Independence Architecture - Brad Kam - Unstoppable Domains

Independence Architecture - Brad Kam - Unstoppable Domains

. 32 min read

About this episode

How safe is your website? At anytime a government can order the shutdown of a site and its content is forcibly destroyed. In this episode Brad Kam explains why it is necessary to have an independent architecture for the web and why it must be free.

Brad is a serial entrepreneur from Atlanta and co-founder of Unstoppable Domains, a registry business building domain names on blockchains. Previously, he co-founded Talkable, a YC backed marketing software company.

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Unstoppable Domains

Where to find the show

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What to listen for

  • Why censorship resistance matters more than ever today and why this is a question of internet architecture.
  • Why blockchain domains are better than DNS, which is not fit for purpose and not censorship-resistant.
  • Why DNS creates centralized control of the infrastructure of the internet, and how this power can be abused.
  • Why protecting free speech needs to be built into the infrastructure of the internet because there is no universal oversight.
  • How blockchain domains remove illegal content by denying access to the site but the data remains on the blockchain; so the record of it stills exists.
  • Why Sam thinks that some content should be removed from the internet because it is illegal, but there is no infrastructure to do this currently that does not involve a person or government or a decider.
  • Why Brad believes the current internet domain system is not working and why blockchain domains will create sharing between applications instead of the multiple application silos we have today.
  • Why changing the domain registry system could reduce costs and time to launch domains in the longer term by being on the blockchain.
  • How there are many further applications around how we could domains in the future and this could reduce the need for a separate payment system.
  • Why Covid-19 may change the nature of work and reduce workforce costs through remote working.
  • How San Francisco may be changed by companies going remote and how this will affect salaries and the creative nature of tech networking as we knew before.


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Show Transcripts

Show Notes

Sam: Today we're joined by Brad Kam from Unstoppable Domains. I thought it was really interesting to have you on Brad because one of the things that have come up in the last couple of years has been people taking a look at ICANN again, and what it actually means to own a domain and who's controlling domains and what power they have to manage and run those domains. Welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you here.

Brad: Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited.

Sam: What has driven this growth of ICANN and what are some of the problems that have emerged?

Brad: I think we should probably start with the birthing of the consumer internet, in the 19 years, there was this idea that to get mainstream people to use the internet. They were never going to type in IP addresses. At the start of the internet, that was the way that you would go and find a website. And so the idea was okay, well, we need to have some sort of human-readable name, and we can point that human-readable name to the IP address. And then we would be able to go and tell somebody, Hey, go check out my website, or whatever.

You'd also be able to find that website on a search engine by typing in that kind of keyword. And this process of DNS essentially launched the consumer internet. It made it possible for search engines and popular websites to even inform and get going. And I think this is all, this was a brilliant innovation, and there were multiple different groups launching domain registries. There was pretty early in was pretty early. What wound up happening is there was a need to make sure that all of these different systems didn't collide with each other because if you've got two different, you won't know which ones real users can be endangered, et cetera, et cetera. I can form a way to prevent collisions and create a standard for the system. And at the time, this was a really valuable, really important thing. I think that it has been critical in the growth of the internet. The issue is more around the infrastructure itself is custodial, essentially a license like a 10-year license to domains. They can take that license away from you, meaning that the registry could change ownership, but the domains themselves can be taken. Verisign can take a domain away from you.

You're required to store your domain with GoDaddy or some other registrar, and they can take the domain away from you. So there are multiple different groups of people, that have a say in the system. The reason why we think that blockchains have a role to play here is that they don't have a system like this. It's not custodial like this system.

Sam: well, there must be some benefits for having a centralized service issuing the registrars and the domains. I think it was more that there wasn't another option there wasn't a way to issue and transfer assets, a trustless lease. So you basically had to rely on some group of people controlling some set of servers saying here's the record of who owns what. I think I guess one of the benefits is that it's easy.

If there is some sort of illegal content or whatever else it is easy to take an offline, although it's not that easy because people can just keep launching it on other sites and things like that. But that's a benefit of having a system that can be that is custodial and therefore can be censored.

Sam: Well, I mean, there must be, I mean, there's always content that people aren't going to like that, that they think should be brought down and whether it's in a grey area or whether it's in a completely illegal area. I mean, there are varying levels to where the content probably should be taken off of the internet.

