.bit Domains refer to the standard domains created on the Namecoin blockchain starting in 2011. They are widely regarded as the oldest NFTs on any blockchain. Namecoin is the first "altcoin" and a fork of the Bitcoin source code with modifications that allows expand the functionality to include more use cases. Namecoin serves as an alternative decentralized domain name system (DNS) and an identity system by introducing a key/value pair system on-chain. Domains on Namecoin can resolve decentralized websites, link to media, or provide access to content. The top level domain (TLD) on Namecoin, .bit, operates outside of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. .bit Domains are specific domains on namecoin that start with the d/ namespace and conform to a particular regex defined by the Namecoin Foundation. All other Namecoin assets are considered non-standard domains.
The world's first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was launched in 2009 by the anonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto. It was a revolutionary technology and capable of serving as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. However, the Bitcoin base layer was neither programmable nor flexible which lowered the surface area for attacks but prevented many use cases from being built on top of it.
The first "altcoin" ever, Namecoin, was launched on April 18, 2011. It was created by an anonymous individual or group of individuals known as "Vincent Durham," who published the original Namecoin white paper and released the software on the Bitcointalk forum. Namecoin was designed to be a decentralized alternative to traditional domain name systems (DNS) which are not resistant to censorship and interference. Another anonymous individual Khalahan "khal" Henkh served as the lead developer of the Namecoin project. Bitcoin's founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, reportedly assisted in the design and implementation of Namecoin in a secondary capacity, although researchers haven't been able to identify a direct link. The first Namecoin domain created was d/bitcoin.bit on April 21, 2011, and is widely considered to be the first NFT ever created.
Several years later Ethereum co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, referred to Namecoin domains as a "non-fungible asset" in the Ethereum white paper.
Unlike other Namecoin collections, .bit Domains have always had high visibility and didn't need to be rediscovered. There are certain .bit assets that have never expired, by virtue of being continuously renewed to this day. In Jan 2022, a community effort to promote these historical assets was launched, resulting in research, curation, resource development, and content creation for .bit Domains. Under this initiative, a Medium account is maintained by the community for raising awareness around these assets and disseminating information about them. The community also maintains several social media channels, has standardized the Emblem Vault (EV) title, picture, and descriptions in the listings, and has developed a sales tracker.
Supply and rarity
The total supply. of .bit Domains created between 2011 and 2017 is 591,076. The year-wise breakdown is 11,894 domains (2011), 57,582 domains (2012), 43,328 domains (2013), 55,014 domains (2014), 407,123 domains (2015), 8,893 domains (2016), and 7,242 domains (2017). Out of all early years, the largest supply is found in 2015 (407,123) and the least in 2017 (7,242). The .bit Domain community also created a "Genesis Club" of the 94 .domains that were registered on April 21, 2011, the first day of the Namecoin blockchain and the day the first NFTs were minted.This supply includes only valid .bit domains preceded by d/, which resolve to "Domain abc" on Namecoin wallets, by virtue of conforming to the regex set by the Namecoin Foundation, and doesn't include non-standard domains. Specific domains can refer to important places, people, events, concepts, companies, phenomena, etc., and are often valued by collectors regardless of the year or the total supply for that year if the domain is as desirable name.
Valid .bit Domain specifications
Valid .bit Domains must be an ASCII-encoded name in the form d/name, not exceeding 63 characters in length and conforming to the case-sensitive POSIX regex as set by the Namecoin Foundation:
According to this regex, the standard rules for domain names are enforced with these conditions:
- The domain names must not begin or end with a hyphen, and consecutive hyphens must not appear except as permitted by the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) specification (RFC 3492).
- As an additional constraint, wholly numeric names, such as d/123, are not permitted.
- It does not contain any underscores.
- The domain names which begin with a digit but which are not wholly numeric, such as d/123four are permitted.
- The d/ prefix identifies the domain names namespace within the Namecoin key namespace. Names under this prefix are reserved for use in relation to this specification and preceding versions of it. The keys not beginning with that prefix are wholly unrelated to this specification and are not required to conform to it.
- The part of the name following the d/ prefix is the name which manifests in the .bit TLD. A key of d/example registers the name example.bit.
- Since keys in the Namecoin key-value store are case sensitive, names must be in lowercase.
- The names with any uppercase characters shall be wholly ignored by compliant implementations and shall not manifest in the .bit TLD.
Emblem vault (EV) wrapping and trading
A .bit domain can be wrapped inside Emblem Vault (EV) for trading on secondary markets such as OpenSea. A new EV generator has been developed by the community, which creates the relevant information for wrapping .bit domains. Apart from these marketplaces, trading also happens over the counter (OTC) deals on the Discord and Twitter channels or via atomic swaps. Since .bit Domains are Namecoin assets, they expire after 36,000 blocks (approximately 9 months) and therefore must be periodically renewed. Some NMC (native Namecoin token) kept inside the vault are sufficient for auto-renewals and maintenance of continuous ownership of the assets. Alternatively, you can manually renew them in the Namecoin wallet you hold them in or inside Emblem Vault (EV) if you are using it.