When you navigated to this article, your computer interacted with others to find this content. To do so, it used a domain name, CultOfMoney.com.
But as you’ve likely noticed, there are many more website suffixes than ".com." You can also register .edu, .org, .net, and many other top-level domains (TLDs). And if you’re into cryptocurrency, you can even secure a crypto-specific version, ending in .eth.
Note: You can find ours at CultofMoney.eth.
ENS is short for Ethereum Name Service. It’s a registry of website domains that lives on the Ethereum blockchain network. Here’s a closer look at how ENS domains work, if you should get one, and how to put one to good use.
What Is An ENS Domain?
A traditional web domain name is like a website’s street address. When you type a valid website address in any web browser, your computer quickly looks up the domain name and finds the corresponding IP address, which points to the server where the website is hosted.
ENS and other crypto-related domain projects are evolving technologies that enable new top-level domains (e.g., .eth, .crypto, and others) and connections to cryptocurrency apps and wallets. ENS domains are a form of non-fungible token (NFT) that are held through a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain.
With ENS domains, you can buy a domain name that points to your cryptocurrency wallet or app account. So if someone wants to send you ether, you could simply give them your ENS domain name, like yourname.eth, rather than a long and complex public wallet address.
How ENS Domains Work
When you own a .eth domain, you can connect your wallet to the ENS app to manage your domain. By default, anyone can enter your domain to get your linked Ethereum wallet address, which is helpful for receiving payments.
ENS also supports text records like an email address, Reddit or Discord usernames, as well as plain text. Anything you add here is public and on the blockchain forever, so you may not want to add your personal email address. And keep in mind that any edits require gas fees because it updates the blockchain.
Currently, ENS domains are most helpful for forwarding a fellow cryptocurrency user to your wallet to receive payments or NFTs. But you can also use an ENS domain to host a website.
Unlike traditional server-hosted websites, ENS website data stays on the blockchain. Using the new IPFS protocol, you can forward an ENS website to a .com or even host a blockchain-based website.
Which Browsers Support .Eth Domains?
If you type yourname.eth into a mainstream browser like Chrome or Safari, you'll probably encounter an error. That’s because .eth domains are not a part of the main DNS directory.
Opera and Brave support .eth by default, but most popular browsers will require a plugin. You can check if your browser supports ENS by heading to Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin’s website here.
Setting Up Your .Eth Domain
Like traditional domain name service (DNS) domains, there’s a registry of ENS domains ending in the extension .eth.
Wanting to head off anyone else with my name, I bought a .eth domain myself. To buy an ENS domain, you need an existing cryptocurrency wallet that works with a web browser extension, such as MetaMask, Coinbase Wallet, or the wallet built into the Brave browser. I used MetaMask.
Buying the domain is similar to paying for an item on Amazon or any other online store, but you’re paying with Ethereum instead of dollars. That means you’ll also need ether in the wallet to pay for the gas fees.
If you want to buy and set up an ENS domain, follow these steps:
- Search for your desired ENS domain name: Start by going to the ENS app and searching for your desired domain name, then opening its details page.
- Connect your wallet and pay: If you find a domain you like, click the button on the left to connect your wallet. Enter your password as prompted.
- Confirm your transaction: Click the blue “Request to Register” button to begin the purchase process, then follow the prompts to check out. You’ll need the equivalent of $5 per year in ether plus enough for gas. As of this writing, gas costs about $160. Once your transaction is complete, you can view it on Etherscan and other blockchain explorers.
- Set renewal notification: If your registration expires, someone else can scoop up your name. Before you forget, take a moment to set up the notification tool to send you an email when it’s time to renew.
- Add domain details: Now that you own the domain and won’t forget to renew, it’s time to add your wallet addresses and any other desired text records.
Your purchase is then sent to the Ethereum network, where a miner records the transaction indicating that your wallet owns the address through the ENS smart contract. Congrats, you’re an ENS domain owner!
To learn more about hosting your own website, which requires more advanced technical skills, you can check out these guides from the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS).
Pros And Cons Of ENS Domains
Should You Get An ENS Domain?
For most people today, ENS domains are more of a vanity purchase than a necessity. But if you’re into cryptocurrency and believe Ethereum will remain a lasting part of the digital economy, you may find an ENS domain to be worthwhile.
I don’t get many payments with Ethereum regularly, so I don’t find myself sharing my ENS domain name yet. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful as cryptocurrency grows in popularity.
Owning a .ETH website is a fun way to interact with the blockchain and share your wallet address with others. So while you probably don’t need an ENS domain, they can be useful and a great way to learn more about the future of the internet. If you want to buy a .ETH domain name, click here to get started.
Eric Rosenberg is a financial writer, speaker, and consultant based in Ventura, California. He holds an undergraduate finance degree from the University of Colorado and an MBA in finance from the University of Denver. After working as a bank manager and then nearly a decade in corporate finance and accounting, Eric left the corporate world for full-time online self-employment. His work has been featured in online publications including Business Insider, Nerdwallet, Investopedia, The Balance, HuffPo, Investor Junkie, and other fine financial blogs and publications. When away from the computer, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, traveling the world, and tinkering with technology. Connect with him and learn more at EricRosenberg.com.