On March 24th, the Open Web Sandbox launched in the NEAR Ecosystem. This event is important for the NEAR community for a number of reasons:
– We have our first outlines of a future digital city of contributors, projects, and teams on NEAR that can network, collaborate, and work on different initiatives across the ecosystem for rewards in $NEAR.
– We have created an open-source community for anyone and everyone to learn about and involve themselves in the NEAR Ecosystem.
– We have created an outline for increasing ecosystem productivity, engagement, and connection between many of the different moving pieces.
– We have created infrastructure for coordinating ecosystem wide campaigns and services between and across projects.
In simple terms, the Sandbox has been built to encourage participation and collaboration on different activities in the NEAR Ecosystem. It’s pretty raw and organic. You hop into the server – fill out your profile if you want to make yourself known for future engagements, and then have a look around at the different opportunities. Rewards are divided between acts and series. An act is something you can do on your own – a series is something you will probably need to do in collaboration with a team. Just like those early 2000 MMORPG Games we want you to openly promote your needs and work with others to fulfill different opportunities. These rewards will change on the monthly and fluctuate according to previous months demand and engagement levels.
At the end of the month, you fill out a form claiming the reward for each of the activities you worked on. This is evaluated by the Sandbox council and sent to the NEAR address you provided within the first week of the next month. So in simple terms: Build cool stuff – design cool stuff – make cool stuff – and you can earn $NEAR for it. Work together and you can earn even more.
What is Spotlight?
Spotlight is our mechanism for coordinating and directing emphasis on certain events in the NEAR ecosystem. Anyone and everyone can request a spotlight! Here is how it works. You as a person with something in the Ecosystem that you would like to spread attention to can contact a moderator or submit a spotlight request to a submission form.
Once you have submitted, then a moderator will post your spotlight with the built in reward percentage bonus, the duration, and the specific focus area. Then it’s live!
In context, Spotlight will help mobilize activity in the NEAR Ecosystem towards certain events that require more attention or support. While the Sandbox is young and only starting it’s long journey – the Spotlight function has the capacity to create huge waves of intentional support in the long-term from everyone in the Ecosystem.
What is the Long Term Vision for the Open Web Sandbox?
V1 of the Open Web Sandbox is a lot like the early computer games we all used to play. The graphics are going to be terrible and it might lag at some points. But over time as we iterate it, we are going to try to refine it to make it more efficient, and engaging – for everyone.
The next steps (in no particular order and still without a fixed chronology) will be to:
– DAOify the Sandbox so that rewards are paid out directly from a DAO.
– Further gamify the UX / UI of the Sandbox so that it is more engaging to interact with and utilize.
– Eventually move to making the Sandbox into a 3D-Online Space where your character can move around the town and interact with different buildings and vendors (projects and Guilds).
– Build in areas for Hackathon Support, Events, and more direct guild onboarding.
All of these things are only beginning. NEAR is young, the Sandbox is young, the Open Web is young. But the future that we believe in – one where our data is ours, our money is ours, and our identity is ours – is what makes this worth the time and effort. Let’s Build! Jump into the Discord Channel Here.
Blockchain-based ecosystems have evolved in recent years to become more robust, interoperable, and customizable. NEAR Protocol, often referred to as a third generation blockchain network, is a sharded proof-of-stake blockchain that puts a special emphasis on scalability and usability. While NEAR is frequently referenced as a ready-made scalability solution for existing Ethereum applications, it is equally capable of handling a suite of other types of decentralized solutions.
Within this context, Octopus Network is officially launching the first application specific blockchain, aka appchain, protocol in the NEAR Ecosystem: A seismic achievement for NEAR, and a serious competitive advantage for winning over hundreds of applications and developer teams looking for a cost-effective and secure home for their applications.
What Are Appchains and Why Do They Matter?
An appchain refers to a separate blockchain designed for a specific application (or set of applications). Unlike a smart contract (that usually runs on a public or private blockchain), appchains allow developers to customize their application in terms of governance structure, crypto-economic design, even its underlying consensus algorithm.
Technically, an appchain provides developers with a dedicated transaction processing capacity, while still benefiting from the security of the motherchain.This means that applications on an appchain do not have to compete for transaction processing capacity from other applications on a network: A separate and committed set of validators secures transactions from a specific appchain. With flexible security parameters (depending on how many validators support a specific appchain), appchains require their own token, crypto-economic design, incentive models, and customized codebase. In short, with an appchain, a developer or project can harness all of the benefits of having their applications run on their own customizable blockchain, while also enjoying low transaction congestion and state validation from the network ‘motherchain’.
Bringing appchains to NEAR, means that all of the most important stakeholders within the ecosystem will have additional opportunities for their products, services, and interests: Validators, have the capacity to secure appchains for additional rewards. Developers are free to customize and launch appchains with flexible parameters surrounding crypto-economics and governance for different use-cases across Web3.0. Finally, users are able to benefit from a host of new solutions that all sustain themselves upon the security and transaction load capacity of a larger mother network. As blockchain-ecosystems have evolved, and appchains on Polkadot and Cosmos can attest to, the future of crypto is closely related to the efficient deployment of such protocols!
