NEAR Protocol (NEAR), the Blockchain that Wants to Optimize the Interaction Between Developers and Users

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NEAR Protocol (NEAR), the Blockchain that Wants to Optimize the Interaction Between Developers and Users
NEAR Protocol (NEAR), the Blockchain that Wants to Optimize the Interaction Between Developers and Users

Benefiting from a complete portal for young developers, NEAR Protocol tends to become the reference blockchain in simplifying the interaction between application development and the general public. Let’s see what makes this blockchain unique through its exclusive Nightshade Sharding and Doomslug mechanisms.

What is NEAR?

The NEAR Protocol blockchain, often abbreviated simply as ” NEAR “, is defined as an incubator platform for decentralized applications (Dapps) that aims to facilitate the transition to Web 3.0.

The project was born in 2018 under the aegis of Erick Trautman, an entrepreneur who worked on Wall Street and the founder of the Viking Code School programming school.

The NEAR ecosystem is divided into three distinct parts:

  • The ” NEAR University “, for developers, which includes courses to learn how to develop on the blockchain ranging from intermediate to expert level;
  • The “ NEAR Academy ” which aims to teach developers to set up decentralized applications on the blockchain ;
  • The ” NEAR Protocol “, this is the blockchain itself, which allows the application of protocols of DeFi, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), and the creation and exchange of non-fungible tokens ( NFTs).

NEAR is a layer 1 blockchain that works with the so-called Proof-of-Stake (PoS) method, which allows it to process transactions very quickly and avoids the various disadvantages of mining. As such, NEAR was certified as “carbon neutral” by the South Pole in February 2021.

The NEAR development team also developed the Aurora protocol. This is a solution for developers, allowing them to interact with the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain, thanks to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) solution. Concretely, this allows Dapps developed on Ethereum to have full compatibility with NEAR, but it also allows the exchange of tokens between the different blockchains.

Aurora enabled the development of the Rainbow Bridge, allowing tokens to be transferred between Aurora, NEAR and Ethereum.

Thanks to its exclusive sharding protocol, the NEAR blockchain can boast of managing 100,000 transactions per second.

The NEAR ecosystem also integrates the Octopus Network, which ensures the interoperability of “appchains” between NEAR and other blockchains such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polkadot or Cosmos.

NEAR is betting on becoming the reference blockchain to facilitate the development of applications and, at the same time, succeed in making them accessible to as many people as possible.

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The NEAR whitepaper sums it up like this:

“Applications deployed on the [NEAR] platform should be easy for end users to use and easy for developers to build.”

Logo of NEAR protocol (NEAR)

The NEAR Ecosystem

As Dapps continue to grow in popularity, blockchains often find themselves faced with the problem of scalability.

In concrete terms, this is the resilience capacity of a network in the face of an increasing influx of users and, therefore, necessarily an increasing influx of transactions.

The Ethereum blockchain has been dealing with this problem for a long time, and it results in transaction fees that are problematic, to say the least, as well as very high transaction finalization times. To overcome this problem, Ethereum intends to integrate the proof-of-stake (PoS) method by June 2022.

While waiting for this change, layer 2 solutions such as Arbitrum have been developed, making it possible to take advantage of the advantages of the Ethereum blockchain while solving these scalability problems.

And other projects, like NEAR, have decided to implement protocols aimed at solving this problem directly at the heart of blockchains.

Sharding

To address scalability issues, some networks operate with the sharding method. It is a method of breaking data horizontally into “smaller chunks”.

Thus, the data is lighter and requires less energy to be manipulated, but it is also no longer found within a single node.

To take the example of Amazon, the platform notably separates the data corresponding to orders from invoicing.

In this way, the data is also decentralized, which is much more interesting from a security and speed point of view.

The node’s response will also be much faster: Rather than looking for a certain piece of data in an endless list, it will directly look for the information in the correct list, which only contains a certain category of data.

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The schematization of the Sharding method – Source: AlgoDaily

This is a solution that will also be implemented on the Ethereum blockchain with the arrival of its version 2.0 in 2022 or 2023, depending on the roadmap.

Nightshade Sharding

A particular protocol has been put in place to secure the NEAR network, and it is “Nightshade Sharding”, created by the blockchain development team.

Unlike the classic sharding system, the data processing system is modeled as a single blockchain where each block contains transaction data from all shards.

However, no node “downloads” a complete block, only the shards for which it validates transactions. The list of all transactions in the blocks is called “Chunks”, with a ratio of 1 chunk per shard.

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Classic Sharding VS Nightshade Sharding

Thus, the shards are gathered as “Chunks”, optimizing the network.

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Chunks division system between blocks 

With this data processing system, NEAR claims to be able to handle 100,000 transactions per second.

The Doomslug System

The creation of blocks on the NEAR blockchain is carried out thanks to a particular system called “Doomslug”.

It is a variant of the Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) consensus, as explained in our Algorand blockchain brief.

In classic systems working with BFT like Tendermint from Cosmos Network, block validators participate in 2 rounds of voting per block. A block is considered finalized when 2/3 of the validators have provided their second vote to validate the block.

This is where Doomslug will work differently, as the voting system will start validating blocks from the first round of validator voting.

To avoid loopholes, if a malicious user is detected, the voting round starts again, and this user is eliminated.

Thus, the block creation process is almost uninterrupted because the number of voters required is significantly reduced compared to conventional methods working with the BFT method.

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Creating blocks with the Doomslug protocol

What is the NEAR Token Used for?

The NEAR token is used to pay the various fees for transactions carried out on the blockchain. Thanks to the Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus, the amount of these fees is very low.

