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Author Topic: Namecoin and Economic Rent  (Read 4237 times)
Explodicle
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July 13, 2012, 12:01:46 AM
 #1

I normally hate "OMG I discovered an econ flaw!" threads and can't be the first person to think of this, so please point me in the right direction if it has already been discussed.

Namecoin has a different "early adopter" effect than Bitcoin. Specifically, the only objects with value in Bitcoin are the coins themselves, which are fungible, while Namecoin also has domains which are non-fungible. "google.bit" is worth FAR more than "googlesearch.bit". In this respect names behave similarly to land; there are infinite spots available, but some are worth a lot more than others.

In part because of its fungibility, the market for Bitcoins has nearly perfect competition. Since names are not fungible and "rent" is extremely low, used Namecoin domains may experience monopoly pricing. So I can buy Bitcoins/Namecoins from Alice if Bob charges too much, but if I want Bob's Namecoin domain he can dictate the price.

As with any monopoly this incurs a deadweight loss, and is less efficient than if we magically knew the economic rent of a name and required name owners to pay it in their transaction fees (or whatever). Unfortunately, I have no idea how to determine the economic rent of a name without a central authority.
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July 13, 2012, 04:16:40 AM
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A perhaps better alternative would be to have namecoin domains leased instead of owned, and come up for renewal somewhere on the order of 6 mo - 2 yr. They could be renewed by auction with the winner committing the highest (or second-highest) sum, or perhaps by some other means.

In terms of economic principals though, there's been a lot of work done in this area. Googling "land reform" should get you plenty of perspectives. Georgism or Silvio Gesell's "free land" proposals probably best address your concerns.

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July 13, 2012, 06:49:46 AM
 #3

A perhaps better alternative would be to have namecoin domains leased instead of owned, and come up for renewal somewhere on the order of 6 mo - 2 yr. They could be renewed by auction with the winner committing the highest (or second-highest) sum, or perhaps by some other means.

Looking forward-- and the off chance of widespread Namecoin adoption would certainly be way in the future-- do you really think user-friendly domain names are going to be such a priority that an imagined scalable Namecoin is going to be worth the coal it burns?

I know domain names are still awfully valuable to the companies that buy them, but so is network advertising.  (Hey, maybe a proof-of-work block chain could be used to re-implement network tv in a decentralized way, too!)
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July 13, 2012, 08:12:46 AM
 #4

I don't think this is about scalability so much as perceived fairness & solving the domain squatter problem.

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Explodicle
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July 13, 2012, 01:44:50 PM
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In terms of economic principals though, there's been a lot of work done in this area. Googling "land reform" should get you plenty of perspectives. Georgism or Silvio Gesell's "free land" proposals probably best address your concerns.

I am a Georgist, that's part of the reason I thought about it this way. Smiley

The big difference is that we don't have a central authority for name value assessment, nor would we want to... inefficiency is preferable IMHO. The land reform proposals I'm familiar with (like land taxes) won't help Namecoin.
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July 13, 2012, 01:53:00 PM
 #6

A perhaps better alternative would be to have namecoin domains leased instead of owned, and come up for renewal somewhere on the order of 6 mo - 2 yr. They could be renewed by auction with the winner committing the highest (or second-highest) sum, or perhaps by some other means.

An outright auction wouldn't be fair to non-squatters who built up the value of their domain. Maybe if current name owners only needed to beat X% of the highest outsider bid, but bidding in general is complicated and could undermine faith in Namecoin.

Still, it's a good idea - market-based and objective.

EDIT: or maybe have all outsiders bid first, and then provide a grace period for the domain owner to match X% of the winning price and renew.
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July 13, 2012, 07:19:41 PM
 #7

The design of auctions is a science in and of itself. If the various goals are clearly articulated, there's no reason some sort of auction protocol couldn't be designed to meet those concerns.

George and Gesell used taxation and central authority because that was the framework within which they worked. They were statists/nationalists, and a product of their times. But their basic concept of land ownership could certainly be applied to a decentralized system with a free market approach.

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July 13, 2012, 09:31:20 PM
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The design of auctions is a science in and of itself. If the various goals are clearly articulated, there's no reason some sort of auction protocol couldn't be designed to meet those concerns.

George and Gesell used taxation and central authority because that was the framework within which they worked. They were statists/nationalists, and a product of their times. But their basic concept of land ownership could certainly be applied to a decentralized system with a free market approach.

