Journalists, artists, and the purveyors of other potentially controversial material have reason to be wary that their content may be taken down and censored, even more so as some of the top United States journalists warn that Donald Trump’s administration could have a chilling effect on journalistic freedom.
Online domains that are registered with DNS (Domain Name System) are registered under centralized control and are ultimately able to be taken down, meaning that a website can be essentially censored at whim by a sufficiently controlling government. NameCoin set out to solve this vulnerability by creating a distributed domain name registration system, unable to be taken down through centralized control. However, due to various developmental flaws, NameCoin never reached more than a historical and novelty significance.
BipCoin aims to successfully rectify this shortcoming. A CryptoNote-based cryptocurrency, which recently released a graphical user interface (GUI) wallet before more popular CryptoNote coin Monero, BipCoin aims to add decentralized DNS functionality, solving the many issues that prevented NameCoin from catching on, including domain squatting. Its development team has released a plain-English whitepaper as well as a fundraiser to add distributed DNS functionality.
Cointelegraph spoke to Michael Dean, BipCoin developer, about the future of censorship-proof domains.
Cointelegraph: So first, why is decentralized "DNS" important?
Michael W. Dean: Governments control DNS, and it is the easiest way for them to steal a website they don't like, even if it is not breaking the law, and there is very little recourse when that happens to you.
Cointelegraph: NameCoin attempted this, correct? Were they successful, and if not, why?
Michael W. Dean: A number of reasons. Mainly they made it almost free to register a domain, so they all got squatted, and five years later they still don't really have a way for the non-technical to resolve a NameCoin domain (Dot-Bit). There was FreeSpeechMe, a plugin that I named and promoted for the NameCoin team, and raised money for, it was a start, but came out three years after their launch. Then there was MeowBit, that I also named, which BipCoin Dev team member Derrick Slopey made and we worked really hard to promote that, but the underlying framework of NameCoin was broken in the ways I described above. This was two years ago. I've been thinking non-stop since about how to do it, and I really think I've solved all the issues. And enumerated the plan in the whitepaper.
It may seem that the BipDev writing this whitepaper has it out to bash NameCoin and the NameCoin devs. However, there is no possible way to accurately explain what was wrong with NameCoin, and what to do right in moving distributed DNS beyond NameCoin, without mentioning the many many mistakes of the NameCoin devs.
Distributed DNS is one of the things always mentioned in any introductory article about "the wonders of the Blockchain." Sometimes they even mention NameCoin or some of the new corporate Blockchains. But these articles always act like it is already a done deal. It's not.
They never mention that while this is technically possible, no one is actually using this yet.
As no one has solved the main problems or made it easy to use for everyone. Henry Ford did not invent the internal combustion engine, nor was he the first person to put one on a carriage to make it work without a horse. But he did put a car in every carriage house. And when he started most people had never even seen a car. He made cars practical and affordable. We plan to do this for distributed, difficult-to-censor DNS. NameCoin established some amazing concepts. BipCoin will take these ideas and make them easy to adopt for everyone.
Cointelegraph: Cryptocurrency enthusiasts seem to be gravitating towards financial anonymity these days. Is censorship resistance a blind spot?
Michael W. Dean: Yes. It's a huge blind spot. It's all fine and well to have dark sites, and they serve a purpose, though they're none of my business, but they are not for everyone or everything. A lot of the internet that is legal many politicians would love to take down. Hell, on the campaign trail, the next president of the United States promised to punish journalists who piss him off. And it would be possible to use Dot-Bip to make human-rememberable addresses for TOR and other hidden activist sites.
However, what we are looking to do with Dot-Bip is help a lot of the web have backups. You would still have your .com address, but the Dot-Bip would be an alternative in case you are ever seized. Lots of sites are seized where the owner is known but never arrested. It’s so easy to seize the sites, that government thugs consider that enough.
Even if Dot-Bip became acceptable as a "just in case" thing that many sites have, if it were ever needed, it would be there, and people would have the means to access it. If they are there and people can access them and test them but they're never needed for any of that web user's favorite sites, they are still useful, as a thought experiment, like Cody Wilson's printable gun.
I mean, no one really is going to carry a Liberator for self-defense. You can make a better zip gun in your garage. But it's the fact that you can make a Liberator that is important. This is not to say that Dot-Bip would just be a thought experiment.
I’m saying it would be an added feature if you never need it, to help liberate minds, and remove one more monopoly. Governments want monopolies on everything. This week it's fake news. Who knows what it will be next week. For that matter, a lot of what they'll try to shut down as "fake news" is real news, or parody, or humor. And Dot-Bip can help protect that too.
Cointelegraph: What do you think about practicality? Will it be easy enough to use Dot-Bip for the common man to care?
Michael W. Dean: Yes, I think it could be that easy. In our first beta, it will be a little harder than accessing dot-coms, but more for the webmaster than the web user. But that will get easier too. I mean, Bitcoin wasn't easy to use at first. Hell, neither was the web when I first got on it in 95. But our first beta, which will use the existing BipCoin Blockchain, will still be much easier than NameCoin, for the webmaster, and especially for the web user, the end user.
Cointelegraph: Do you foresee any trouble from governments seeking to maintain the final word on what stays online?
Michael W. Dean: I hope not. However, if any member of the Dot-Bip team is ever found dead of a drug overdose, a car crash or an apparent suicide, a government agency was behind it.
Cointelegraph: Bonus round: do you have information that will lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton?
Michael W. Dean: No f..ing comment.