A man’s home is his castle, no one can intrude in it or force you out, even the king of England! We all know that social media accounts are not our home as we can be banned or censored there, but how about self-hosted websites? are they truly our home?
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“US government seizes dozens of US website domains connected to Iran“, this was a news that went viral a few years ago and made the majority of us Iranians happy (including me), long story short: there were a bunch of .com websites which were owned by dozens of propaganda channels that were taken down by the domain name’s registrar by the order of the government.
But there’s something really sad and shocking about what happened for me and for everyone caring about freedom of speech and self custody, that internet domain names can be “seized” which means your domain name is like the amount of money you have in your bank account, it is yours only because the government wants it to be yours, not that you truly own it. I used to consider self-hosted websites a private and safe home so that as a man’s home is his castle, we can defend ourselves from whoever trying to force us out (as happened in “Instagram fixes outage that told millions their accounts were suspended“), or intrude in our private corner (as in “Twitter abruptly bans all links to Instagram, Mastodon, and other competitors“), but even the domains we use on self-hosted websites aren’t in our custody.
The most widely used generic Top Level Domains (TLDs) like .com, .net and .org, are all under US jurisdiction so they are all seize-prone.
Let’s break ccTLDs into 2 categories, Widely Used ccTLDs and some none-widely used ones that are attractive for me personally which I call Honorable Mentions.
1- Widely Used ccTLDs
There are some good domain name extensions that are coincidentally good to be used for other use cases than being affiliated with the country of origin, here is a list of my favorite ones:
|Name||Country||Use Case||Technical Contact|
|.me||Montenegro||Me||GoDaddy (US) &
Identity Digital (US) &
DoMEn d.o.o (ME)
|.io||British Indian Ocean Territory||International Organization||Identity Digital (US)|
|.ai||Anguilla||Artificial Intelligence||Vincent Cate (AI)|
As we see in the table, except .ai domain the rest of the extensions are managed by US corporations, The good thing about ccTLDs is that only the Technical Contacts of the domains are the choke point of being seize-prone and the Manager and Administrative Contacts are usually entities within the associated nation that don’t have a history of seizing domains (at least yet).
So technically speaking you can be deprived of your domain but legally it’s up to the associated country, and here comes an important question: If the US decides to take your ccTLD domain down, will it happen?
2- Honorable Mentions Among ccTLDs
These country code top level domains are owned by countries that have a better history of respecting internet freedom.
Top on the list is .ch, the Swiss extension which stands for Confoederatio Helvetica.
Switzerland has a long history of neutrality and this can be applied to the government’s attitude towards the internet too, WikiLeak’s switch to .ch after it’s .org Domain Getting Downed By Hosting Service, and also that privacy friendly companies like Proton are located there can be good examples of why the Swiss domains can be a better choice comparing to other ccTLDs.
Second on the list is Iceland, world’s most free country regarding the internet based on Freedom On The Net’s index (2022). Iceland and Estonia are the only countries in the list that have a score above 90.
At the end of the day, no matter whether it’s a US corporation or a casual government, or even a low profile government like Switzerland, that you don’t have custody over your domains makes you vulnerable to different types of attacks, it can be due to an order from a court, or simply because of a technical issue, as in October 7th 2021, An entire top-level domain got knocked offline and nothing could be done because Arizona was asleep.
Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is an equivalent of DNS on Ethereum Blockchain, if you buy a domain name and mint it on the blockchain almost no one can take it from you, just as any other token that you mint on a blockchain.
The logic behind .eth domains is set in a way that .eth domains resolve to specific IPFS (InterPlanetary FileSystem) directories which can be HTML files, now if that HTML file is an SPA (Single Page Application) that retrieves data from a specific server with a specific IP, you actually have a website whose domain is hosted on decentralized entities (Ethereum and IPFS).
.eth domains are currently the only “kinda” accepted decentralized solutions, and yet there are questions regarding it’s maturity and usability, to know more about ENS and .eth domains, read the second part of this post on Are We ENS/IPFS Yet.