Indeed. But I don't want to rely too much on the land analogy. Competition for land and the cost of keeping it aren't a problem when the "land" can be forked for free and strong property rights are enforced with crypto.

At least the land analogy tells us one thing: underpriced names are fixable if this ever becomes a huge problem. My biggest fear was that I had found a problem and hit a dead end.
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July 15, 2012, 07:49:43 PM
 #9

please note that name ops were rather expensive at the start of namecoin and price dropped slowly over a couple of months. you could see this as a kind of reverse auction. i think the namecoin inventors (vinced and others) put quite some thought into this.

with me it worked, the system prevented me from squatting early on.

maybe some day there will be another namecoin tld and more people will join the auction.

Has there every been something like that with an ican tld?


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July 15, 2012, 09:51:28 PM
 #10

Has anyone looked into getting .bit added to the opendnsproject's portfolio of top level domains?

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July 16, 2012, 02:13:50 AM
 #11

Has anyone looked into getting .bit added to the opendnsproject's portfolio of top level domains?
http://ideabank.opendns.com/story.php?title=NameCoins_as_a_DNS_Lookup
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July 16, 2012, 07:58:06 AM
 #12

Has anyone looked into getting .bit added to the opendnsproject's portfolio of top level domains?
http://ideabank.opendns.com/story.php?title=NameCoins_as_a_DNS_Lookup

yeah, vote this up so we get into the popular box (~10)

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Explodicle
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July 16, 2012, 01:40:22 PM
 #13

please note that name ops were rather expensive at the start of namecoin and price dropped slowly over a couple of months. you could see this as a kind of reverse auction. i think the namecoin inventors (vinced and others) put quite some thought into this.

with me it worked, the system prevented me from squatting early on.

That's true, but this "auction" took place only once, and when a small percentage of people had even heard of Namecoin. Now squatting is prevalent.

maybe some day there will be another namecoin tld and more people will join the auction.

Perhaps, but how many times and when would we decide to do this? We would have to argue with existing name owners every time the user base increases significantly.
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July 16, 2012, 01:53:37 PM
 #14

please note that name ops were rather expensive at the start of namecoin and price dropped slowly over a couple of months. you could see this as a kind of reverse auction. i think the namecoin inventors (vinced and others) put quite some thought into this.

with me it worked, the system prevented me from squatting early on.

That's true, but this "auction" took place only once, and when a small percentage of people had even heard of Namecoin. Now squatting is prevalent.

maybe some day there will be another namecoin tld and more people will join the auction.

Perhaps, but how many times and when would we decide to do this? We would have to argue with existing name owners every time the user base increases significantly.

not arguing against a new solution. but it is somewhere between difficult and almost impossible to get it right.


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July 16, 2012, 07:43:53 PM
 #15

I don't think this is about scalability so much as perceived fairness & solving the domain squatter problem.

I have a reply in mind, but it is possible I may not be truly understanding what Namecoin does, so let me ask this question:

Was it designed to be able to gracefully replace the current DNS system, or is it necessarily disruptive?
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July 18, 2012, 12:26:41 PM
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I have a reply in mind, but it is possible I may not be truly understanding what Namecoin does, so let me ask this question:

Was it designed to be able to gracefully replace the current DNS system, or is it necessarily disruptive?
I'm not sure I understand your question, so, here are a lot of replies :p

- the current DNS system does not allow to be extended to everybody at once without some changes being made at IANA (which controls top level TLDs)
- you can't have .com registered both in namecoin and at ICANN, one must have the priority
- you can add the TLDs you want in namecoin, they will be available on your computer with the IANA TLDs

So :
- you can use both standard DNS + namecoin
- if you want everbody to switch to namecoin only there are 2 solutions :
1. IANA switch one day to namecoin and register all existing domains in namecoin
* this would require some changes in namecoin, but is technically possible (but they won't refuse to get some million dollars :p).
* each people could use namecoin or their normal DNS server and they will have the same results
2. everybody installs namecoin on their computer and use both standard DNS + namecoin for .bit (and any other TLD we decide to add)
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July 18, 2012, 11:32:25 PM
 #17

I don't think there will ever be enough support to make these changes in namecoin, we should start creating a proposal for a new coin.

features i want to see:
btc merged mining
ssl support
auction system for names

For the auction, trying to create a brand new name should create a period of a couple days where others can make bids, if no bids the name is granted at the minimum price. Make a certain % of each bid nonrefundable to prevent people from bidding up the cost for spite. Require each new bid to be 5-10% higher than the current highest, allow people to add to their bids, and reset the auction timer each time there is a new high bid.

