial content. We argue that there’s a crucial game-theoretic component to namespaces that must be designed properly for such systems to be successful.


Our empirical analysis of Namecoin reveals a system in disrepair. Despite its technical merits, Namecoin has failed to achieve its goal of creating an alternative to the current DNS.

Has namecoin ever really tried to replace DNS? There’s no practical way to use it for normal human beings. What’s missing is:

  1. a exe or dmg someone can download and install to add ability to resolve .bit domains to their OS.
  2. cool content/killer apps that only exist on .bit domains (ie. a reason to want to install 1)

That 1. doesn’t seem to exist (or at least I’ve never found it) leads me to the believe the namecoin/dotbit community was never really that interested in or serious about replacing DNS.

I do think that was their main motivation. d/ is the first and largest namespace. IMO, this was more of a failure in execution. As you point out there is no practical way to use it for normal users and they should’ve really focused on that.

I really liked their discussion of pricing and marketplaces for namespaces:

There are essentially two choices for the
primary market: auction and algorithmic pricing.

And for creating secondary markets for buying/selling names. Blockstore allows for such experimentation (Namecoin had hardcoded rules for pricing).

There are proxy services that will help you resolve .bit domains e.g. dotbit.me and browser extensions.

One of the things I like about Passcard is that it’s a simple and elegant app showing the capabilities of the Namecoin BNS. Use cases and good UX will help drive the adoption of these technologies.

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