Validators (validating nodes) are remunerated in proportion to the amount of NEAR tokens in their possession. It is a process similar to that of the Avalanche blockchain, for example.

Users who want to put their NEAR tokens to good use, but don’t have enough to expect to be selected as validators, can delegate them through validation pools. Thus, they earn rewards in NEAR tokens while actively participating in securing the network.

NEAR tends never to exceed 5% inflation on its token, thanks to an automatic burn system of 70% of the transaction fees collected.

NEAR tokens also serve as governance tokens. As such, NEAR owners can decide which direction the NEAR ecosystem will take through a voting system.

Fundraising for the NEAR Project

The first fundraising for the project took place on July 10, 2019, and raised $12.1 million with MetaStable Capital and Accomplice as lead investors.

On May 4, 2020, 7 different investment funds invested money in the project to the tune of $21.6 million. These include ZBS Capital, Pantera Capital, Fabric Ventures and CoinFund.

In August 2020, the project managed to raise $33.6 million from the general public through ICOs, which is 100% of the goal.

The project is now supported by several investment funds such as CoinFund, Coinbase Ventures, Dragonfly Capital, Homebrew and Pantera Capitals.

A fundraiser led by Three-Arrows Capital succeeded in reaching $150 million in early 2022 with the aim of developing the ecosystem as a whole.

In April 2022, NEAR will acquire an additional $350 million to accelerate its decentralization.

NEAR Team and Partners

The Team Behind NEAR

NEAR Protocol was founded by Erik Trautman, an entrepreneur who notably worked on the Wall Street stock exchange and founder of the Viking Code School.

Among its co-founders, we find Illia Polosukhin, formerly of Google, having operated in the Google Translation branch. Also interested in artificial intelligence, he actively participated in the development of Tensor Flow, a computer language also developed by Google.

We also find Alexander Skidanov, who worked for Microsoft and was director of engineering at memSQL. He is a double medalist of the ICPC prize, where universities from all over the world compete in computer programming competitions.

In the current team, we also find Evegeny Kapun, twice the world champion of the same ICPC competition in 2009 and 2012. He accumulated 7 years of knowledge in the development of blockchains within various projects before joining the NEAR team.

NEAR states that it is working to recruit people with experience in the blockchain sector and, more specifically, in the development of sharding in order to optimize its network in this direction.

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On the left, Alexander Skidanov. On the right, Illia Polosukhin.

NEAR Partners

In February 2021, the NEAR blockchain welcomed the PARAS platform within it. In particular, you can exchange collectible cards in the form of NFTs. Today, more than 80,000 transactions take place monthly on the platform, representing approximately $3.3 million in trading volume.

The same month, NEAR announced a partnership with the decentralized indexing protocol The Graph, designed to facilitate information queries from  smart contracts in the Web 3.0 ecosystem. This partnership has notably enabled the development of interoperable Dapps on different blockchains.

In March of the same year, the Octopus Network announced that it would now be hosted on the NEAR blockchain. It is a blockchain project incubator operating with its OCT governance token, ensuring the security of the various protocols via a quorum system to validate the finality of the blocks.

Also, in March, the blockchain entered into a partnership with Mask Network, a protocol that defines itself as “a bridge between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0”. This is a browser extension that allows you, for example, to buy tokens in real-time on the Twitter social network when a ticker like “$ETH” or “$DOGE” appears, for example, via a pop system-up integrated. The project is supported by Binance, among others.

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Non-exhaustive list of NEAR ecosystem partners – Source: Coin98

The various blockchain partners can be seen on their dedicated news page.

How to Buy NEAR Tokens?

The NEAR token is now available on most major exchanges.

You can find it in particular on Binance, KuCoin, Gate.io, Bitfinex, Crypto.com or Huobi Global.

Explanations for Buying NEAR on Binance

  • Register on Binance;
  • You will receive an email and need to click on a link to verify your account;
  • Deposit funds on the platform;
  • Click on the Market menu and look for the NEAR/USDT pair ;
  • All you have to do is buy NEAR for the amount of your choice;
  • Congratulations, you are now in possession of NEAR tokens.

Ratings and Reviews on NEAR and its Token

Although rather discreet until now, it could be that thanks to its partnership with Mask Network, the NEAR blockchain turned out to be one of the pioneers of the transition from Web 2 to Web 3.0.

Thanks to the Aurora protocol developed within its network, the blockchain already ensures compatibility with ERC-20 tokens and, more generally, with the Dapps deployed on the Ethereum blockchain.

In addition, the association with Octopus Network allows NEAR to ensure interoperability with other blockchains while extending the reach of Dapps developed on its network.

The stability, security and scalability of its network are ensured by the proof-of-stake method, also allowing NEAR to display a carbon footprint close to 0.

The NEAR ecosystem seems to be in its infancy since we can still observe very few decentralized applications. But with its desire to make application development possible for as many users as possible, thanks to the NEAR Academy and NEAR University, interesting projects may soon emerge.

The blockchain began to emerge at the end of August 2021, and the price of the NEAR token crossed the symbolic threshold of 20 dollars at the beginning of 2022. At the same time, its market capitalization was 10.8 billion dollars.

The arrival of the UST stablecoin on the Aurora protocol could also be a harbinger of success for the NEAR blockchain. Indeed, the UST exploded at the end of 2021 to reach the 4th position in the ranking of stablecoins with more than 10 billion dollars in capitalization.

Thanks to its remunerative staking system, the development of its own digital wallet and its system of exclusive pseudonyms (no more endless user addresses), NEAR intends to play the proximity card with its users.

NEAR is still in its infancy, but blockchain looks promising. A project to follow closely, undoubtedly.