For renewals, in addition to or instead of having a timer (6m - 1y), let auctions be triggered if a certain amount of coins are pledged (coins made unusable until the next auction is completed then returned to pledger), maybe set around 10x the amount the name went for last time. Again maybe make some % of this pledge nonrefundable.

Create domain root authority for the new coin, allow each name owner to upload an ssl key to the blockchain that is under that root authority, lobby the browsers to get this root authority packaged with install or place it under a root authority already included in browsers.

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July 21, 2012, 05:16:40 PM
 #18

I think part of the argument really boils down to this:

Either a) the squatting problem gets taken care of in some effective way, making all the squatters incredibly unhappy, but opening Namecoin up to the possibility of being truly useful in the future or b)the freedom of name coin triumphs, the squatters squat and no one else ever bothers to do anything with Namecoin because everything is already squatted and it dies a quiet death.

The idea of charging rent is a good one. You don't necessarily have to outbid someone who wants to 'take over' your domain whenever it comes up for renewal, but you should have to pay a non-trivial amount of money to keep your domain. Perhaps the amount you need to pay could be determined by it's traffic, or the traffic of it's Standard "real world' DNS counterpart or some fixed price that would make a portfolio of hundreds of squatted domains economically unviable. For example maybe "Facebook.bit" should be more expensive then "salliespumpkinpie.bit" and the price could be set by some metric of traffic.

Perhaps the money received could be redistributed to people who host traffic, provide some sort of 'backbone services' or distributed via committee decision or network-wide poll (kickstarter style) to fund startups that build upon Namecoin.

But something has to be done about the squatters otherwise it's worthless.

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July 21, 2012, 08:12:13 PM
 #19

If it charges by traffic, what happens when someone DDoSes you? Who decides what rate to charge?

IMHO it would be better to keep it simple and rely on the market to handle pricing, and just dump the rent into either block rewards or the void.
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July 21, 2012, 11:58:54 PM
 #20

If it charges by traffic, what happens when someone DDoSes you? Who decides what rate to charge?

IMHO it would be better to keep it simple and rely on the market to handle pricing, and just dump the rent into either block rewards or the void.

Well I thought to meter by the traffic that the current DNS system version of the domain gets, as the problem is squatting on domains that are already "real world" successful. So Google.bit would be really expensive based on the traffic google.com gets. But if you were to start a totally new web on .bit that became super successful on the .bit domain, it's rate would not be so high as it was a productive domain in the .bit world. As much of the squatting is mostly to try and unfairly capitalize on the strength of brand names and trademarks the traffic the 'real world' versions of the domains would be a good metric to measure the likelyhood a domain is being squatted purely for exploitation of anothers trademark.

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July 22, 2012, 12:49:19 PM
 #21

the network does not and probably can not know the number of lookups

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July 22, 2012, 01:08:20 PM
 #22

this ... is less efficient than if we magically knew the economic rent of a name and required name owners to pay it in their transaction fees (or whatever). Unfortunately, I have no idea how to determine the economic rent of a name without a central authority.

Here's a very straightforward non-centralised solution:

The domain name belongs to whoever has submitted the lowest (i.e. most difficult-to-compute) hash for that name. Ownership changes if someone submits a lower (i.e. better) hash, but in that case there is a 90-day delay to give the original owner a chance to submit a better hash and keep ownership of their domain name.

Whoever can gain the most economic value from each domain name, will be the one who can afford to dedicate the most resources towards mining hashes for that name.

Suppose Microsoft Corp wants to hold on to microsoft.com. They might keep a server or two chugging away, regularly submitting lower hashes whenever they find one.

Now suppose Joe Average somehow manages to get a hower hash for microsoft.com than Microsoft themselves have been able to do. Microsoft has 90 days to improve on Joe Average's hash, before they lose the domain. So naturally, Microsoft will dedicate a big server farm to the task, bigger than Joe Average can justify economically.

