Cointelegraph By Jeffrey Albus
Someone sent Mark Cuban a profane Ethereum Name Service domain a few days ago. After observant Twitter users recently tracked down his ether address, it was only a matter of time before a wave of unwanted spam transactions made their way into his account. This is, after all, the internet. Here there be monsters.
While it isn’t entirely clear what the presumed troll’s endgame was, the word was nonetheless offensive enough to raise some eyebrows at Cointelegraph, and we don’t intend to reprint it here. Suffice to say, a decent person would not want to be known as the owner of this domain, even if they weren’t a celebrity billionaire.
We reached out to Mark Cuban to find out, first of all, if he knew anything about its origin. Had he purchased it himself? Was he even aware he owned it? And most importantly, what were his plans for the name going forward?
“Damn. No, I don’t own [it]. I guess anyone can put an eth address to a domain. I don’t even know if it’s possible to change it. Thanks for the heads up.”
While Cuban has become increasingly involved in the blockchain space of late, he’s still a relative newcomer to certain aspects of the community. As such, his understanding of how Ethereum Name Service, or ENS, domains are acquired, controlled, and transferred was somewhat limited initially.
ENS offers users a decentralized way to use human-readable words for their blockchain address instead of an unwieldy alpha-numeric string. Vitalik Buterin, for instance, is known to utilize vitalik.eth for his address instead of 0xd8dA6BF26964aF9D7eEd9e03E53415D37aA96045. Easy peasy.
The difficulty with this service is that once you own an ENS domain, you can point it at any address on the Ethereum blockchain without requiring permission from the address’ owner. This allows internet tricksters to target offensive domain names at unsuspecting users in an attempt to make it appear that they are appropriating unsavory words and phrases by choice.
Cuban picked up on this inherent difficulty, noting “it’s obvious that it was sent to me and I didn’t buy it.” He asked Cointelegraph “Is it possible to cancel [the name] or reject the contract?” Digging deeper, it became clear that the troll had made something of an error in judgement. There are three parts to an ENS domain — the Registrant, which is the owner, the Controller, which manages subdomains as well as where the domain name points, and the Record, which notes the actual address where coins are received when the domain is input into a wallet.
Generally, when mischief makers point a domain at an unsuspecting user’s address, they only change either the Controller or the Record. They don’t usually give up total control of the domain itself. This particular troll, who Cuban amusingly referred to as an “idiot”, had instead provided the full Registrant rights to his address. This allotted him unfettered ownership and control of the domain.
With that in mind, and with some technical help from Cointelegraph, Cuban struck on a way to one-up the foolish troll and dispose of the name once and for all. He altered the Controller, Record, and finally Registrant so that they would each be owned by a burner address — i.e. an address whose private keys are nullified either by design or intention. In Mark’s case, this involved creating a new throwaway wallet himself, with the objective of making it inaccessible once his mission was complete. When asked about his timeline for disposing of the wallet’s keys, he quipped:
“What keys? They are gone.”
As a result, the domain now effectively has no owner. And so it will remain (at least until the registration expires.)
When faced with questions as to how similar ownership quirks should be handled in future, Cuban maintained that the responsibility for such transgressions ultimately falls on the developers of decentralized applications:
“This is a problem that ENS is going to have to fix. There needs to be acceptance of a transfer. Otherwise the abuse will be really really bad. This is a weakness in the system that needs to be fixed.”
Mark Cuban has been working to mature his stature within the blockchain community over the last few months. Yesterday, he participated in an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, using the opportunity to discuss the future of distributed technology and traditional finance. In January, he made headlines by comparing crypto’s current trajectory to the dot com bubble — an era which paved the way for some of his initial success back in the late 90’s.