Introducing Octopus Network
Octopus Network, is launching a decentralized protocol for any developer, project, or entrepreneur, to quickly, efficiently, and affordably create their own appchains on NEAR. As founder of Octopus Network, Louis Liu explains:
“Octopus provides out-of-the-box security, interoperability, and on-chain governance to projects looking to create a specific chain for their open web application.”
More concretely, Octopus Network Relay runs as a smart contract on NEAR that provides the infrastructure for a validator marketplace between validators, and appchains launched through Octopus. Validators stake $OCT Tokens to validate a particular appchain. In return, Octopus validators are eligible to receive the respective token of the appchain they are validating: Each appchain has its own crypto-economic model and relevant inflation rate.
Notably, each validator runs a separate node with its own BFT consensus (Byztantine Fault Consensus) for each appchain it validates. However, because every appchain launched on Octopus is connected to NEAR via security, assets and contracts between NEAR and any appchain are able to seamlessly communicate with one another.
Economically: Validators stake $OCT Tokens to earn rewards from the respective appchains on Octopus Network. $OCT Tokens are non-inflatable,
Governance: $OCT Token holders do not partake in the governance of different appchains: That opportunity is left to native token holders of the respective chain.
For Octopus founder, Louis Liu and the Octopus Team, it is clear that the next wave of innovation within the crypto-space, is built around scalable and affordable appchains offered by Octopus and running on NEAR:
“We have come to believe that smart contracts and application specific blockchains – also known as – appchains, each have a unique value proposition. That is to say, a unique advantage over others. They are suitable for different use-cases. And I think for DeFi especially, smart contracts are a better choice since all smart contracts on one platform have the same security assumption – the same security level – and they can get fabulous composability. For other Web3.0 use-cases including gaming, digital collectables, NFTs and the broader creator economy including music, radio, and even blogs, DAO platforms, IoT platforms, and much more-, an appchain is a better option for such use-cases, because an App chain is able to reach a delicate balance between decentralization and performance. What’s more, on-chain governance allows for appchain to quickly evolve with the legitimacy to stay relevant – This is cumbersome if not possible to carry out within a smart contract.”
How Does Octopus Network Actually Work?
Octopus Network is built around the $OCT Token: A fungible, non-inflationary utility token, that is required for staking on different appchains built on top of the protocol. Accompanying this design, are a number of preconditions and functionalities built into Octopus Network:
1. First, an appchain must accrue a sufficient stake in $OCT Tokens from ecosystem stakeholders. Only once this minimum level of security has been reached, is it possible to launch the appchain with the genesis block originating on the motherchain.
2. Second, Octopus pioneers ‘Shared Security as a Service’ and ‘Shared Interoperability as a Service’ for any future appchain on NEAR Protocol: As more validators accrue to stake for a certain appchain, the appchain validator set is updated in the motherchain smart contract and propagated onto the appchain. This is the basis for an appchain increasing its security parameters over time and can be effectively coined as a “Shared Security as a Service” operation. Similar to how AWS provides data storage to software companies, Octopus provides security services to blockchain ecosystems looking for fast onboarding and lean development.
3. Third, once fully launched, Octopus appchains are fully interoperable with motherchain assets. $OCT Tokens are equally capable of being used as collateral for cross-chain assets between appchains and the motherchain.
4. Fourth and most notably, the appchain itself is governed by its own token holders and not validators staking $OCT Token.
As the image above demonstrates, for the launch of new appchains, a specific process is required in order to be legitimized on the Octopus Network: (1) Prospective appchains enter a queue, and await validator support via staking $OCT Tokens. (2) Once supported, their appchain is able to activate and fully launch. (3) In the event that validators retire, the appchain is considered ‘broken’ until more accrue. (4) In the event that no more assets exist on the appchain (due to cross-chain transactions) the appchain is considered ‘frozen’.
Why Did Octopus Network Choose NEAR?
Octopus Network decided to build on NEAR after an extensive analysis of existing Layer 1 Protocols. According to Louis Liu, NEAR was chosen due to its scalable, interoperable, secure and user-friendly design:
“Last year we cooperated with several public blockchains. We are quite familiar with the public chain space. After comparison and investigation we came to believe that NEAR protocol is the best choice due to its security, fast finality, layer1 scalability and usability features. In addition, the rainbow bridge enables trustless interoperability between ETH and NEAR, making it a clear first choice.”
In light of other Layer 1 platforms that can accommodate appchains like Cosmos (Cosmos Chains), or Polkadot (Parachains), NEAR stands out with some key technical benefits: In relation to Cosmos, launching an appchain on NEAR is easier to do, as validators do not need to be bootstrapped for each individual appchain. As a result, ‘fair-launched’ chains can be created on NEAR, since tokens are only distributed to value bringing services (as opposed to speculators or those looking to secure the network). In relation to Polkadot, NEAR offers appchains with a significantly cheaper security lease, with no limit on the number of appchains capable of being launched. Polkadot’s limit is 100 parachain slots with less than 10 available this year. There is also no auction or ‘lock in’ on NEAR, as is the case on Polkadot.
Altogether, NEAR was chosen by Octopus because it was considered to be more affordable, scalable, user-friendly, and interoperable with networks like Ethereum than any other existing L1 solution.
Short and Long Term Potential: What Can Octopus Network Bring to NEAR?