Brad: Well, it depends on who you ask. I think that it's more a matter of how architecture works. So in the same way that cryptocurrency eliminates the need for a custodian and creates more secure money, blockchain domains, which is what we build are doing that for DNS. It's basically that the infrastructure itself, the architecture of the system itself does not enable any one person, any one group, any one company to be able to decide what's okay to say and not to say, or do and not to do. I think that's pretty critical because if you look at what happened with cryptocurrencies, there were all kinds of groups, people, all kinds of gatekeepers, all kinds of things that were keeping people away from being able to use basic things like bank accounts, payments systems, et cetera. A huge percentage of the population around the world was excluded from this system. I think the same is true for, for DNS, where there are all types of things. That you can't do. And the other problem that you get with all of this is that if you pick some group of people and say, you're in charge, you can decide what's okay.

And what's not okay. Then ultimately it's going to be very hard for that group of people to not come under undue pressure over time. As you mentioned, the US government, other governments and things like that because they have this power, they are then going to be forced to use it and maybe worst-case scenario abuses it, because of the way the system is designed.

We don't think that there's any need for that at the base layer, the most secure system you can have is one system where the user controls their asset and user can add information. Meaning a user can launch a website put it out there, and then applications can say, Hey, this is unethical. This is illegal. This is dangerous, whatever. And then they can not show it. And when you do it this way, you wind up ensuring that the voices and the people out there that are at risk of being silenced, won't be silenced, but you can still get rid of all the really bad stuff that you don't want to have on there.

I think there's, there's a way to get all of the advantages essentially of the existing system, plus some, at the same time protecting free speech. I think that's the critical thing here that I think we realize and part of the reason why we've been fixating on this problem is the current way the internet works. It is really good for stifling free speech around the world. There are just all kinds of cases of this: registry, which was launched in Catalonia, promoting the independence movement which was shut down by the Spanish government and all the websites were taken offline when the new Libyan government came in, they started regulating the morality of all dot L Y websites around the world. There were Canadian porn companies that were getting shut down and things like that. The way the internet works enables all of these random people to decide what's okay to say and what's okay not to say.  It's an unnecessary design, and it's unnecessarily insecure. That's the reason why we think it's a good thing.

Sam: I mean, part of the reason that we have to define what's legal and not legal is that they come from a general consensus of the populous of what's right and wrong. There is kind of edges in grey areas where people may not agree, but I think there are some probably pretty heinous things that that should be kept illegal. Right. Do you agree with that?

Brad: well, of course, this doesn't change any of that.

Sam: I understand that's the case, right, then there is a purpose for having a regulating body to maintain the rules and regulations that are set up by a Democrat democratically elected government.

Brad: No, because there is because the internet is a universal thing, and there is no universal body that can adjudicate that stuff. So it's not practical. It's not possible. It's not currently being done. And what's being done instead is it's getting used to silence people powerful people around the world don't agree with; that is the inevitable output of any system that has one small group of people or one person or one company in charge.

Sam: I don't want to talk about things which may be a political speech. What's the worst thing that you can think of that could be put on the internet.

Brad: How do you program that? That's the thing, the whole point here. You have to decide whether you want a custodian, a decider or not a decider because there's no way to program in this is not okay, so you have to wind up trusting somebody. That's the whole crux of this argument.

Sam: That's the point of having courts in a justice system, though, right?

Brad: All that stuff still works. All that stuff. It works because what winds up happening is you need an application in order to view websites. Your browser is gonna say; I'm not going to show this record. This is illegal. Or your browser is going to say, and you should watch out for this website. It might be a phishing attempt or whatever.  All of that can still happen. And in fact, all of this still happens on the second layer right now, because what happens right now is I post content. And then YouTube or Facebook or whoever needs to decide what the line is? Is this okay? Or is this not okay?

It's actually not even a government body that's doing it today. It's applications that are having to do it and applications are having to do it right now in silos. And what's going to happen in the future is applications are gonna be able to share those records. They're not going to need to have thousands of people staring at all kinds of awful content and deciding where the line of free speech is.

