Imagine a digital world in which no website can ever be taken down—and no content can ever be censored—by anyone other than the web domain’s owner.
That’s the vision behind Unstoppable Domains, a San Francisco-based software company using blockchains to register web domains and build “uncensorable websites” that exist beyond the reach of even the most repressive governments. If it succeeds, its technology might even make sending and receiving crypto payments easier, too.
And a recent injection of cash from some big players in the crypto industry is now bringing the company one step closer to making that vision a reality.
On Thursday, Unstoppable Domains announced it secured $4 million in funding in a Series A led by Draper Associates and Boost VC. With cash in hand, the company is now poised to hire the talent it needs to fulfill its mission: “Global free speech.”
“The Internet is not free from censorship in most of the world,” Cofounder and Head of Business Development Bradley Kam said in an interview. “In some countries it’s worse than in others, but the problem is global.”
Kam said that the rise of the Chinese surveillance state and the advent of more advanced forms of monitoring, such as facial-recognition technology and Russia’s attempts to completely control the Internet within its borders, demonstrates that “the need for global free-speech tools is growing fast.”
Tim Draper, managing partner of Draper Associates, echoed Kam’s sentiment in an earlier statement: “By decentralizing domain names, Unstoppable Domains has the potential to spread free speech around the world,” he said.
In addition to funding from Draper and Boost VC, Unstoppable Domains has also received grants from the Ethereum Foundation and the Zilliqa Foundation to build out its technology. The company uses Zilliqa to create unique “.zil” domain extensions (similar to the more familiar, top-level domain “.com” or “.net” extensions) that are stored in a cryptocurrency wallet. It’s that crypto twist that makes these domains resistant to seizures or take-down requests—even from law enforcement.
“The user controls the domain with their private keys,” said Kam. “No one other than the person holding those keys can take the domain away.”
Websites created through Unstoppable Domains will also make use of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) or other decentralized networks for content storage. This combination of decentralized file storage and web domains protected by a private key is what the company claims will lay the foundation for utterly free speech online.
And if that should make anyone uncomfortable, considering the possibility that this technology could be used by criminals or other miscreants for nefarious purposes, Unstoppable Domains CEO Matthew Gould is confident that you need not worry.
“This is the same argument critics originally launched [against] Bitcoin,” he said. “Yes, any technology can be used for criminal purposes; anyone can use them for any purpose. [But] the purpose of decentralized technology is to put power back into end users’ hands—which can be a little scary,” said Gould. “Ultimately, we believe the global good, and the vast majority of usage, will be socially positive.”
Gould said that Unstoppable Domains has been working on its technology since 2017, but his team’s interest in cryptocurrency and its potential for societal change goes back further than that. “We’ve been crypto enthusiasts since 2012 and have believed that crypto payments were too complex to go mainstream,” he said. “Just like IP addresses were replaced with the DNS system, we believe cryptocurrency addresses will be replaced with human-readable names.”
In this vein, blockchain domains are meant to fulfill a dual purpose—beyond just censorship-resistant websites, the domains will also function as a “human-readable” cryptocurrency address. For example, Unstoppable Domains’ users will be able to attach BTC, ETH, and other cryptocurrencies to a “domain.zil” address, and receive payments to that address from other crypto wallets.
The company is currently accepting pre-orders for .zil domain names, with websites and public auctions for domains set to go live in late June. It plans to use its recent round of funding to expand its product team and build integrations with more wallets and exchanges, inching closer to creating what its founders believe is the Internet of tomorrow.
Our decentralized future is “a place where no one with a legitimate point of view can be silenced or restricted from commercial activities,” Gould said. “The future will be a world where no one person or group decides what can and can’t be seen online. Users will choose.”