While the Web3.0 revolution remains in its infancy, NEAR is continuously expanding into different frontiers of crypto innovation. The promise of Octopus appchains on NEAR accelerates this progress for both the short term and long term development of the protocol:
In the short term, NEAR has a unique value proposition to the HUNDREDS of applications looking to build their own chain on a secure, affordable, scalable, and user-friendly Layer 1 platform. Not only will this increase the overall value of products and services within the NEAR Ecosystem but it will also bring a host of new assets and users onto the protocol.
“For Octopus Network, each Octopus appchain will be given a tribute cross-chain smart contract on the NEAR platform. That means that their native crypto currency can be transferred to the NEAR blockchain without any additional coding. We want to pull all of the appchain assets onto the NEAR platform, as a boost to a truly prosperous DeFi ecosystem. This DeFi ecosystem will provide each asset with additional liquidity and utility.”
In the long term, Octopus Network will function as a composable means by which different applications can operate with different security parameters on NEAR: Some applications may not need such high security from validators in order to prosper. Octopus Network effectively allows for developers on NEAR to quickly spin-up applications with low security in a cost-effective manner. If that application requires more security over time, Octopus allows for security to scale with the appchain by simply attracting more validators by token price appreciation or issuing more tokens to security service providers (from the native appchain itself).
For future apps on NEAR, Octopus appchains provide flexibility to projects and developers when scaling an individual application on NEAR. With Octopus Network accommodating to the NEAR Account model, any appchain will respond to contract calls like any other application on NEAR: This means that an app is able to transition from a contract to an app chain or vise-versa, as a project may come to need cheaper transactions, or if the application starts to manage more assets and needs more security and faster finality than what the NEAR motherchain offers.
The Octopus Network Team
The team behind Octopus Network is exceptionally talented and experienced in both the crypto space and in mainstream software development. With a team of eight engineers, Octopus has worked on grants across Layer 1 Protocols including Cosmos, Solana, Flow, Oasis, PlatON, and ChainLink. They have successfully built IBC for Substrate, and also initial Substrate online training course in China with other Substrate enthusiasts (from which a number of projects have originated from). Most notably, they are also active participants and co-organizers of the Rust community in China (they organize RustCon in China).
From this perspective it becomes clear that not only will the Octopus Team inaugurate a new paradigm of development for NEAR Protocol, but they will also bring a heavy influence from the Chinese Rust community, when it comes to building and deploying appchains on the protocol.
Conclusion: A New Frontier of Innovation
With appchains deployed on NEAR through Octopus Network, a world of new applications, crypto-economic models, governance mechanisms and decentralized solutions are poised to launch on NEAR Protocol. While NEAR will capably handle Octopus appchains in an efficient, scalable, and cost-effective manner, Octopus Network holds the promise of bringing entire communities of developers onto NEAR. As the Web3.0 space continues to evolve, and new decentralized applications emerge by the day, the partnership between Octopus Network and NEAR holds the promise of significantly accelerating the development of the Open Web – to the great benefit of users, developers, and entrepreneurs alike.
Since the launch of the Cypherpunk Guild earlier this month, the Cypherpunk Guild Council has wasted no time in starting the conversation about the future of privacy on NEAR Protocol. After a roundtable with Zero Knowledge Validator, a preliminary landscape of future development opportunities was discussed, with special attention to the notable advantages of NEAR Protocol. As one of the first forays into the privacy landscape of the Open Web, this discussion brought to light a number of solutions and challenges to look forward to into the future.
“Very few projects, researchers, or implementation teams are currently working specifically on privacy on NEAR and there is a general lack of awareness about its advantages. The goal of this event was to start an open discussion around the potential barriers to entry for privacy projects, privacy education & advocacy and explore NEAR’s potential to differentiate itself compared with other L1 platforms.”
Privacy Solutions and Goals: What Is The Plan?
The round table started off with a high level/sweeping/far-ranging overview of the current state of privacy on NEAR and the most pressing issues to be addressed in the coming months. The first and most direct need was addressed as bringing simple private transactions onto the protocol, quickly followed by the need to build in relevant wallet improvements so as to make such private transactions easily accessible. These improvements would allow users to transact without visibility or oversight into the contents of their transaction, while easy integration with the NEAR wallet would grant direct access for every user with a NEAR account.
Building on these ground-level privacy improvements, the discussion then turned to more medium and long term goals: Privacy staking pools, generalized private transactions, and a cost-effective means of privately using DeFi protocols. As the ZKValidator write up attested to:
“Private staking pools are a brilliant and unique opportunity for NEAR as withdrawals can be de-linked from a deposit account. This could be done by having a proxy that acts as an “anonymous broker” and relayers that can pay the transaction fees for users. Depositors would own shares in the privacy pool to receive staking rewards. Metadata, including timing attacks on transactions, are a challenge to consider.”
“Lack of privacy is a major challenge for DeFi and real world adoption. Regulatory uncertainty is certainly one of the reasons why there are few teams working on privacy related tech.”
Cost was another crucial factor brought up in the discussion. However, the participants still put forward an interesting vision for what privacy embedded DeFi engagement might look like:
“There is an opportunity for NEAR to go even further, with shielded smart contracts. A killer goal would be DeFi in a non-shielded zone AND shielded zone. Apart from user privacy, shielded DeFi can help to protect against front running DEXs.”
What Benefits Does NEAR Bring to the Table?