They're going to be able to rely on a collective list; that's one of the other huge benefits you get from having these systems having these records on a blockchain versus having it inside of these silos, which I think is another big piece of the problem.

Sam: Then you're just switching the. The responsibility of, of, of maintaining which websites are acceptable from a regulated body or a regulated enforcement agency to a browser to a private company.

Brad: That's accurate; it's already going through private companies. It's going through private companies like Verisign. It's going through private companies like the registrars, or it's going to do private companies like YouTube or Facebook.  The government is not going through every single website and saying this one's okay, this one's not okay. They are absolutely relying on private companies currently.

Sam: The companies that the companies are guided by the rules and regulations of the United States government and the FCC, correct.

Brad: And it will be the identical thing in the blockchain world. There's no difference.

Sam: Right. But what happens to what happens if somebody comes along? Oh, okay. So one of the points about your domains, right, is that they can't be seized. So what happens is somebody comes along and post some illegal content on their website, which goes against what could be considered acceptable content.

Brad: Applications won't show the record. So it'll effectively disappear from the internet and anybody who goes and views it through another tool. We'll be breaking the law just like today.

Sam: But, don't you have to get a court order first? How do applications like Opera, right? How would Opera figure out that we need to blacklist this website?

Brad: What is the mechanism for them to become aware of it or to actually do it?

Sam: I mean, both.

Brad: So the mechanism for them to actually do it is quite easy. They just essentially add a little piece of code that says this domain or these domains cannot be resolved and it's pretty easy. It's something that applications are already working with us on because these types of problems come up quick. People tried to do phishing attempts or, or whatever else. It's just a thing you need to figure out.

Sam: Right. But the data's still there. Correct.

Brad: The data is still there on the blockchain.

Sam: Okay. Don't you think there should be ways for people to have information deleted though, and that there shouldn't be a permanent record somewhere, because it's not accessible through the browser doesn't mean that other smarter people with a bit of coding experience, couldn't go and access it some other way?

Brad: I do not believe that tools should be the determinants of what's okay, and what's not okay, which means that the design of the tools themselves prevent this. So it'd be the equivalent of saying I buy a car. And I have rules in the car that make it, so it is impossible for me to do any number of things that would be illegal.

Now it would be great if we could magically design the car to car to work that way, but that's not the way that ownership of things works. So you have to decide, does it make sense for me to attempt to censor all behaviour in advance and is that even possible versus having a system that deals with it on the second layer, and right now on the internet, most problems are also dealt with on the second layer, like Facebook, YouTube, et cetera.

They're not dealt with on the, on the base layer already. It's really an architecture question, what is the safest system? And I think the safest system is one where users control their domains. Users decide whether or not their website goes up or down, and then applications can decide, and users and viewers of those websites can decide whether or not is something that should be out there or not. Right now what we have is we have all kinds of websites, all kinds of free speech being violated and suppressed around the world, using the takedown of domain names and websites.

I think the moral argument is pretty clear. You need to be on the side of censorship-resistant tools because the other side is what's being used to violate people's rights. So if you want to, if you want to pick a side ethically, I think it's pretty clear.

Sam: I don't think so, because I think there's some content which should be removed,

Brad: I agree. And we'll, and we'll make sure that it disappears from the, it just disappears from the internet as much as possible. But it's a question about architecture and yeah. Okay.

Sam: Right. But don't you think if I'm a victim of something, let's say my personal data is leaked somewhere and it's very compromising to me. Don't you think I should be able to engage the justice system to have that information removed? So it doesn't become a threat to me later or is not compromising my personal privacy in any way.

Brad: You'll be able to do exactly that. There's really no difference. You'll be able to do exactly that. Well, what if a person still is storing it on their own device, which the government can't touch, right? That court order can't touch some random person, then they go and put it back out there. So what you wind up having to do, regardless with the current internet is you wind up having to say, Hey, courts, you need to prevent any of these applications from supporting this content.

That's exactly what happens in the current internet. It's what's gonna happen in a future decentralized web as well where applications are going to be forced via court order, not to show this record and it's going to disappear from the internet effectively.

Sam: But it's not actually disappearing. It's somewhere on a server somewhere tucked away. If it's illegal content and it's considered to be something that the person shouldn't have, I mean, the police can always go after them and have them delete it as well to maybe arrest them.

