NEAR is a decentralized application platform built on top of the NEAR protocol with the purpose to bring blockchain to a wide variety of mainstream applications. The NEAR protocol is an open-source blockchain designed to solve both the scalability and usability problems faced by other protocols. It is focused on giving developers the best tools to build and run high-performance applications with the lowest fees. The apps can be anything from new Defi protocols to digital assets marketplaces and gaming apps.
NEAR launched its mainnet Phase 0 called Genesis operated in Proof of Authority mode by the NEAR Foundation on April 22, 2020. During Phase 1, it became partly community-driven, and then released the final version of the mainnet (Phase 2) on October 13, 2020. It is now a fully decentralized and community-operated network.
The NEAR blockchain is built using a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, the sharding technique called Nightshade, which splits the network into pieces so that the computation is done in parallel, and a block generation mechanism called Doomslug. It targets 1-second blocks and over 100,000 transactions per second for a perfect end-user experience. The sharding approach allows the protocol to scale up to an unlimited number of transactions in a fully decentralized way as the number of nodes in the network increases.
The NEAR protocol has been built by NEAR Collective, a globally distributed group of individual contributors, teams, and organizations, and by NEAR Guilds, communities based on shared goals. NEAR can interoperate with Ethereum using a Rainbow Bridge, which allows developers to utilize Ethereum assets and smart contracts on NEAR and transfer their ETH assets to NEAR and back.
The NEAR protocol’s native token NEAR plays a central role in its functioning and powers the whole ecosystem. It is a utility token that enables token holders to deploy and use applications on NEAR, gives them the right to participate in network governance, and earn token rewards by staking them in the network.
1 billion NEAR coins were created at Genesis. They were distributed in the following way: 17.2% went to the community grants and programs fund, 11.4% were spent on operations grants, 14% were given to the core contributors, 17.6% to backers, and 6.1% to small backers, 10% were spent on the foundation endowment, 11.7% on the early ecosystem, and 12% were allocated through the public sale. The ICO was held from August 12 to 25, 2020. In addition, 5% of new coins are issued annually to support the network. 90% of them are distributed between validators as rewards and 10% are sent to the protocol treasury to support its development.
NEAR token functions
The NEAR token performs several functions. It is used to pay fees for processing transactions and storing data, run validator nodes, govern the network, vote on the protocol’s future, and pay the costs associated with deploying applications.
Consumers who use applications built on top of the NEAR platform pay transaction fees using the NEAR token. Dapps and accounts, which are deployed on the NEAR network, pay two kinds of fees: for each kilobyte of space used by an account and for transaction execution. The last ones are calculated with respect to the transaction complexity and set in accounting units called gas. 30% of transaction fees are paid out as rebates to contracts and the remaining 70% are burned to make the network deflationary at high levels of transaction throughput.
Anyone who stakes NEAR tokens can buy a seat in a shard and run a validating node. The stake amount and the seat cost are determined by other validators’ stakes within the shard and the total amount of NEAR being staked.
NEAR token holders have the right to determine the protocol’s future technical direction, distribution of network resources, the amount of participants’ rewards. One token equals one vote. The liquid democracy function allows token holders to delegate governance to validator pools.
How to get NEAR
Users can earn, buy, or get NEAR from a friend. Earning NEAR is possible by taking part in the protocol development, being an active part of the community, or winning a NEAR hackathon. Users can also borrow tokens from other people to stake and earn NEAR running a validator.
NEAR Drops feature lets customers send NEAR to anyone using a referral link so newbies can create a NEAR account without having any coins that makes the user onboarding process easy for app developers. The NEAR token is available for purchase on such exchanges as Binance, Huobi Global, OKEx, BitZ, BiONE, and MXC.COM. It can be stored and staked with a NEAR wallet afterward.
Token holders can earn NEAR by joining the community of validators or staking in one of the validator’s pool. Validators are rewarded proportionally to their stake for executing transactions, producing new blocks, and maintaining the network. They are backed by staking pools to which token holders can lend their tokens. To be able to stake, users need to have a lockup contract or transfer their tokens from an exchange to a personal NEAR wallet. Staking provides security and stability of the NEAR Protocol. Users can unstake their tokens anytime, and the minimum staking period is 12 hours.
NEAR team and partners
With the headquarters in San Francisco, California, Near has assembled a multinational team of 50+ engineers, developers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries including International Collegiate Programming Contest medalists and finalists Evgeny Kuzyakov, Alexander Kouprin, Ashley Tyson, Evgeny Kapun, Mikhail Kever, and Marcelo Fornet.
Alex Skidanov and Illia Polosukhin are the NEAR Protocol founders with extensive experience in programming. Illia Polosukhin, a technologist and entrepreneur is also the co-founder and CEO of Near Inc, a company that has done early research and development work for the NEAR project. He is a former manager at Google Research, who co-developed the Tensorflow machine learning library. Alex Skidanov worked at Microsoft and MemSQL as a software engineer and Director of Engineering before starting NEAR. Erik Trautman is an entrepreneur and the CEO of NEAR Foundation.
NEAR is backed up by many crypto-assets investment companies, among which are Pantera Capital, Electric Capital, MetaStable, Accomplice, Fabric Ventures, and Ripple’s incubator Xpring.