Beyond the list of solutions that can be built in the future, the discussion also evaluated the benefits of using NEAR Protocol for privacy related solutions. Notably, the NEAR Account model and NEAR’s developer incentives were both mentioned as gamechangers.
In relation to other Layer 1 protocols, NEAR allows contract developers to earn 30% of the transaction fees that their contracts generate. For privacy solutions this is a possible business model that could prove successful with enough traction and demand:
If you deploy a contract on NEAR, a portion of transaction fees generated by its future use will come back to the deployer. This is a key differentiating feature of NEAR and can help to make privacy projects self sustaining. Anonymous developers can deploy privacy related contracts and automatically have a business model. This is a phenomenal advantage!
The NEAR Account Model and related Limited Access Keys, were also put forward as a key differentiator between NEAR and other protocols:
“Limited access keys are a unique feature to NEAR and the accounts model in general makes possible some concepts that would not be possible on other L1s”
While the NEAR account model is new, and its full range of functions have yet to be fully explored, the roundtable concluded that:
“NEAR has many advantages that could position it as a leading blockchain for privacy with a specific privacy SDK.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Cypherpunk Guild will soon be open to accepting and evaluating proposals for building privacy solutions into NEAR Protocol. As the roundtable discussion illustrated, there are a number of different types of privacy solutions awaiting development, with some currently more feasible than others. According to ZKValidator, the future of privacy solutions on NEAR remains bright:
“In the near term, the NEAR ecosystem should focus on simple private transfers and wallet improvements. Private staking pools and generalized private transactions are achievable mid term goals and in the long term, NEAR could position itself as a leading blockchain if devs are provided with the right tools e.g. for selective disclosure.”
To join the Cypherpunk Guild community drop into the Matrix Channel here.
The NEAR Developer Relations Team, also known as DevRel, is one of the most talented teams at NEAR. On a mission to recruit the developers, entrepreneurs, projects and teams that will build the future of the Open Web, the DevRel team interfaces across events, forums, enterprises, and communities to find the next app to launch on NEAR and the next team of developers to continue building out the protocol.
In this context, DevRel is one of the most important teams at NEAR in relation to the future growth and development of the ecosystem. This brief overview provides an outline of (1) What exactly DevRel does, and why that matters, as well as (2) how they are attempting to crowdsource development on NEAR as Open-Sourcerers.
Developer Relations: Who and How?
Developer Relations at NEAR is a star-team of key players: Team Lead Peter dePaulo, Head of Developer Relations and Technical Lead Matt Lockyer (creator of the ERC–998 NFT Standard), Technical Content from Mally Anderson, Outreach and Engagement by Dani Osario, jack-of-all trades Josh Ford, and Developer Onboarding and Experience by Dorian Crutcher. Together these individuals work to bring the next-generation of Web3 developers and entrepreneurs onto NEAR protocol.
The specific focus of the DevReal Team is the fast-growing market of software developers looking to break into the Web3 space. Or, as Matt puts it, focusing on developer experience and speaking with developers to build on NEAR:
“We focus a lot on developer experience, which we think will lead to good user experience. If you don’t have to worry about your back-end, your database or your contract stuff, you can probably focus a lot more on your product. So we really want to help that next million — the next 100 million people get into crypto, and get access to what is going on. Because it is really important.”
In terms of the actual scope of activities, the DevRel Team is working with the larger NEAR Team to meet the goal of bringing 2,500 developers onto the protocol by the end of the year. Matt added the following about these goals:
“We have very ambitious goals, but also relatively realistic goals. We want to bring apps to the main network and we do that by basically going to events like ETH Denver, to making a bunch of fun example Repos and videos and content that go along with that as Dorian is doing with blockheads. We bring people in that are kind of creating that buzz and that awareness. From our community, we will bring you in, we will find you grants, we will encourage you to submit and we will help to kind of create and support that momentum.”
As the quote above explains, DevRel interfaces between different possible users on the protocol with different content forms: Repositories, Videos, Technical Content, personal project development, team outreach, and engagement with existing projects on other protocols – to name a few. This notably is also the subject of the open-source engagement DevRel is planning to foster in the coming months, known under the title of Open-Sourcerers (and explained in more detail below).
The final area of engagement that the DevReal team engages with, goes above and beyond outreach: Developer and project relations, is all about setting up new projects, applications, and fixes in the NEAR Ecosystem for long term sustainable development. That starts with funding through the NEAR Grants program, the Open Web Collective, as well as the emerging network of DAOs within the NEAR Ecosystem:
“What are my values, as the technical lead of the DevRel team? My values are basically to make people crypto rich. And I want to make people crypto rich. But there is a lot of subtext. I can’t help people, unless they want to help themselves. So unless you find out about NEAR – find out about what we are up to — join our discord, join our telegram groups – go to gov.near.org and make a post and say I want to build this crazy thing, or you make a grant submission — I want to start this app or this project this business…unless you do that we cannot help you. I wanna make people crypto rich but I can’t do it if I don’t know how serious you are, how committed you are or how passionate you are.”
Developers, entrepreneurs and existing projects can get in touch with the NEAR DevRel Team by posting on the governance forum, jumping into telegram or reaching out directly to Matt or Peter (Matt@near.org / Peter@near.org).
