Adding to our series of different ecosystem analyses, today we’re focusing on one of the most popular chains as of late: Near.
Near is a decentralized application platform focusing on usability and uses proof-of-stake (PoS). It is smart-contract capable and uses sharding technology to achieve scalability, more on that later. Near uses its native token for transaction fees and storage on the platform and can be used for staking by token holders who want to become transaction validators.
The creators of Near, NeaCollective, conceptualized it as a community-run cloud computing platform designed to host decentralized applications. Its core focus was usability, as it wanted to ensure that the platform was user-friendly for both users and developers. To achieve this, the platform developed features such as account names that are human-readable. They follow a progressive security model which allows developers to create a user experience similar to web experiences. To promote a user-friendly experience, Near offers subscriptions, simple onboarding, and familiar usage styles.
How Does Near Work
The Near protocol has worked to address the scalability issue that many popular blockchains face due to the difficulty in handling large numbers of transactions at fast speeds and manageable costs. The unique solution to this problem is to build a new blockchain implementing sharding.
Sharding allows the Near protocol to break the blockchain up into smaller segments that are easier to manage. By having smaller blocks of information, there is a diminished burden on the network, which reduces the computational load. With less stress on the network, there can be increased transactions per second.
The Near protocol also uses a PoS system where nodes interested in becoming transaction validators stake their NEAR tokens to be considered for participation. Token holders can also delegate their stake to their chosen validator if they do not want to operate a node. Validators with more significant stakes will generally hold more power over the consensus protocol. Near chooses validators with an auction system at every epoch (typically every 12 hours).
How Sharding Works
Nodes in the blockchain have 3 primary functions: processing transactions, communicating valid transactions, completing blocks with each other, and storing the history of the network’s transactions. As more transactions occur, the network’s burden increases, making the nodes’ functions more difficult.
To solve this problem, Near uses sharding to allow the network to grow even as more nodes join. When there are more transactions on the network, network nodes will start splitting into multiple shards. Computing is then parallelized over these shards, reducing each node’s computational load. It allows the nodes only to run the code relevant to its shards rather than the entire network. The protocol assumes transactions will touch multiple shards.
Later 2 on Near: Aurora Ecosystem
Aurora Network is a layer 2 solution built on the near protocol blockchain. It aims to be an Ethereum-Compatible scaling solution. Aurora enables developers to operate their apps on an EVM Compatible, high-throughput, scalable, and future-safe platform at lower transaction costs for users. The network provides Ethereum 1.0 with a layer 2 speed and scalability. The network’s capabilities are made possible because it is built on Near, which has a faster tps finalization than Ethereum. It also allows a bridge to exist between Ethereum and Near networks.
The Aurora network consists of various platforms in its ecosystem consisting of decentralized exchanges, launch pads, and cross-chain bridges. The first decentralized exchange on the network is Trisolaris, where users can utilize various dual reward pools between platforms. The network uses the Rainbow Bridge to facilitate this exchange, which transfers tokens between Ethereum, NEAR, and Aurora. The bridge provides a highly scalable and throughput functionality with an easy-to-use interface.
NEAR has also launched a new proof-of-stake v2 which gives delegators the chance to earn rewards in multiple tokens. Aurora will allow validators to distribute more than one token to delegators that help secure the network. AuroraDAO governs the protocol on the network and includes Aurora labs, principal investors, and ecosystem partners.
Overall, Aurora aims to connect the Ethereum and Near platforms, allowing developers more opportunities. It enables users to work with Ethereum applications they are familiar with while also benefiting from the speed and usability of Near.
Near University provides a place for users to go and learn more about Near and its platform. The website offers a variety of resources available to help guide the user through different aspects of the platform. The site provides opportunities to Learn, Earn, and Connect.
Near University allows users to learn through self-paced courses, partner courses, and community courses. These courses help enable devs to learn in whichever environment best suits them and introduces them to learn about the ecosystem. The site also offers certification programs with an experienced guide to help the consumer through the new landscape. Some of these certifications include an analyst, developer, and instructor. These certification programs are at a different level, providing opportunities for beginners and professionals alike. There are currently 5k+ students among the 20+ courses offered at Near University.
Users also have the opportunity to earn by getting paid to learn and build throughout fellowship and ambassador programs. They also have increased job opportunities to make money and fund their own product with a grant. So far, they have given almost $2m in ecosystem grants.
Proximity Labs is a research and development labs that supports projects building DeFi applications on the Near platform through grants, advisory services, and developer support. Proximity recently announced the creation of a $350M grant DAO aimed at projects, organizations, and individuals building on the NEAR blockchain. Many well-known projects are in the process of launching on Near’s secure and scalable blockchain.
The DAO aims to distribute up to $85 million in NEAR tokens over four years, equating to the $350M. The grant application is open to all defi oriented projects and is incredibly active.
Apps built on Near/Aurora
Currently, there are a wide suite of protocols build on top of Near/Aurora; here are a list of a few of the key top players in each category:
Money Markets: Burrow, Bastion, Origami
DEX: Ref, Trisolaris
Overall, Near offers a solution to the current scalability problems faced by other blockchains through its sharding technology. It facilitates fast and secure transactions at lower costs and allows developers to build apps that require high volumes. Many resources through Near University are available to help guide users smoothly onto the chain. I’m excited for what’s in the Near future!
Thanks for your time — Juanbug