The case for NFT usernames

Technology · 

NFTs is a highly criticized topic at the moment. And it's understandable, most NFT projects these days are crappy profile pictures (PFP) projects. But I believe that we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with NFTs, and there are other really interesting applications of this technology. Among them, one has particularly caught my attention: usernames.

If you don’t know what a NFT is, read this first.

A few days ago, Figma was able to get the @figma Twitter handle to replace the historic @figmadesign that they used for many years. I don’t really know who owned @figma before but to be able to get it, Figma must have dealt with Twitter directly, and they were able to do so because they are a renowned company.

On my side, I started a new side project two weeks ago and gave it a 3-letter name. The Twitter handle for that name is obviously taken, but from someone who hasn't tweeted since 2013. The account is pretty much anonymous so there’s no way to contact the owner to try to buy it. And as I’m not Figma, Twitter would certainly be less keen to respond to my requests.

This brings us back to NFTs. Last year, ENS publicly launched a way to map an easy-to-remember name (with the .eth suffix) to a wallet address (which is a long and complex string of numbers and letters). This is pretty much the same principle as a domain name resolving to an IP address.

What I realized later though is that when you buy an ENS username, you actually acquire a unique NFT of that username. Mine is here. It’s then easy to reconcile the fact that vinchbat.eth is associated with my wallet address 0x502e5174332239cee9915ab22764cd7684d27da1 because I own that NFT.

Now comes the interesting part... I got vinchbat.eth because my first choice (vinch.eth) was already taken (by this person). But if I'm really motivated and I want to buy vinch.eth no matter what, I could totally make an offer to that person directly and come to an arrangement, without any 3rd parties involved. ENS usernames also have expiration dates (just like domain names) written in the smart contract, so if that person is unresponsive, I could just wait. No more inactive account lying around for decades, and no third parties involved.

I think all new social networks that will appear from now on should use that strategy for usernames, or build on something existing, like ENS. It makes so much more sense.

Vincent Battaglia © 2022