Brad: The identical is still true in this world too. There's no difference.

Sam: I'm just saying you could still access it.

Brad: I mean the police can still go and find the individual who actually did the thing and force them and tell them that they must delete it or they can go and get their device or anybody else who has the content, which is exactly how it happens, how it happens now with anybody who takes the content offline.

It's really more of a conceptual thing. Like it, it. If it disappears from 99.9, 9% of the internet, everyone is effectively safe. The trade-off you get is that you no longer have these cases where powerful people around the world can suppress free speech. Isn’t that a better design of a system? And that's really the question you have to ask yourself.

Sam: Right. But, there's some illegal content which should be deleted.

Brad: I agree with you. I agree with you. I agree with you, but it doesn't, it doesn't matter because what we're saying is is that the system itself has no mechanism for saying one specific type of content can be deleted. Another specific type of content can't be deleted without involving a person who then decides which then gets corrupted, violates free speech, which then leads to authoritarianism and leads to the world that we're going towards today. So I think it's a moral imperative that we don't go down that path. And that's the reason why I'm working on this company.

Sam: If somebody is uploading child porn to some server or something, you probably don't want that kept there. And, because other people could come along and it just increases the number of people who have access to it. And then I'm sure you've seen the statistics about what these sort of spread of this content leads to things considered wholly illegal in our system of justice.

Brad: it's just the current system doesn't stop the spread of those things either.

Sam: No, it does. The FBI has whole divisions that like hunt down people and put them in jail. I mean, it works because we find them and we put them in jail and then.

Brad: It's all open the internet. I don't know. I think calling saying that that system works would be inaccurate and it definitely isn't working; it's all over the place, but the point is that regardless, you're still going to have to take those same steps.

The nice thing about having a decentralized web is that you have more cooperation between applications. What you have right now is you have each group in a silo, and then the government is completely overwhelmed because they need to go into all of these different little silos and say, Hey, you got this bad stuff; it's all these different places you have to go and find it. Whereas what, what you wind up having with a blockchain records is this record that any application can read.

So any application could go and read, Oh, Hey, there's this blacklist of all of these bad websites. And then everybody can be sharing the same blacklist. So right now, Facebook and YouTube and fortune and read it. And everybody else has to do their own filtering in the future. All of those applications can be cooperating and sharing records, and you're going to have a power that you don't have right now, or you're gonna have a far safer internet.

So I think it's actually completely the other way. I think this is a far safer internet than what we have currently today. Um, yeah. Not even close

Sam: Okay, is having a little bit of a freak out one second. I mean, so what's what is required for someone to buy a domain on a dot crypto domain? Like what sort of information do they have to give?

Brad: You need to offer an email address on our site right now, but there are ways to buy directly through partners.

Sam: If someone does break the law and you need to go find them, how do you gain that information to go after them?

Brad: We're not law enforcement. We don't. That's not something that we do. You talked about law enforcement. How would law enforcement go after them?

Sam: No, I'm just saying, do you think there should be a registry of persons identifying information to associate with them with a website?

Brad: Absolutely not. I think the most critical problem that humanity faces right now is that free speech is being violated all across the planet. And that if you force people to identify themselves, then they would not be able to safely spread news and information that is currently not getting out.

Sam: Well, that's not the case, right, because if you're stopped by a police officer, they can ask you for your ID.

Brad: We're in a big world, though. There are people living in places like China and Russia and Iran and all kinds of places where the dynamics are completely different, where free speech is violated. It's not just about doing things that you and I both think are morally reprehensible. It's about people standing up for their basic rights.

Sam: Right, but you always come back to political speech, free speech is a complex topic as well because you can't say anything that you want, write something that's like libellous or slanderous or publishing other things which could be deemed illegal if they're inciting violence or doing other things, for example telling someone to go kill somebody is illegal.

Brad: sure

Sam: The permanent record of data you can have anonymous speech without having a permanent speech, I think is one of the points that I want to make where if you always talk about architecture, there are ways of having anonymous speech, which doesn't reside permanently in some data service somewhere or on a blockchain somewhere.

Brad: That's also that's potentially accurate. I don't know exactly how that would work, but that's theoretically possible.

