FAQ

GENERAL

How do Internet names currently work? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

When a domain name is resolved to a corresponding server in the IP space, it uses a recursive DNS resolver such as Google's Public DNS server. DNS servers query a number of root servers maintained by one of 12 centralized entities. These root servers serve the "root zone". The root zone is the collection of Top Level Domains (TLDs) like .com, .net, .org, etc.

Why does the Certificate Authority system benefit from decentralization? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Compromised certificate authorities threaten SSL. Billions of dollars are currently being moved around on potentially insecure websites. If you’re personally identifiable as the owner of a valuable asset, there’s a risk to your personal safety. Even though WHOIS records have been scrubbed of private information — with the current naming system, your information can still be subpoenaed from a domain registrar.

What issues have occured with the centralized nature of the root zone and DNS as it currently stands? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Certificate authorities and private owners of TLDs impose fees while often compromising the security of SSL by issuing bad certificates or cooperating with government attempts to spy on encrypted traffic or censor undesirable content. One common mechanism of Internet censorship that has been used with increasing and alarming frequency is DNS filtering and redirection. Another area where the centralized nature of Internet names has come to a head is domain registration privacy. Additionally, the way DNS is currently centered at a handful of choke points allows for DDoS attacks like we saw in the 2016 attack on Dyn.

Does Handshake replace DNS? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

No. Handshake is meant to replace the root zone file, not DNS. Browsing the web with human readable names is what Internet users have gotten acclimated to. Our solution allows for a seamless transition between a centralized name root zone file controlled by private parties to a decentralized root zone file controlled by actual Internet users. The Handshake blockchain itself is essentially one big distributed zone file in which anyone has the right to add an entry in.

What can you do with Handshake and DNS now? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Using OpenSSH, it’s possible to store SSH fingerprints in DNS. This means that if you're using a Handshake Name System (HNS) resolver, you can actually already verify SSH fingerprints in a decentralized way. This is possible without needing to install any additional, special SSH software.

DNS has an additional feature that allows you to verify TLS certificates by storing a hash of your ‘SubjectPublicKeyInfo’. This means that there is now a P2P way to trust self-signed certificates, as long as they have a valid DNSSEC trust chain set up. Anyone can set up a valid trust chain without having to ask anyone's permission to do so.

How is Handshake different from other decentralized naming projects? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Many other decentralized naming systems did not allow for secure “light clients” (simple payment verification mode), forcing every potential user to run a full node, equivalent to saving all the domains in the world on your computer. Another key differentiator is that Handshake is the first to pre-reserve names for existing trademark name holders.

COMMUNITY GRANTS

Why is Handshake donating $10.2 million to nonprofits and free/open source projects? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Handshake’s original incubators, Purse.io and Private Internet Access, provided enough support to build and launch the platform without additional funding. The pre-launch project contributors don’t require additional capital from our subsequent investors, but what we do need is their deep expertise in early stage technology venture valuation. Accepting their investment at mutually agreed upon terms ensures Handshake launches at a reasonable valuation and enables us to immediately bootstrap our decentralized market for Internet names. Beyond that Handshake has everything we need and that capital is better deployed by the FOSS organizations to which we have pledged to contribute it. In the spirit of free software and radical gifting we’ve taken the validation value from this project and shared it with the world.

Why is Handshake distributing coins to free and open source contributors? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

The Internet, and civilization as a whole, would not be where it is today without the hard work of the free software and open source community and the projects that they work on. The Handshake blockchain will start with an initial supply of 1.36 billion coins, of which 77.5% will be gifted to FLOSS developers and projects, as well as non profit organizations, universities.

Read more about it on our FLOSS Pledge Page.

How many Handshake coins are being distributed to free and open source projects? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

70% of the Handshake coins at launch will be distributed to FOSS projects, universities, and nonprofits. 65% will be distributed directly to individual developers, 5% to projects.

How can my university participate? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Please email [email protected] for more information on how to get your university involved.

NAMES

Why is Handshake allowing trademark holders to claim their names on HNS? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Handshake is holding a thirty day sunrise period before launch to allow existing rights-holders to claim their trademarked names. This is in order to help the seamless transition from a centralized root zone file to a decentralized root zone file. Read more in our Handshake Name Trademark Disclaimer.

Why is Handshake pre-reserving the top 100,000 domain names according to Alexa.com? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Existing TLDs and the top 100,000 Alexa websites are reserved on the Handshake blockchain. Upon removing collisions and exclusions (e.g. 1 or 2 character names), approximately 80,000 names remain. Using the root key and DNSSEC, domain owners can cryptographically prove ownership to the Handshake blockchain to claim names.

Why is Handshake allowing trademark holders to claim their names on HNS? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Handshake is holding a sunrise period before launch to allow existing rights-holders to claim their trademarked names. This is in order to help the seamless transition from a centralized root zone file to a decentralized root zone file. Read more in our Handshake Name Trademark Disclaimer.

What is the challenge with secure name resolution? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

The largest challenge is the “key exchange problem.” This can be solved by putting the certificate and names on the blockchain and tying their ownership to private keys. This is Handshake’s key innovation on the root zone file.

How do I register a Handshake name? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Handshake leverages a blockchain based on unspent transaction output (UTXO) and proof-of-work (PoW) similar to Bitcoin for naming capabilities. The naming system features an on-chain smart contract-like functionality called covenants which restrict the future use of outputs of a transaction. Because covenants are built in at the blockchain layer via the consensus protocol, the handshake system enables different types of smart contracts which is used to develop an auction system for individuals to bid on domain naming rights.

