ENS Beginner's Guide


User experience is a key challenge when developing a dapp. Ethereum has complexities that should be hidden away to enable broad adoption. One such complexity, is an Ethereum address, it is long, unwieldy, and hard to remember.

The Ethereum Name Service (ENS) is a useful tool for dapp developers. ENS is like DNS, in that it maps a memorable shortcut to an address. Using ENS we can map the friendly name ethereum.eth to the rather unfriendly 0xfB6916095ca1df60bB79Ce92cE3Ea74c37c5d359. Subsequently, we can use the friendly name in-place of the address, making it easier to remember, and reducing the chance of errors.

An ENS name has a root name ethereum.eth which can contain sub-names like wallet.ethereum.eth. Whoever successfully bid for the root name in a Vickrey auction owns it. The auction will be replaced with an instant registration process set for launch 4th May.

ENS doesn't just map to addresses. ENS is highly extensible and supports many types of mappings. It is possible to map the same friendly name to multiple endpoints at the same time.

For example the ethereum.eth name could point to:

Code Example

Many Ethereum libraries, including Web3.js now support ENS lookups out-of-the-box. Using ENS is not as intuitive as the library documentation suggests, there are a number of things to look out for.

To show how to lookup ENS names we create a simple Node.js command-line tool called enslookup. Given an ENS name as an argument it queries the ENS registry for information about that name.


First install Node.js and npm by following the install instructions on the Node.js website.

If you are not running a full mainnet Ethereum node, you need to setup an Infura endpoint. This is easy to do - just sign up on the infura.io website, create a new project and copy the mainnet URL. It should be something like "mainnet.infura.io/v3/{your project id}".

Now set your Infura URL including https:// at the beginning, as an environment variable. This sets it for the current session so if you close your terminal window you need to do it again.

On Linux or macOS:

export INFURA_URL=https://mainnet.infura.io/v3/{your project id}

On Windows:

set INFURA_URL=https://mainnet.infura.io/v3/{your project id}

Create a new project directory called enslookup and change directory into it.

mkdir enslookup
cd enslookup


We are using Web3.js to interact with the ENS registry. To install Web3.js use the Node.js package manager.

Create a package.json file.

npm init -y

Then install the Web3.js package.

npm install web3 --save


Create a new file called enslookup (notice there is no file extension).

If you are on a Linux or macOS, make the file executable:

chmod +x enslookup

Edit the file in your favorite editor - don't worry too much about the code here but it:

##!/usr/bin/env node

(async () => {

    // get the ens name to lookup as the first argument to the command
    const [,,name] = process.argv;
    // bail if no name provided
        console.error('No name provided for lookup\nUsage: enslookup <name>')
    // bail if no infura url provided as environment variable
        console.error(`Missing INFURA_URL environment variable`);

    // Remaining code goes here


Next, we setup Web3.js to connect to Ethereum:

// load web3 library
const Web3 = require('web3');

// connect to an Infura endpoint to connect to Ethereum (passed as Environment Variable)
// feel free to use your own mainnet node
const web3 = new Web3(process.env.INFURA_URL);

Now, it is tempting to jump right in and lookup an address using web3.eth.ens.getAddress(EnsName) but there is something important to consider first.

To resolve an address, the ENS name's owner must have configured a resolver smart contract. It is likely that a resolver smart contract has not been configured for the ENS name. If you call web3.eth.ens.getAddress(EnsName) on an ENS name that has no resolver smart contract configured, Web3.js gives you an unhelpful error message. UPDATE: As of Web3 version beta.52 this issue has been resolved - go Web3.js team!

First, we check the existence of the resolver smart contract for the ENS name:

 // get the resolver contract
const resolver = await web3.eth.ens.resolver(name);

// get the resolver contract address
const resolverAddress = resolver.address;

// bail if resolver does not exist
if(resolverAddress === '0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000'){

Surely we are ready to lookup an ENS address... right? Yes, kinda...

Looking up addresses has been part of ENS from day 1 but other types of mapping have been added later. Consequently, the resolver smart contracts configured for each ENS name, may differ in what they support because they were deployed at different times.

The ENS team have implemented standard interface detection to allow checking which mapping types a resolver smart contract supports.

Here is a list of the currently available interfaces (there are more but some are deprecated):

const ensInterface = {
    address: '0x3b3b57de',
    contentHash: '0xbc1c58d1',
    pubKey: '0xc8690233'

Here is how you look up an address and its balance:

if(await web3.eth.ens.supportsInterface(name, ensInterface.address)){
    const address = await web3.eth.ens.getAddress(name);
    const balanceWei = await web3.eth.getBalance(address);
    console.log(`Address:\t${address} (${web3.utils.fromWei(balanceWei, 'ether')} ether)`);

Here is how you look up a public encryption key:

if(await web3.eth.ens.supportsInterface(name, ensInterface.pubKey)){
    const {x, y} = await web3.eth.ens.getPubkey(name);
    console.log(`Public Key:`);
    console.log(`\t\tx = ${x}`);
    console.log(`\t\ty = ${y}`);

Here is how you look up a content hash (see EIP-1577 for format):

if(await web3.eth.ens.supportsInterface(name, ensInterface.contentHash)){
    const contentHash = await web3.eth.ens.getContenthash(name);
    console.log(`Content hash:\t${contentHash}`);

Before you run the enslookup command make sure you set your Infura URL environment variable, as described above.

When running the enslookup command on ethereum.eth:

$ ./enslookup ethereum.eth

Name:       ethereum.eth
Resolver:   0x1da022710dF5002339274AaDEe8D58218e9D6AB5
Address:    0xfB6916095ca1df60bB79Ce92cE3Ea74c37c5d359 (3295.179176904502385668 ether)
Public Key:
        x = 0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
        y = 0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Note on Windows you have to run node enslookup

The full code for the enslookup example is available on github.

Future of ENS

The ENS team are restlessly adding new features and expanding ENS's capabilities.

For example, they are adding two new mappings:

We have only scratched the surface of ENS and its ability to improve user experience.

How will you use ENS in your dapp?

Thank you to Nick Johnson for his great feedback.