Near Protocol: Bridging the gap to mainstream adoption

Blockchain technology is rapidly evolving, but along the way, it has encountered various issues that must be resolved before crypto finally conquers our economy. It is safe to argue that the most critical difficulty for the initial iteration of blockchain networks is the scalability dilemma. To address this issue, several networks are focusing on enhancing the consensus mechanisms or algorithms. Other platforms prefer to use sharding technology or just offload work to auxiliary networks.

However, only a few projects have proven themselves worthy in the crypto Wild West. One of them is the NEAR protocol, which has already challenged major players’ dominance by implementing Nightshade sharding technology and WASM-based virtual machine. Thus, it will be beneficial to examine the platform’s overall capabilities and applications in more detail.

What is Near Protocol?

The NEAR Protocol is a smart contract platform that functions as a sharded layer-one blockchain. One of its key goals is to provide on-demand scalability. It is a trustworthy and user-friendly proof-of-stake network. Initially, NEAR was founded by Erik Trautman and two other co-founders, who are still in charge, actively representing the platform to the broad public and working on its development.

As far as our observations go, we can identify three primary network focuses. First and foremost, it is the formation of a decent collective in which you can create, invest, and profit. The second main aim is to create a truly decentralized system and a community-run cloud where asset ownership is transparent and real. The third crucial point is a combination of security (NEAR has never been hacked, unlike dozens of other systems), interoperability (the protocol is compatible with Ethereum), and the capacity to scale entirely decentralized.

Aurora is one of the most lucrative platforms in the NEAR ecosystem. It’s a sidechain EVM-compatible smart contract platform built on the NEAR Protocol. It provides fast, relatively cheap, and trustless bridging between NEAR and Ethereum via the Rainbow Bridge, bringing EVM compatibility to the respected protocol.

Octopus is another huge contributor to NEAR’s welfare. It’s a set of smart contracts functioning on the NEAR blockchain. Octopus network is designed specifically to bootstrap and run the appchains. It intends to usher in a new era of Web 3.0 innovation. You may consider Octopus functioning (on a high level) in a similar way as the Polkadot network. A set of smart contracts written on Near Protocol act as the Relay chain. Like Polkadot’s Parachains, the Octopus network allows multiple application-specific chains, called the Appchains, to connect on Near Protocol.

Why Near Protocol?

The problem of centralized cloud data storing is the first problem that the NEAR team is eager to solve. The issue is that the most popular cloud storage is controlled institutionally. That means their owners can steal, sell, censor, and manipulate your information voluntarily or under someone’s pressure, not to mention that these huge amounts of data are a tempting target for hackers. NEAR changes that by building a blockchain-based cloud with community-run governance, providing security and transparency to every user.

Secondly, the NEAR protocol resolves the scalability dilemma, by implementing horizontal sharding technologies. The network nodes are split into numerous shards and processing is parallelized over those shards if the platform’s activity is high enough. As a result, the network can scale endlessly whenever demand grows.

Thirdly, NEAR allows entrepreneurs and users to co-exist in a beneficial ecosystem, where entrepreneurs can embrace innovation and achieve remarkable returns. While users can board the platform instantly with a user-friendly interface.

How does Near Protocol work?

To solve all of the previously mentioned problems, the NEAR blockchain implements sharding. Sharding technology is a database splitting mechanism used when a system has large data sets or high throughput activities. Scaling can be divided into two approaches: vertical scaling and horizontal scaling.

Vertical scaling refers to boosting the performance of existing resources or hardware. It means running a smaller number of nodes, each of which will demand exceptional hardware. It stutters the scaling process, restricting the system’s performance to the available hardware advancements. 

Horizontal scaling refers to expanding the number of hardware components without necessarily increasing their performance. Thus, the NEAR protocol employs horizontal scaling to enable the capacity to scale in tandem with blockchain adoption.

NEAR is implementing the Nightshade sharding method to enable safe cross-shard and cross-chain communication. Nightshade modifies the traditional sharding method by requiring all shards to work together to create a single block. In the Nightshade, each node operator is assigned to create its piece of a block (chunk) in a set amount of time (period). The important aspect to remember is that if one validator is absent for an extended time, the other validator is likely to step in and keep the system running.

NEAR has a sophisticated and efficient safety system. It is made up of Hidden Validators and Fishermen. Hidden validators are the small commissions that verify each chunk, by completing their individual assignment through a Verifiable Random Function (VRF). Fishermen ensure that each shard is legitimate by watching other nodes and reporting any “bad” activity that may occur.

Near Token Utility

The NEAR ecosystem’s primary asset is the $NEAR token. In general, it is utilized to enable system functionality and user cooperation.

That includes:

  • paying for the gas fees and other on-platform interactions
  • participating in the staking process, thus securing the network  
  • defining the technological path of the platform’s improvements and guiding its future resource allocations (optionally)

Near Platform Governance

The platform is primarily controlled by the NEAR Foundation, a non-profit organization established to expand the project’s decentralization and bring its core values to reality. NF’s long-term goal is to build an autonomous, community-managed ecosystem. 

Currently, everyone has a suitable representation in the community, which includes validators, token holders, and developers, allowing you to join in conversations and decide future allocations and improvements on the platform.

How to buy Near

Near Protocol’s token NEAR is traded in many well-known centralized exchanges such as Binance, Crypto.com, Kucoin, Gate.io, etc.

Summary

The NEAR protocol is a layer-one PoS blockchain that aims to create a user-friendly, decentralized ecosystem that can be scaled efficiently using Nightshade sharding. While it has already revolutionized the blockchain space, we are still observing this project at its early stage. Which is promising and exciting at the same time.

Aris Ioannou
Aris Ioannouhttps://coinavalon.io
Aris created Coinavalon with the purpose of helping the average person navigate the decentralized web. Aris has been passively in the space since 2017 and full time since late 2020. Before Coinavalon, Aris worked as a Business & IT Architect in the financial services sector. Aris holds an MSc in Advanced Computing from Imperial College London, a BSc in Computer Engineering from University of Cyprus and currently pursuing an MBA degree from CIIM.

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