Sam: Yeah. So when it comes to being able to delete information about you, do you agree with GDPR that you should be able to delete information about yourself?

Brad: This is about the user. So the user can change records. The user can get rid of this information. I can take down my website. You can't take down my website.

Sam: Right, but what if you steal my information and then you publish it and then it's my information that you've published, do I have any rights to have that information be taken off?

Brad: Of course you do. You have all the legal rights that you have in whatever society or country you live in. Nothing changes. This does not change the law in any way, shape or form.

Sam: Right, but how would I do it technically?

Brad: What happens is that, unless it is just a slam dunk illegal, you literally need to go today to every single application and people who are victims of nonconsensual pornography and all sorts of other things find themselves having to go to every single application of that content is posted on, rather than a system where you have global blacklists that applications all across the world can use. Then you're going to wind up having a case where all you need to do is get onto one thing. That's far better than the way it works in the current system.

Sam: Yeah, but this doesn't exist yet, though, right?

Brad: It doesn't, that's what we're working on.

Sam: Ah, okay. These are general ideas then rather than something that's been put into practice,

Brad: The only reason it doesn't exist yet is that the problem hasn't occurred yet. And the day the problem occurs will be the day that we start working on the solution. This tech is super early. So we launched our first registries, the end of 2019, got our first batch, maybe 7,000 websites that have gone live in 2020.  We've got opera browser for Android and a couple of extensions. Mostly enthusiasts are building right now. It is theoretical in the sense that it doesn't yet replace the existing web, the decentralized web is, but as it matures, it has a lot more tools in his toolbox to solve the problems that you're talking about than the current internet, and you're going to wind up being far safer and far happier with the decentralized work that you are with the traditional web, especially with the set of concerns that you're talking about.

Sam: Let's just say 30% or 40% where it starts to actually have an impact on economics, and most people would interact with one of these decentralized websites. There's been a big push recently to start to make different platforms responsible for the content that is published on there. They have the responsibility to ensure the content that they've published through their domains meets certain standards. Those standards exist. Once it goes live and it's on a blockchain, right? The data is permanent, but at the same time, your company is the one that's providing the development time and coding services to build out this environment.

Brad: The reason why is because we are not a content platform, we are not even a platform. The user is attaching data to their domain.

For example, if I sell you a car, and then you go and use it to run someone over, or if I sell you a gun and I have no reason to assume that you intend to harm anybody and you do. These cases have been adjudicated well over decades in the United States as the seller of that item, and I do not have responsibility unless you had knowledge that they intended to use it for harm. If we had knowledge that somebody intended to use a domain for harm, we would not be okay with that. And we would try to stop that.

Sam: Where are you storing your data? It's an IPFS. How are the sites set up?

Brad: You have your domain name, your domain name is an ERC token. It's like an NFT on a blockchain. You're storing the domain name in your wallet, and this is the reason why you as the user have control over it. You are signing a message with your private key, and you're writing your IPFS hash to the domain, so you're uploading your website on IPFS, and then you're linking it to your domain. People are able to go and find it from there.

Sam: But there's like limits on what IPFS can provide in your data structures. I've seen a lot of the websites that have been built, and I've had PFS, and I don't think they include like JavaScript or, or any of the more modern tools that are used in web development.

Brad: There is some sort of limitations around the edges right now, and it's early days for decentralized storage. It's not performance ready to go and move Netflix over yet or anything like that. It still has limitations, but there's no reason to think that those will not be ironed out over time.

Sam: How do you see data storage working out in the future? Is this moving to something like file coin or, or swarm? Which tech stack you are guys looking at?

Brad: IDFS is what we're using the most. I don't think there's any specific reason to assume that IPFS won't be able to continue to evolve. I think they're doing an amazing job where in general, network-agnostic users can be able to use whatever they want or maybe even push copies of their websites on multiple networks at the same time. We are imagining an agnostic storage network, but it's a little too early to say how that market plays out in general, but for us, we're just looking for decentralized storage providers that we can offer to our users.

Sam: Okay. Is there any way to have a hybrid mixture where you could offer the DNS without IPFS?