Open Sorcery Is Here
NEAR is an Open-Source Protocol. That means, that unlike in a traditional software company (where business development and developer engagement) is built between a centralized entity and a group of individuals, the NEAR DevRel team has the capacity to harness the power of the NEAR community to create positive network effects and feedback loops in growing the developer community on NEAR. This is what Open Sorcery is all about:
“Ideally, our growing community of apprentices will support developers building on NEAR, while recruiting and training others who might have powers.” – Peter DePaulo
In short, the NEAR DevRel Team is starting to ‘open-source’ their engagements so that the larger NEAR community of developers and users can help grow the ecosystem by recruiting developers, and also earn rewards in the process. Some of the listed activities include:
– Writing documentation
– Writing issues in code libraries
– Writing PRs to the code libraries
– Dev chat support
– Presenting workshops
– Supporting hackathons
– Educating new members of the dev community
These activities ultimately align with the larger goals of the Open-Sourcery Project:
Priority One: Increase the number of successful apps running on MainNet.
Priority Two: Increase the number of successful developers deploying and improving their apps on TestNet.
Priority Three: Support the continued maintenance of the material that will allow devs to self-serve and be successful.
In light of the current state of NEAR’s development, the NEAR DevRel team is at the very beginning of it’s journey to expand the NEAR Ecosystem, onboard new developers to the protocol, and jumpstart application development. Among other reasons to start building on NEAR, the easy setup, account structure, and familiar programming languages, make development straightforward and painless. If you are interested in building the future of the Open Web – and a world in line with mission of NEAR (“A world where people have control of their money, data, and power of governance.”) then consider joining the Open Sorcerers as an Apprentice and earning some $NEAR along the way!
The Sandbox is a NEAR digital hub that connects the most important contributors in the NEAR ecosystem with projects and opportunities. The NEAR core team, NEAR guilds, projects building on NEAR, and contributors meet in The Sandbox to collaborate and accomplish tasks relating to ecosystem development. Different stakeholders post projects according to their specific needs–technical writing, memes, video edits–and offer NEAR rewards as compensation. The Sandbox is an open, flexible, and lucrative mechanism for accumulating NEAR and making a difference in the development of the Open Web.
Intro to the Sandbox
Crypto enthusiasts, students, or anyone interested in building out the NEAR community can become a contributor: It’s open and only requires a commitment to the ecosystem and a team mindset! The following is a list of just a few of the projects that might be posted in The Sandbox’s rolling rewards bulletin:
Development (Tools, dApps, etc.)
Content writing and translation
Video recording and editing
Navigating the Open Web Sandbox: For Projects and Contributors in the NEAR Ecosystem
The rewards structure ensures that projects on The Sandbox lead to substantive developments of the NEAR ecosystem. One-time projects, called acts, can be combined into a series, which garner larger rewards. For instance, you can simply write a blog and collect your NEAR, or you can design the blog layout, make a video about the blog, and post about it on social media in order to complete the series. Dedicated contributors also reap time bonuses, so you make more NEAR the longer you stay in The Sandbox completing projects. Welcome to the Digital City of the Future.
To get started, join us on Discord! New users simply post their profile in the profile channel, and are henceforth free to start completing projects posted on the discord. At the end of the month, contributors compile a list of their completed projects, and submit them to The Sandbox Council for review and compensation. For more information visit the Sandbox Discord channel, or check out this handy-dandy sandbox post on the governance forum!
NEAR without the Noise Episode 10 featured an exclusive conversation between Ozymandius, Arto Bendiken and Frank Braun on the recent launch of the Cypherpunk Guild. The topics discussed ranged from the origins and history of Cypherpunks, to the need for privacy in the world today, NEAR Protocol’s value proposition, and the many different privacy solutions awaiting development and funding. A full video of the conversation can be found here.
What are Cypherpunks?
For many, the term ‘Cypherpunk’ is a foreign concept that is often confused with other terms like ‘Cyberpunk’ or ‘Crypto-Anarchist’. At the very beginning of the discussion both Arto and Frank – 2nd generation Cypherpunks – take the time to explain a little bit about the history and values of the Cypherpunk movement:
“Cypherpunks are advocates for the widespread use of strong cryptography and technologies that enhance privacy and self-sovereignty. Cypherpunks invented/created the EFF, PGP, SSL, SSH, BitTorrent, Tor, WikiLeaks, Bitcoin, smart contracts, Zcash, and Signal, among other notable achievements.”
As Frank Braun puts it:
“We wish to disseminate cryptography as widely as possible, and make it impossible to stop it. That has certain societal consequences perhaps, but those are usually characterized as crypto-anarchy more than cypherpunk.”
The age-old mantra, originally coined by Eric Hughes, is that “Cypherpunks Write Code”. Code that will protect average individuals from privacy infringements, and guarantee the freedom to speak openly, and without censorship on the internet.
What is the Goal of the Cypherpunk Guild?
The Cypherpunk Guild is launching on NEAR Protocol, as a home for Web3 privacy advocates and the many different solutions awaiting development within the space. Unlike privacy coins like Monero or ZCash, NEAR is a smart-contract platform that operates as a foundation for other decentralized protocols and applications. Embedding the option to transact or build on NEAR using private transactions is the first goal of the Cypherpunk Guild. As Arto explains:
Cypherpunk projects are projects that support the NEAR vision and mission of building a user-owned internet – the Open Web – where people have control of their own data and money. And the way to do that is to enable better privacy than has existed so far on NEAR.”