With this system, no-one can squat a domain name that's more valuable to someone else, because that other person will find it worthwhile to compute enough hashes to gain control of the domain name.
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July 23, 2012, 01:02:47 AM
 #23

Here's a very straightforward non-centralised solution:

The domain name belongs to whoever has submitted the lowest (i.e. most difficult-to-compute) hash for that name. Ownership changes if someone submits a lower (i.e. better) hash, but in that case there is a 90-day delay to give the original owner a chance to submit a better hash and keep ownership of their domain name.
That's a really great idea!

I think that's a type of all-pay auction; I wonder what an economist who's an expert on auctions would think....

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July 23, 2012, 04:13:01 AM
 #24

The hashing devoted to holding names will be that much less hashing power available for securing the entire portfolio of merged-mine-able blockchains though, presumably? Since if you let people use merged-mining to secure their names, all the big pools already merged-mining will have lots of "free" hash-power to use to secure names.

Well maybe that (merged mining to secure the names) isn't really a problem? Maybe all it means is more income for miners at pools as they get shares of what people who value names are willing to pay pools to find them low hashes to secure their names with?

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July 23, 2012, 11:38:37 AM
 #25

this has some advantages there are also some disadvantages.

if you register yourself a name for a personal website or small project you are always in danger of some corporate bully squeezing you out of it.

also you could get blackmailed by pools, botnets and the like.

compensation for the yielding party?

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July 23, 2012, 04:13:39 PM
 #26

Here's a very straightforward non-centralised solution:

The domain name belongs to whoever has submitted the lowest (i.e. most difficult-to-compute) hash for that name. Ownership changes if someone submits a lower (i.e. better) hash, but in that case there is a 90-day delay to give the original owner a chance to submit a better hash and keep ownership of their domain name.
That's a really great idea!

I think that's a type of all-pay auction; I wonder what an economist who's an expert on auctions would think....


What'll happen is people will offer services to do the hashing for you, then sell the partial pre-image to the highest bidder, which is a step away from just saying "why don't we assign the domain to the person who ties up the largest amount of BTC?" or "destroy your btc irrevocably to get the domain" (it's also no-longer all-pay) The selling would be problematic too, as the naive implementation would allow the seller to take back your domain, while at the same time encouraging the situation by effectively making the hash services cheaper than attempting a bid with all-pay. Maybe some multi-sig like system could fix that.

Actually, a btc destruction system could be quite interesting... design a way that the highest bidder loses his btc permanently, while the other bidders keep it. For instance some sort of two-step system where you submit a bid, and then to validate it you have to prove the destruction of the btc. Some thought would be required to prevent trolling of various types of course.

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July 23, 2012, 07:12:56 PM
 #27

I have a reply in mind, but it is possible I may not be truly understanding what Namecoin does, so let me ask this question:

Was it designed to be able to gracefully replace the current DNS system, or is it necessarily disruptive?
I'm not sure I understand your question, so, here are a lot of replies :p

- the current DNS system does not allow to be extended to everybody at once without some changes being made at IANA (which controls top level TLDs)
- you can't have .com registered both in namecoin and at ICANN, one must have the priority
- you can add the TLDs you want in namecoin, they will be available on your computer with the IANA TLDs

So :
- you can use both standard DNS + namecoin
- if you want everbody to switch to namecoin only there are 2 solutions :
1. IANA switch one day to namecoin and register all existing domains in namecoin
* this would require some changes in namecoin, but is technically possible (but they won't refuse to get some million dollars :p).
* each people could use namecoin or their normal DNS server and they will have the same results
2. everybody installs namecoin on their computer and use both standard DNS + namecoin for .bit (and any other TLD we decide to add)


Regarding #2: what would be the benefit of installing/using namecoin for .bit over using, say, a Firefox plugin that maps a list of blocked domain names to ip addresses?
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July 23, 2012, 08:14:46 PM
 #28

I have a reply in mind, but it is possible I may not be truly understanding what Namecoin does, so let me ask this question:

Was it designed to be able to gracefully replace the current DNS system, or is it necessarily disruptive?
I'm not sure I understand your question, so, here are a lot of replies :p

- the current DNS system does not allow to be extended to everybody at once without some changes being made at IANA (which controls top level TLDs)
- you can't have .com registered both in namecoin and at ICANN, one must have the priority
- you can add the TLDs you want in namecoin, they will be available on your computer with the IANA TLDs

So :
- you can use both standard DNS + namecoin
- if you want everbody to switch to namecoin only there are 2 solutions :
1. IANA switch one day to namecoin and register all existing domains in namecoin
* this would require some changes in namecoin, but is technically possible (but they won't refuse to get some million dollars :p).
* each people could use namecoin or their normal DNS server and they will have the same results
2. everybody installs namecoin on their computer and use both standard DNS + namecoin for .bit (and any other TLD we decide to add)


Regarding #2: what would be the benefit of installing/using namecoin for .bit over using, say, a Firefox plugin that maps a list of blocked domain names to ip addresses?