Brad: I wouldn't even consider that a hybrid version. That's still a decentralized website. You're storing the content on your own server. You still have control. You could also even store it on Amazon web services and just point your domain name. Now the problem with the Amazon web services one is that then you don't really have a censorship-resistant website because Amazon web services can just turn you off.

So it's a matter of what your goal is, but you can certainly the blockchain domain is extremely flexible.

Sam: Right. There are different levels of how you can use the domain. Because I think like a lot of people may be interested in censorship-resistant websites, but they don't actually need it in the end, with anonymity as well a lot of people say they want anonymity, but then they give up gobs of data about their IP and a bunch of other information, which could be associated with them through metadata analysis.

Brad: I think that's true. I think most people in the world don't need to worry about censorship resistance per se, but I think the number of people that need to worry about it around the world is going up.  The system itself just works completely differently. A traditional domain name takes 60 days before you can set it up. When you take possession of it, blockchain domain name takes 30 seconds to a minute, whatever the block is, whatever the length of time it takes for the blockchain transaction to go through, you can also transfer it in 30 seconds or a minute.

You can also transfer it without an escrow agent and do all kinds of. Secure things that you couldn't do otherwise. We also imagine that decentralized storage networks are likely going to wind up being cheaper and have better uptime than traditional storage, because you're essentially accessing a marketplace of everybody's storage space around the world, as opposed to just going to Amazon and seeing what's the cost.

So there's definitely going to be benefits to everyone. Just like how it was with the internet itself, where, the internet promised free information that can't be censored, et cetera, et cetera. But what really wound up happening is that most people didn't need to use that specific feature, censorship resistance, but they did need to use speed, better access to information, all these tools.

I think there's a lot of reasons why people are going to use the decentralized web besides just that. But censorship resistance is the core thing. That is different from the old system that causes people to migrate. I think it's exactly, exactly like what happened with cryptocurrencies, where it's not that every single person is getting their bank account shut down or can't access a bank account.  But this new system that provides censorship-resistant money also provides all these other benefits because of it.

Sam: Have you guys had your ‘WikiLeaks’ moment where someone has come out and published explosive information yet?

Brad: No, not that I'm aware of.

Sam: Where would that information be held? What’s going to be the reasons that people move over other than just censorship resistance? What will be the other driving forces for people to adopt this technology?

Brad: You've got uptime and cost. You've also got this sort of a benefit of it being crypto native. So for example, my blockchain domain, Brad.crypto is my payment gateway and is my website at the same time. So it means that you can send me money to Brad.Crypto, and it means you can also go and check out my website.

When you have this property, then you have the ability to confidently say with 100% certainty say that whoever is showing me this website, is the same person that I'm sending money to. It doesn't seem like the most revolutionary thing, but if you think about it, it creates an entirely new security model where payments no longer have the separate payment system.  You no longer need to go and move to other communities, other communication channels, so you have extra security. I think that piece right there is going to lead to all types of new behaviour and all kinds of new, new applications as well. Money is native to this internet. It was not native to the old internet.

Sam: It's interesting to see how something like USDC will get incorporated into it, or like USDT. Do you think it works easier on Ethereum? Do you think it works better on a programmable blockchain, like a native program of a blockchain, like theory versus something like Bitcoin where you'd have to do it on like a side chain?

Brad: I think the side chain stuff is not performing enough to be able to handle a registry. I think a smart contract blockchain is necessary.

Sam: I know there is competition with DNS, but how do they fit within your business space?

Brad: When we launched this company, the first thing we did was we built a registrar application on top of GoDaddy. Our goal always has been that we want to build tools to make the decentralized web easy to use, so we started by building tools on top of daddy's. Realized that there were some issues in terms of the way the registering was designed and we wanted to fix those. We determined that the best thing for us to do was to launch our own registry and then build tools.

And what we decided to do then was to build tools so we have easy tools for you to manage your domains where you can add your crypto addresses and where you can add your IPFS hashes and all of that stuff works for Go Daddy too. They’re pioneers, and we're trying to support them and all of our tools and make it easy for the ecosystem to grow more generally. In the traditional world, there is definitely more than one registry, and we expect them probably say the same thing in the blockchain world.

Sam: Right. Would Handshake be a direct competitor then?