In terms of the concrete goals of the Guild, Arto explains how it will ideally operate as a ‘privacy hub’ that not only delivers private transactions to NEAR, but also functions as a homebase for an active community of privacy advocates interested in safeguarding their money, identity and data:
“Accordingly, we plan to solicit, evaluate, and fund projects that increase and promote individuals’ privacy, security, and self-sovereignty with regards to their data and their funds, warmly welcoming cypherpunks and privacy-first initiatives into the NEAR community and ecosystem.”
“For now we have a few concrete grant proposals from well known cypherpunks who are looking at NEAR for the first time given the privacy blitz around NEAR now. This is definitely bringing more eyes to NEAR. And we will deliberate on the initial grant proposals in the next weeks and announce some first grants.”
Beyond the ideological support from the NEAR Ecosystem, Arto and Frank both saw NEAR as an innovative 3rd generation blockchain that was defined by its scalability and usability. As Frank explains with reference to the NEAR Account model, the surface has only been scratched:
“With the NEAR Account model, it is possible for accounts to contain smart contracts with multiple access keys, that can have different levels of privilege. This enables a lot of use-cases that are interesting. It is possible to create smart contracts that can essentially fund themselves because they get a portion of transaction fees.”
Importantly, both Frank and Arto stressed that even though NEAR is technically sound, and rapidly developing, the space remains open and the future undetermined: Network effects, luck, and consistent community action are also important variables for NEAR’s long-term future development potential.
Why is Privacy Important For the World We Live In Today?
On a more theoretical level, Arto and Frank took the time to delve into the importance of privacy in cultivating a healthy society of independent and free individuals. Frank’s main point on the topic of privacy centered upon prior discussions he has had on his podcast that revolve around the freedom to innovate and experiment with ideas, forget, and evolve:
“The way I look at it is basically that the development of society is basically an evolutionary process. Like in evolution, in order to experiment with things we first of all need to generate all of these ideas, products and philosophies. And then select the best and let them run their course. If we restrict the ability of people to do that, or to innovate their ideas we limit the strict evolution of society. We are getting into a situation where we are severely restricting the ability of people to innovate. On the one hand you lose your future, but you also have your permanent past. The stupid things you say when you are 16 years old – the current 16 years old this will haunt them when they are 40 because it is on permanent record.”
Arto, in a similar vein, spoke about the true danger of surveillance as represented in 1984:
“The point of the surveillance in 1984, wasn’t that the state actually had sufficient resources to actually keep track of everybody all the time. Rather it was that you never knew when they were looking in on you or not. And given that you had to behave as though they were looking in on you all of the time. That manifested itself in certain compliance behaviors. We are heading into something like that when we don’t have privacy. If all of our communications are available to some third party, we are going to self-censor, and we are going to adjust our behavior. That doesn’t lead to any good place.”
Privacy in this context is an essential part of a free, open, healthy, and innovating society: To end privacy is to slouch towards soft tyranny, subtle control, and the constant unspoken fear of being surveilled, tracked, and prosecuted. This is the current reality in many places across the globe.
What Kind of Solutions is Cypherpunk Guild Hoping to Build or Fund?
The Cypherpunk Guild’s immediate goal is to bring private transactions to NEAR. As Arto explains:
“Our priority is private transactions for NEAR. The Funding commitment is contingent on us taking ownership of this question. Now, effectively, the Cypherpunk Guild is the business owner for this.”
Beyond bringing private transactions to NEAR, the discussion also touched on censorship-resistant review apps like True Review, the possibility of creating a decentralized chat app on NEAR, as well as the important choice validators will have to make when allowing free speech on the platform.
“On Chain identity and reputation systems are also in line with things the guild would want to fund. It should be feasible to do an onchain private messaging system. ARmail has actually become quite successful. This might actually take off in some way between NEAR users. Private prediction markets are also a big category.”
The Future of Privacy Is At Stake
In a final call to action, the panel reiterated the importance of bringing privacy to Web3 and the need to start building it today. Cypherpunks Write Code. It’s Time to Build. To learn more about Cypherpunk Guild, join the conversation here. To learn more about Arto and Frank, you can read up on their Humans of NEAR storylines (Frank Humans of NEAR) and (Arto Humans of NEAR). To learn more about Cypherpunks and the history of the movement, check out the 4NTS Guild Overview, here.
On March 2nd, the NEAR Ecosystem jumped onto Hopin for an hour-long, live stream town hall focused on a NEAR Ecosystem marketing update. VP of Marketing Alexandra Tinsman hosted the Townhall alongside Erik Trautmann, CEO of the NEAR Foundation. Over the course of an hour, Alexandra walked the NEAR community through the most important updates and planning by the NEAR Marketing team, while also defining the scope of NEAR Marketing efforts and fielding community questions.
The synthesized updates below represent one of the most comprehensive and encompassing efforts to build NEAR into a mainstream crypto-brand.Here are the most important pieces of the Tinsman Plan:
NEAR Marketing is Laying A Foundation for Large-Scale Outreach and Communications Relating to All Things NEAR
In the last couple of months, NEAR Marketing underwent a significant overhaul. While current rebranding efforts remain in their early stages, Alexandra Tinsman provided a very clear pathway forward, incorporating the most important facets of creating a clearly defined Ecosystem Identity.