As each list becomes more popular, it also becomes more likely that the maintainer would become a target for coercion.

"Pssst, Neo! Redirect silkroad.bit on your list to my mirror instead and I'll give you 1000 BTC!"
OR
"Mr. Anderson, you are hereby ordered to redirect silkroad.bit to gotcha.gov for national security reasons. From now on you work for us."

We want just one list that's the same for everyone, so we need to define which list in a way that doesn't put all the power in the hands of one entity.
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July 23, 2012, 08:24:09 PM
 #29

What'll happen is people will offer services to do the hashing for you, then sell the partial pre-image to the highest bidder

What partial pre-image?  I assume the message being hashed is "Transfer THIS domain to THAT public key." (with probably a timestamp thrown in there that can't be too far ahead or behind current network time and, of course, a long nonce)

I imagine the hash-for-hire services would just ask their clients for the public key; I know I wouldn't want a hash-for-hire service to have access to my site's private key, they could sell it out from under me!

RE: a personal website or small domain being evicted: yep. You should offer to sell out for a couple bitcoins less than it will cost that big, evil corporation to find an eviction hash so at least you get compensated. There's very little difference between "legitimate little guy who's last name happens to be Ford" and "domain squatter."


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July 25, 2012, 04:57:23 AM
 #30

If we're willing to do an all-pay auction, then we could layer on top of an existing blockchain.

First claiming a name:
Send a satoshi to an address (A) made using the hashed name + checksum. This address is for record-keeping only and doesn't need a private key.

Bidding on a name:
Send a satoshi to address A, with your bid as the transaction fee.

Checking who owns a name:
Calculate A yourself, see if it has any transactions.
If so, use whatever rules we agree upon to determine the latest owner.
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July 25, 2012, 08:26:23 AM
 #31

I have a reply in mind, but it is possible I may not be truly understanding what Namecoin does, so let me ask this question:

Was it designed to be able to gracefully replace the current DNS system, or is it necessarily disruptive?
I'm not sure I understand your question, so, here are a lot of replies :p

- the current DNS system does not allow to be extended to everybody at once without some changes being made at IANA (which controls top level TLDs)
- you can't have .com registered both in namecoin and at ICANN, one must have the priority
- you can add the TLDs you want in namecoin, they will be available on your computer with the IANA TLDs

So :
- you can use both standard DNS + namecoin
- if you want everbody to switch to namecoin only there are 2 solutions :
1. IANA switch one day to namecoin and register all existing domains in namecoin
* this would require some changes in namecoin, but is technically possible (but they won't refuse to get some million dollars :p).
* each people could use namecoin or their normal DNS server and they will have the same results
2. everybody installs namecoin on their computer and use both standard DNS + namecoin for .bit (and any other TLD we decide to add)


Regarding #2: what would be the benefit of installing/using namecoin for .bit over using, say, a Firefox plugin that maps a list of blocked domain names to ip addresses?

As each list becomes more popular, it also becomes more likely that the maintainer would become a target for coercion.

"Pssst, Neo! Redirect silkroad.bit on your list to my mirror instead and I'll give you 1000 BTC!"
OR
"Mr. Anderson, you are hereby ordered to redirect silkroad.bit to gotcha.gov for national security reasons. From now on you work for us."

We want just one list that's the same for everyone, so we need to define which list in a way that doesn't put all the power in the hands of one entity.

What if the list was maintained by the block chain ? 

Explodicle
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July 25, 2012, 01:54:28 PM
 #32

Regarding Namecoin simply overriding blocked .com sites...
What if the list was maintained by the block chain ?
Different sites will be blocked for different miners, and previously blocked sites might become unblocked.

If you want to be certain your blockchain stays valid, it can't depend on external information.
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