Brad: Yeah, but they're not actually a domain registry. So Handshake is not a competitor to us. Handshake is a competitor to Ethereum, trying to get applications to build on top of them. Now somebody has to go and build an application, a registry on top of Handshake.

Sam: If you guys are domain-agnostic, is that something you looked at building anything on there?

Brad: Yeah, we just think it's a lot harder. Um, it's a lot easier to do everything on Ethereum and Ethereum has all the integrations. We didn't need to do barely needed to do any integration at all. They work inside of all these apps. They also work for storage inside of Ethereum wallets that are debt browsers, which enable you to make updates to your domains. If you build something on Ethereum, you just get this supercharging of your domain works inside of all. Ethereum enables them to offer domain names to their users;  it's a pretty big mountain to climb for any other blockchain

Sam: Is it just Opera that you've engaged with, or are you looking at like brave or anything else?

Brad: Yeah, we're talking to several browsers right now.

Sam: Okay. So it should become pretty ubiquitous.

Brad: I think in general, they're pretty excited about the decentralized web in general. I think part of the reason why is because it's a lot closer to the original vision of the internet that everybody thought they were working on, they thought they were working on peer to peer protocols that were going to open up the internet to the world.

Sam: There's a lot of growing pains, and it's been interesting to see how the development goes, but I think it does have a lot of promise it's just figuring out how to provide the service that drives people to use it.  With Ethereum, it was easy to get people to come to native Ethereum apps because they figure out how to provide interest to people through financial applications. I guess the next step is to figure out how to effectively drive people to a more decentralized website.

Brad: We are in the first inning. We joke all the time that for any anybody building websites back in the 1990s wherein like the geo cities phase. This is early stuff. We're in the enthusiast phase.

We're just now starting to see apps. I think it makes sense that it would start with DApps because they're crypto native. They have this problem they're trying to offer a decentralized application, meaning that a way for you to just interact directly with a smart contract, but the way that you do that is through DNS domain and a web hosting server that the owner doesn't control.

It's going to be crypto apps first. It's going to be probably these global free speech use cases second, and then it's going to be everyone else as these tools actually get better a third and then somewhere mixed in with all those phases, you'll start to see these kinds of viral websites that can do new things that other websites couldn't do that are driving people in.

Sam: What do you think will be the real first driver of getting people on board?

Brad: Every big company has generated a lot of new users, new excitement, new domain registrations and new websites. I think that the first real trigger here was stuff that we built, which was templates for non-technical users.

And you can go to our website right now, and there's like a series of relatively simple website templates that enable you without knowing how to code, to launch on IPFS, connected to your domain name and have a website up and functioning. So I think that was kind of step one. We started to see a whole lot of activity around this.

Step two was Opera. Opera was probably the biggest jolt in a sense that it made a whole bunch of pages, 80 million monthly active users on Opera for Android. That's the biggest increase in eyeballs to the decentralized web probably and got a whole bunch of people excited.

I think that you can expect things like more browsing tools, search engine support, and those types of things would be the next big drivers.

Sam: I mean, do you think that people use it as kind of a backup for their own websites?

Brad: Yeah. I think that's a very natural use case. YouTube has been taking down the pages of various YouTubers and, in many cases, not even explaining why or what they violated. Some people are taking it to their personal websites as an intermediary step, backing up and then step two is to find alternate places to display it.

Sam: Yeah. People to find it because without proper web crawler support, then it just kind of remains hidden away.

Brad: The opportunity is that you get to rebuild everything. There are all kinds of new businesses that are going to launch here. We also have the benefit. Like it's not like when we built the first internet, we built the first internet. We had no corollary. We had nothing to look at. Now, when we're building this new internet, we can look at the old one, and we can pick out the things that we like and things that we don't like.

We've got all kinds of applications that are pretty mature, like search engines and browsers and others. So we don't need to recreate, like when you lost the first web, every search engine and every browser, it needed to be built from scratch. Now, all we need is for those tools to start supporting this new internet and they can do so at the same time as they support the old one, they don't need to pay.

They can support them both simultaneously. So I think we're going to start to see the decentralized web creep into the point where like a lot of users may not even fully distinguish when they're looking at content. Eventually, we just toss out the old system and replace it entirely with the new, because it's that much is that much better. But I think that that future for the decentralized web is ten years or more away, I think it's going to take quite a while to build out all the stuff.