At the beginning of the town hall, Alexandra explained these facets to specifically include areas of the protocol like Branding and Design, Lead Generation (For both Entrepreneurs and Developers), Awareness, Support and Communications. The goals contained within these outreach vectors were summarized in the NEAR Marketing OKRs for Q1:
With this Foundation, NEAR Marketing will help promote the core ecosystem brand, as well as the larger environment and culture that many new projects, developers, entrepreneurs and guilds continue to pour into on NEAR Protocol. As Tinsman explained in the context of future growth on NEAR:
“As you all know we are going to have a ton of new products and programs launching.”
NEAR is Going Global
A second major point from the town hall relates to the expansion and development plans of NEAR Marketing efforts to promote and foster new communities around the globe. In short, NEAR Marketing is ramping up on a global promotion campaign for NEAR across continents:
As Tinsman explained, by expanding into new regions and tapping into communities of crypto-enthusiasts and developers, NEAR will look to source new engineering talent as well as ecosystem support across guilds and contributors.
“We want to expand into these regions as that is naturally going to attract engineering talent.”
Beyond the rapid expansion of NEAR into Asia, and specifically, China, infrastructure is currently being put into place to begin marketing NEAR across parts of SouthEast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa as well.
NEAR Marketing is Taking a Holistic Approach To Growing The NEAR Ecosystem
As the list below suggests, the NEAR Marketing Plan combines the best elements of traditional marketing with the innovative and fast-paced environment of the crypto-sphere. The strategy is clinical insofar as each component of the strategy builds on a prior component. Thus, while this strategy will take time to execute, the execution has the promise of being holistic and encompassing.
Importantly, as NEAR Marketing scales up to accommodate this plan, they are actively looking to hire more people: Content Writers, Designers, and other types of marketing experts. For more information visit: https://near.org/careers/.
What Can The Ecosystem Expect From The Marketing Team Going Forward?
The NEAR Marketing Townhall did a fantastic job of setting expectations in the months to come. A key point was the distinction between Marketing and Community. In order for marketing to function properly, it has to first define the core brand, values, and vision. Community development can only take place once these key foundations are laid. Much of this has been done, with progress able to be tracked on the NEAR Governance Forum.
Looking ahead to the future of marketing in the NEAR Ecosystem, it is clear that once a ground-level foundation has been established, NEAR Marketing will work across projects and guilds to foster ecosystem wide support and promotion. You can expect brand updates, more social media engagement, new designs, and ramped up engagement across platforms and mediums of communication. Additionally, Alexandra outlined some key promotional goals in the future:
The vision of the NEAR Marketing team is only taking root right now. The larger goal is to provide recognition and support across verticals and vehicles of the NEAR Ecosystem. Whether a project is working in DeFi, Social Tokens, NFT’s, or privacy – and regardless if they are a single developer, Guild, funded project, or ecosystem-wide event – they will have a home in the NEAR ecosystem.
For the full slide deck of the presentation see here.
The NEAR Ecosystem is a frontrunning pioneer of innovation in the crypto-sphere on a number of different fronts: Usability, Scalability, and Community Governance. DAO’s, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, fall under the category of community governance, and could not be more important for the long-term development of an open-source ecosystem.
Sputnik DAO is the Mother DAO of NEAR Protocol. While some may initially consider Sputnik to be just like any other DAO, it is in fact a paradigm shift for the future of decentralized governance. Sputnik V1 is the first iteration of an entirely new way of approaching DAOs: With Sputnik, communities become interconnected, independent, multiplus, and collaborative.
“Ideally, there will be many Sputnik councils (a.k.a. squads) working together! This potential structure is not limited to a single instance of the contract, which is really a DAO factory. NEAR empowers any group of creators to build their own decentralized autonomous organizations.”
– James Waugh, NEAR Team
What is Sputnik DAO?
Sputnik DAO inaugurates a new world of community governance, management, and funding, in which NEAR ecosystem projects and guilds can create their own separate DAO’s from beneath the umbrella of Sputnik. As James explains:
“The theme of Sputnik DAO is a DAO of many DAOs. It is a factory creating DAOs and really these DAOs are councils and you can think of them like mutli-sig wallets, with the difference being you have configurable parameters for the DAO not just the multi-sig. That means there is a meta-level of governance, so you actually can handle the governance of the parameters. The members of the council will have the flexibility to change how it works over time to accommodate changes in the future as well.”
In context, most DAO’s today are singular entities: There is one DAO for each protocol or project. While this may allow for some form of decentralized governance, it severely limits the long-term capacity of an ecosystem to diversify across initiatives, while also keeping up with the rapid evolution of development on top of the protocol:
“Sputnik DAO is an example of a more decentralized and flexible approach to onchain governance – for an entire ecosystem.”
With Sputnik, an infrastructure has been put into place that is able to accommodate multiple communities, with different objectives, goals, entrance criterias, and development timelines. Sputnik allows for truly decentralized governance over NEAR, as each community or project has the opportunity to individually create their own DAO, according to their specific parameters and desires. The resultant effect of this design is threefold:
First, the ecosystem as a whole becomes more decentralized, as DAO management is split off between multiple different DAOs each with their own goals and responsibilities.
