NamesCon 2018 saw over 1,100 attendees over three invigorating days of keynotes, talks, and workshops. Here, we revisit one of our keynote sessions.
Tim Favia, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Development at Donuts; Justin Newton, co-founder and CEO of Netki; and Sean Eilers, co-founder and CEO of GeoNetwork, met up to discuss how domaining, blockchain, and geo-technology converge. Netki and GeoNet are startups working at the edges of emerging tech, and in which Donuts saw exciting opportunities.
Flavia said that Donuts looked at investing in companies with tangential relationships to the DNS business: “We gotta invest in innovation.” Newton has over 20 years’ experience in the internet space, and a lot of the original goals of access and inclusivity have already come to pass. Now the world is looking to blockchain as the transformative technology of the day: Newton and his partners are looking to DNS as a way to unlock marketability in blockchain. Something like a Bitcoin wallet is impossible to memorize: a long, single-use string of letters and numbers. If you get it wrong, you could instantly and irretrievably lose your cryptocurrency. The robustness of the DNS could be applied to these wallets in the same way we memorize web addresses and not numeric IP addresses.
Meanwhile, Netki is creating a global registry for geofences, based on a coordinate system that matches longitude and latitude measurements to IPV6 addresses—the resulting information is sent out for digestion by locally-relevant devices. “Geofence is only as good as the application or device that follows it,” Eilers said. The novel part, added Flavia, is how devices will require many simultaneously-defined geofences for a given device; and the DNS can carry that geofencing information without taking up all the onboard memory of, say, your smartphone.
A sizable chunk of the world’s population has no street address, and that will be a bit less relevant in the future. Imagine scheduling location-based drone delivery from Amazon: this isn’t science fiction, but the application of existing technologies in creative ways.
Donuts is the largest holder of top-level domains, which made them an ideal partner for GeoNetwork. Some of the nTLDs will be more appropriate to some of these new use cases, said Flavia, while most of us have been trained to associate .com with a traditional web experience.
“You have these two infrastructural concepts that are good for different things,” said Flavia, which makes them relevant together at NamesCon. Newton added that blockchain and the DNS play well together. Blockchain can be an arbiter of truth in data, he said, but it’s not an ideal place to store all of your records. The limiting factor in the scalability of the blockchain is the rights of participation, and it’s currently significantly slower than more traditional hosted databases. “There are also legal issues that come up when there’s value in having central authority at certain parts of the chain,” he said—for example, blockchain is useless for trademark disputes between rights-holders.
We’re already seeing geofencing become relevant in cryptocurrency, where the generators of a coin don’t want it traded outside their own country. “There’s a huge opportunity around your addressing point to create a more modern version of what we know as ‘title’,” said Flavia. Contracts can be carried on the blockchain to help redefine how we deal with property, and how we manage who has the right to set the rules around a particular physical space. The FAA says no supersonic flight over your house, and you say that big, friendly dogs are welcome.
The idea that you can cache content on the DNS is the basis for the internet as we know it, said Eiler. So a self-driving car driving through Las Vegas will get the info for Nevada traffic rules and where to park, but won’t have to worry about Golden Gate Bridge traffic unless it takes a bit of a road trip. The car doesn’t have to know everything all the time, but some of the things at specific times; and that depends on where on the planet the car is driving.
Leveraging DNS allowed Newton and his team, over a hackathon weekend, to build a minimum viable product with a scalability model that eclipsed blockchain at the time. With 700% growth over the past 12 months, Newton said, “I’ve had to put exactly zero engineering effort into the scalability of the product.”
How do wallet names and identity relate to risk and compliance? Cryptocurrency has value, and is subject to a given country’s rules around money-laundering and terror financing. A wallet name is like a DNS name—it can be whatever you imagine. Newton said that Netki matches real-world identity to those wallets, so that cryptocurrency professionals can avoid breaking the law. Flavia clarified that cryptocurrencies haven’t been illegitimate per se until now, only that they didn’t yet fit into the world defined by, say, the SEC: there are regulatory standards around “know your customer”!
Flavia is excited to expand DNS’ use cases into this new territory, and sees the potential for hyper-growth. Newton is focused this year on product refinement, including moving artificial intelligence out to the user’s smartphone to verify identity. Eiler is working with a nTLD to build rules around name availability based on where the buyer is—he envisions a future where the Address field on a form will mean something much different, and much more specific. These new hybridized platforms will in turn become the test-beds for future generations of innovation.
Newton anticipates a multi-chain world, as it were; where no one cryptocurrency rules supreme, which highlights the value of DNS in managing all those insanely-long wallet addresses painlessly and behind the scenes. Eiler reminded us that there’s much more to blockchain than cryptocurrency, though cryptocurrency will invite geographically-relevant rules as it matures.
- Curiosity in new technology
- Learn how blockchain works beyond just cryptocurrency.
- Think outside the box when planning strategic partnerships.
Timothy Favia has over 25 years of experience in building venture-backed technology companies from inception through initial public offering. A former partner at Fair Chase Advisors, Favia is also the former CEO of mSnap, Inc., where he built the country’s largest broadcast-based mobile ad network, and Mediaplex, where as co-founder and EVP for business and corporate development, he helped guide the company to a market capitalization in excess of $4 billion. Tim has been involved in the funding, development and operation of numerous other venture-backed technology companies. Tim currently sits on the boards of several early-stage companies, including Donuts-backed startups GeoNet and Netki.
Justin Newton is an early Internet pioneer and technology startup veteran. His last four companies (Blackline Systems, Demand Media, NetZero and AboveNet) all exited with $1B+ IPOs. He was responsible for architecting each company’s platform for global scale and preparing their data systems for Sarbox compliance. Justin also founded The Internet Service Providers’ Consortium (the first trade association for ISPs), and was its public policy director. Justin serves on the board of Adra Software and has been an advisor to more than a dozen startups, including Alcatel, Citrix and Juniper Networks. Justin holds a BS in Computer Science from Northwestern University.
Sean Eilers is a technology investor and entrepreneur. As CEO of GeoNetwork, Sean oversees day-to-day operations, fundraising and contributes to the company's innovation, product development and market direction. Sean has co-founded and served as CEO for multiple companies including Bonivo Technologies and Tiburon Media Group. Prior to Tiburon Media, Sean served as vice president, US Media Sales for Terra Lycos / Lycos, where he led media sales, direct marketing and subscription sales, monetizing properties like Lycos, Wired, Gamesville, Quote, Raging Bull, Tripod, Angelfire and HotBot. Sean holds a B.S. in Economics from the University of California, Davis.