Sam: For a company to come in and, and provide such as the templates, but help people get these sites set up. I guess that's part of building the ecosystem of partners that you would have in connection with unstoppable domains.

Brad: Yeah, exactly.

Sam: So, how big is the team now?

Brad: We are 24.

Sam: Is Covid-19 affecting the business at all?

Brad: It's weird. In the crypto community more broadly, we were mostly digital remote already and living my whole life on zoom for the past year.

Sam: Do you think there'll be lasting dynamic changes in San Francisco and in that area?

Brad: I think San Francisco was a very difficult place to live before all of this. I don't want to say all almost all of the top tech companies, and we're either in San Francisco or in the Bay, and as a result, it was really important to be there to hang out with everybody.

But on the flip side, it's dirty absurdly expensive and maybe not the safest, and if we lose that first quality of I can go and hang out with all of these interesting tech people, if they're not there anymore, or at least not in a critical mass, then I don't know what happens.

Um, so I, people keep asking me, are you, you're you, are you going back?

Sam: Isn't there an incentive for companies, if they can move out of an office and go fully remote to do that?

Brad: Totally, you can get a lot more bang for your buck and almost every other city. So, your San Francisco salary either goes way further, or you don't even feel like you need as big of a salary in order to support yourself.  So that's a big change for workers. From the company's perspective, you now have access to workers all over the world, and you don't need to pay for this, these crazy expensive offices. There's pressure both from the employer and from the worker side to say maybe we don't set up offices again.

I think people's perception of it now has so quickly changed having a purely remote working life is now something that everyone's considering. I like to be around people, so I'm a little, I'm a little worried, but at the same time, I'm also kind of excited that there's all this geographic flexibility now. Maybe our team gets together once every other month or something like that. I don't know what exactly what the future is going to look like, but I'm a little excited to see see what that version of work is going to be like.

Sam: I'm wary actually because one of the things that Facebook came out and said was that you could go work remote, and you can live somewhere else, but we're going to adjust your salary and where labour costs are a big part of our operating expense or sorry, our expenses. It makes sense for them to, to push their workforce out of the most expensive city or the most expensive place to live in the entire world and in San Francisco.

Brad: I just want all those workers to know that we will welcome you with open arms, please let us know. We would love any Facebook engineers that feel like they're being mistreated. We will not do that to you, and you'll be working on a decentralized web instead of a centralized one. That's exciting. Facebook should keep treating workers badly, and maybe we'll have greater opportunities for startups.

Sam: Facebook's really having problems internally recently. Their opinion that they should not be regulating political speech or stopping any political ads has really put a lot of people off in the company.

Brad: it's a weird place they're in, being a content platform; It's a problem with owning people's data, if you had some system where the users own their own data, you would have a completely different dynamic. It’s a problem they bought with their data controlling business model.

Sam: Well, I mean, it's necessary for them. Same for Google and  Netflix and pretty much any of the tech companies, they use their data analytics to build a better picture of their customers so that they can sell more things to them.

Brad: You could still do the analytics, though without controlling the data, and that's the core. And I think that's actually one of the core ideas of the decentralized web is that you're going to change the ownership structure, where Facebook doesn't own the data. You own the data you give Facebook access to it, and then Facebook can do their analytics, and they can provide you with a service. It's a good business model, but it's a web-to-business model. I think the future business model is going to need to evolve. It's going to need to monetize showing good content to users, showing the right content to users, and they're going to lose the sort of monopoly cause the data, the fact that YouTube stores, the videos means that there's no portability. So you're stuck inside of YouTube. Whereas in the future, if you control the data, if you control those videos and you store them yourselves yourself, and then you're giving YouTube or YouTube access to it. You're going to wind up having a much better competitive landscape and much better applications for users, and you're going to help solve the censorship problem at the same time.

Unstoppable Domains builds blockchain domain names. So we have two registries dot crypto and Doddsville, we've had 220,000 domain registration so far, just under 8,000 websites launched. I would also encourage you to follow us on Twitter at unstoppable web. You can find all of our updates and hear all the latest and please come build.