Second, projects and communities on NEAR have more freedom to govern their DAO as they see fit: They can add in specific criteria, set their own parameters, and even introduce a social token for entrance all under the funding umbrella of Sputnik.
Third, on an ecosystem level, funding and development of the ecosystem as a whole, can be expedited, as decision making and the movement of funds is no longer stuck in one single DAO: Multiple projects can fund parallel initiatives, with fantastic network effects and feedback loops for the ecosystem as a whole.
All three of these points, indicate that DAOs have been designed on NEAR to be both decentralized and practical:
“We are fully embracing decentralized governance, but using a more pragmatic approach. We are embracing off-chain governance, empowered by on-chain governance of DAOs. It is not like we have this one governance module that is the NEAR governance contract. We have all of these instances of Sputnik DAOs on NEAR.”
A Mesh of DAOs
The goal of Sputnik DAO is to create a growing mesh-network of other DAOs in the NEAR Ecosystem, each with their own council of decision makers. Notably, council members can serve on the council of multiple DAOs’ at the same time, in spite of the fact that there may be different governance structures. With this model a host of different activities and purposes can be incubated across DAOs:
“Allowing Sputnik DAO to become a member of other DAOs allows us to create a hierarchical structure, where a Developer DAO council is actually a set of other more specific DAOs. They can just distribute and fund tasks between them.” – Illia Polosukhin
As a result of this model, an entire second layer of decentralized governance is created within the Ecosystem:
“So you have two levels of decentralized governance happening and that is unprecedented. This is the next step going forward – this fractal DAO system which is a hub for collaboration and coordination of our shared goals of our ecosystem.”
DAO Hub and Sputnik V2: The Future Development of Sputnik
NEAR Protocol Co-Founder, Illia Polosukhin, has mentioned on the NEAR Governance Forum how he sees Sputnik DAO V2, developing into the future as a ‘DAO Hub’ for Ecosystem wide collaboration, funding and product development.
Sputnik V2, writes Illia, will bring a host of improvements to the existing mesh-network design of V1, including:
– The ability to fund bounties (requests for work done), as each Sputnik DAO will include a list of funded bounties on-chain.
– Communicating with other DAOs, specifically those hierarchically above the DAO in question.
– Expanding Council Structures to have specific roles within a DAO, each with its own unique set of permissions.
– To embed Social $Tokens into the fabric of a DAO, in terms of access or participation.
– On-chain polling of council members, token holders, or DAO members.
As Illia explains:
“Creating more robust DAO policies allows us to select a subset of people who will be more active in the DAOs lifecycle, and only need to pull in others for more high impact decisions. Having a token per DAO unlocks a bunch of social token features, like incentivizing people for operations, token based voting on some decisions, or raising money by selling the token among other uses.”
With multiple DAOs working to fund community development and handle governance and participation among members, an entire network of DAOs is poised to emerge on NEAR. This ‘DAO Hub’ as it has been labelled, is the long term goal built into Sputnik’s design architecture:
“DAO Hub provides a place to search and read about a DAOs purpose and council members. Additional information like forum posts or member’s profiles can be pulled in. DAO Hub is also a place where anyone can leave requests (payout) or a bounty (request for work) while only specifying what it is related to (set of tags). Council members of participating DAOs could then pick up these requests that match their mission and fund them. Most importantly, DAO Hub should provide visibility into all of the bounties posted by participating DAOs. Thereby allowing newcomers to find interesting work they can dive into.” – Illia Polosukhin
All in all, DAO Hub will be a collection of Sputnik DAOs each operating autonomously, yet still in collaboration with one another. It is the foundation for cross-protocol and even cross-chain collaboration into the future. Such collaboration can even extend beyond communities and guilds, to entirely new businesses and products. As Illia explains in his panel discussion at ETH Denver:
“I think one of the examples that is emerging for sure is different application DAOs starting to be leveraged more for business development, where either individuals or other DAOs, or other organizations can pretty much apply to, for the DAO to work with some other party. And I actually think that’s really interesting, because, if we imagine that each organization is operating a DAO, then well, it’s almost like they are requesting work or requesting some kind of collaboration from each other. And that’s kind of already happening.”
NEAR DAOs Have Arrived
NEAR’s James Waugh, has put together a complete overview on how to set up a DAO under Sputnik. As Sputnik continues to evolve, and Sputnik Version 2 launches, DAOs will have increasing opportunities to customize their DAO structure and accommodate a larger suite of variables fit for their specific organization. Eventually, it is likely that the word DAO itself will be phased out to accommodate larger audiences and simplify engagement with Sputnik.
Beyond on-chain upgrades, the NEAR team also intends on focusing on the pragmatic side of off-chain community governance. As James emphasized before, off-chain governance is equally important for the long-term Sputnik design architecture:
“NEAR differentiates our approach by acknowledging that you cannot have only on-chain governance. A lot of people will tell you that their governance is all onchain. There is no such thing… In the long term our decentralized and pragmatic approach is going to be more scalable, efficient and impactful. It will be more aligned with our ecosystem and the actual engagement or utility and value.”
While it is still the early days for NEAR DAOs, Sputnik is a fundamental paradigm shift in how communities govern themselves on open-source protocols. To learn more about Sputnik check out Sputnik.fund, as well as the NEAR Governance Forum discussions.