Think the obsession with branded web3 crypto domains is an overhyped fad? Unless your email address is something like firstname.lastname@example.org, you’ve already bought into the branded address movement, just like everyone else finally did 30 years ago.
In the early days of personal computing, network enthusiasts were assigned a string of numbers to communicate with each other on CompuServe. Randomly assigned and formatted as 7 octal digits, this growing community was ported to the public internet in 1989. Almost overnight, they became reachable from outside their network through an email address linked to their numerical ID such as email@example.com.
CompuServe effectively led America’s internet march forward until a rival, America Online, posed a threat. Offering users the option to select a memorable branded name and email address as early as 1992, the AOL branded name concept became ubiquitously known as a “Screen Name.”
CompuServe ignored it, partially because its aging technological infrastructure wasn’t designed to escape the numerical name system. But also because Americans and people the world over still weren’t sure what it was they liked about access to the Information Superhighway. Many critics compared the two on price. But as AOL began to crush CompuServe, CompuServe finally had no choice but to try and make its service more appealing to the public. It began with screen names.
“Finally it has happened!,” an announcement said. “CompuServe users can now forget about hard to remember email addresses with numbers (such as 72223.10@CompuServe.com) and start using ‘normal looking’ email addresses like the rest of the world! … If you’re a CompuServe user, just GO REGISTER to choose your new email address (actually, this is an alias to your current CompuServer email address, so you can use both addresses if you like)… If you’re not a CompuServe user, but frequently send email to CompuServe accounts, you might want to find out what their ‘easy to remember email alias’ is.”
Twenty million American adults had access to the internet that year. America Online would go on to register 35 million subscribers alone by the year 2002, impressing upon an entire generation the value of one’s “screen name.”
Today, almost nobody would ever think to use a string of random digits to identify themselves, yet that is exactly what crypto addresses have accomplished. In the case of ethereum, for example, a randomly assigned string of 42-chars is a hark back to the pre-1996 CompuServe era on steroids.
Perhaps if they were still around, they’d publish a more modern version.
“Finally it has happened! Web3 users can now forget about hard to remember crypto addresss (such as 0x8018asdfdssd809128320912428dfakd998) and start using ‘normal looking’ addresses like the rest of the world! … If you’re a Web3 user, just GO REGISTER to choose your new web3 address (actually, this is an alias to your current crypto address, so you can use both addresses if you like).”
Fintech companies looking to tether customers to their platforms long-term will have no choice but to adopt web3 into their strategies. But how to do that? An easy solution would be to take advantage of the subdomain feature of the Ethereum Name Service (ENS).
With ENS, anyone can create subdomains of .eth domains that they own. It costs gas but the process is simple, simple enough that fintech companies may have an interest in offering a variety of custom ENS names for their customers to choose from.
And if they are successful in getting a customer attached to that name, well then that customer’s entire individual web3 identity will potentially live on the fintech company’s platform. In doing this, it may be smart to offer subdomains of a variety of top-level .eths, even if the branding is unrelated to the fintech company.
Imagine, for example, that a fintech company offered new customers the option to choose any username they want attached from the following options.
A company that tires of its relationship with the fintech company might not feel compelled to change their web3 identity if perhaps rocknroll.eth is the domain their account is registered under. And thus the customer remains connected to the original fintech who controls that subdomain.
They say it’s the rarity, simplicity, or utility behind a short ENS .eth domain that has allowed communities like the #10kclub and #999club to crop up seemingly overnight. As the mad dash to mint out 3-digit or 4-digit variations of domains played out last week, some seasoned pros in the NFT scene were bewildered by the conviction exhibited by eager buyers.
But there might be something there, a magic tweet to hang their hat on. Vitalik Buterin, internationally renowned co-founder of Ethereum, not only advertises his own ENS domain (Vitalik.eth), he talked up the value of a three & four-letter name back in 2020.
Three and four-letter ENS names: they're a fixed-supply asset *and* you can do things with them!
If you ever dreamed of organically picking up a .eth domain with a string of just 3 or 4 numbers, you’re too late, they’re all sold out. What began as a fun competition between whales to collect all of the .eth domains between 000 and 999 (at a price tag of $680/year each) sparked a wild frenzy to buy up 4-digit .eth domains once all the 3-digit ones sold out.
At a cost of approximately $200/year, 4-digit .eth domains are less expensive, though there are 10x as many available as 3-digit domains. The large supply, however, led few to speculate that all of them might actually be bought up. That all changed within 24 hours when it was reported that nearly 30% of all 4-digit domains had been acquired in record time. By Tuesday morning, the crypto community on twitter came to the realization that given enough time (weeks maybe) they would probably all end up being bought. That only accelerated the buying frenzy.
By late Tuesday afternoon there was a growing belief that it could even be much sooner, maybe even by Wednesday night. It was even quicker than that. Every single 4-digit .eth domain had been minted as of approximately 10pm EST that same day.
The #999club, an informal collective of 3-digit .eth domain holders were quick to congratulate their 4-digit brethren. A #999club twitter spaces call that followed was full of predictions that short number identifiers would be the future of identity on the blockchain. On OpenSea, 4-digit .eth domains immediately began to trade for double the mint price and holders of them already began to plan the strategic launch of a group discord and exclusive club.
It remains to be seen what will come of it all.
Sincerely, 3531.eth. I am not ashamed to say that I FOMO’d in.