What does the Handshake names auction process look like? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Users can buy or register domains through a Vickrey auction using HNS coins. All possible names are released weekly over the first year after launch. Users may submit blinded bids on the Handshake blockchain anytime after a name is released for auction. Bidding is open to everyone for 5 days after the reveal period, and have 10 days to reveal their bid price. A winner is assigned the name and, as it is a Vickrey auction, pays the second highest bid at the end of the reveal period. The winning bid amount of HNS coins is burned and permanently removed from circulation. Losing bids are returned and not burned.

How long are my names good for? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Handshake names are registered for one year at a time. Names can be renewed annually by paying a standard network fee.

Who gets the annual renewal fee? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Renewals for names are annual and cost a standard network fee. Miners will receive the transaction fee as part of their block reward.

How do I transfer ownership of a name? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

If someone owns a name directly, the current owner can give the destination address/key to the new recipient. Sender creates a transaction to send the domain to receiver, and a block is mined on the blockchain. One week after the transaction is confirmed, it is locked in. Transferring ownership may also have payments embedded, so the recipient will receive coins if and only if the transfer is successful. This means that users do not need to use 3rd party escrow to pay for transfer.

Can I visit existing .com websites after switching to Handshake? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Yes. The root zone file provided by HNS resolvers will include information about existing TLDs that users are used to.

FAUCET

How do I become a verified developer or Free and Open Source Software community member? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

We are verifying FLOSS developers and community members. If you have a Freenode IRC account that was created before 12/29/2017, you are eligible to receive a Handshake coin distribution at the Airdrop. If you have a GitHub account that passes our filter, you are eligible to receive a handshake coin distribution at the Airdrop.

Do I need to pay taxes on my Handshake coin distribution? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Open source developers and community members can claim ownership through the Handshake faucet by verifying contributions on Github, via an eligible freenode account, or PGP. Github faucet distributions are processed manually on a weekly basis.

When will the Handshake faucet occur? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

The Handshake faucet will occur after launch and the genesis block. In the 30 days between announcement and launch, FOSS developers and community members can verify themselves on our site to receive their portion of the Handshake faucet.

I am a verified developer or Free and Open Source Software community member. Do I need to maintain my seed phrase? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Yes. In order to receive your Handshake coin faucet at launch, you need to maintain your seed phrase securely.

Why do I need to identify myself? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Faucet participants must be screened for two reasons. First, the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) maintains a list of sanctioned countries and individuals that require screening of faucet participants. If you are a sanctioned individual or reside within a sanctioned country, you will be unable to participate in the faucet. Second, if you are capable of and choose to receive all 7,500 HNS before launch of the mainnet or are using the faucet following mainnet launch, Handshake is required under U.S. tax law to obtain this information from you, as well as file a report with the U.S. We don’t want any of you to feel obligated to provide this information to participate in the Handshake community. If you would prefer not to, please do not verify all three methods before the mainnet launch and handle your tax reporting obligations independently.

What information is required? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Before launch of the mainnet, faucet participants who select 1-2 methods of verification initially need to confirm their name and country of residence. If further information is required to confirm your status, you may be required to submit additional identifying documents, including photo ID. Pre-mainnet faucet participants who wish to claim the maximum amount of coins by successfully verifying all 3 methods and all faucet participants following mainnet launch are required to provide full identifying information, including a tax identification number. Please understand that you must complete this process to receive the maximum amount of coins and you should only apply for all three methods if you are comfortable providing this information.

How will the verification process work? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Participants can begin verifying themselves at verification.handshake.org. This process is for those claiming 7,500 coins or the claim process is made after mainnet launch. Faucet participants who need to provide more than basic identity information should be ready to provide specified personal identification documents. After navigating the instructions, faucet participants will be taken to a third-party verification platform to submit information. This platform will be responsible for running compliance checks and obtaining required tax information, if necessary. Upon successful completion, faucet participants will receive an email confirmation. If more information is required, you will receive an email with additional instructions. Faucet participants who have signed up but failed to verify may opt to receive email reminders to complete the verification process.

Does Handshake have access to faucet participant’s personal information and documents submitted in the verification process? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

If you opt to receive the maximum amount of Coins or you are a faucet participant after the mainnet launch, Handshake will have access to the verification information you’ve provided for purposes of preparing required tax reports. We will never sell, market or otherwise attempt to use or monetize this verification information. We hope to destroy all possession of this information as soon as we are informed that it is legally permissible. For more information on our general policies for how we handle personal information, please see our site’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Who is conducting Handshake’s verification process? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Handshake has partnered with Tokensoft.io, a market leading distribution and compliance platform, to verify participants’ identities. No fee is required to submit information through Tokensoft.

What if a faucet participant does not have required identification documents to complete the verification process? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

Unfortunately, participants who are required to submit identification documents and do not have a valid identification document as specified in the verification instructions received via email cannot complete verification. There is no way around this.

Does the verification process need to be completed immediately? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

No. Faucet participants may sign-up, generate addresses, and complete verification. Coins will not be available in your wallet until you complete the process.

What if a faucet participant’s identity is incorrectly flagged? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

You will have an opportunity to submit additional identifying information if you believe you have been incorrectly flagged. We do not have control of approving you during this process. If you are unable to pass required screening tests, you will be unable to claim Coins.

Do I have to file taxes for Coins from participating in the faucet? Toggle expanded answer on mobile Toggle expanded answer on mobile

We don’t know whether you have tax obligations and nothing we say should ever be taken as tax or legal advice since laws vary by state and country. If you don’t know whether you can accept Coins or have to pay taxes under your country’s laws, we encourage you to seek out a local professional who can help you.