About eight months ago, NEAR Protocol launched its mainnet to a small community of token holders, and a number of reputable VCs — a16z, Pantera, Electric Capital, Dragonfly Capital, Coinbase Ventures. Since then it has largely flown under the radar for most of crypto in spite of exceptional fundamentals and a strong focus on user-experience.
A New Phase For NEAR Has Arrived:
With the launch of the Rainbow Bridge, Open Market Protocol Flux and Pulse, Decentralized exchange Ref.Finance, as well as the upcoming launch of the NEAR EVM and Mintbase on NEAR, NEAR is entering a new phase. Now before you make an instant comparison to another L1 and everything that L1 has going for it, consider the following characteristics that NEAR is positioned to dominate within crypto:
NEAR is going to be able to scalably handle Ethereum and NEAR applications at affordable rates and with quick transaction speeds with streamlined storage and predictable fees. Once the EVM is launched, NEAR becomes a proper ‘World of dApps Protocol’ that will not only handle congested DeFi dApps on ETH, but also future Open Web solutions relating to Gaming, NFTs, Social Tokens, and the next wave of decentralized finance.
The Multi-chain Interoperability of the Future
The Rainbow Bridge was the first product that utilizes Rainbow Protocol. Rainbow Protocol provides 80% of the needed infrastructure for replicating the rainbow bridge with other L1 Chains, such as Cosmos and Polkadot. This means, effectively, that NEAR is actually building fully permissionless and decentralized bridges to a network of other protocols. In the game of castles, that means that while other L1s might have bridges to 1 or 2 other protocols (and bridges that are not permissionless or decentralized at that), NEAR will be the hub for interoperability.
“Derivatives might go to a chain that specializes in that. NFTs might go to a chain that specializes in that. Interchain operability will be a big thing. Where assets can be indexed and referenced, even if they are remote – to a particular chain. Bitcoin had no knowledge of other chains. And nowadays chains do have knowledge of other chains.“
With the blossoming Sputnik DAO infrastructure on NEAR, NEAR’s focus on interoperability is extremely encouraging for streamlining the next generation of on-chain, community governed organizations that can call contracts and move assets between a universe of chains.
Remember everything about how community and DAOs are the future of crypto? Well NEAR is building a world of dApps that will be the hub of a universe of chains. It’s happening on NEAR – Yes both, the World of dApps and the Universe of Chains.
User Experience and the NEAR Account Model
Jumping off from these two points above, we can add the final knock-out punch with the NEAR account model. SO many projects in crypto today are entirely inaccessible for most non-crypto people. There are too many new processes, transfers, and addresses that have to be made, a process that is messy and not user-friendly. NEAR is built from the ground up to fix that problem. That is what the NEAR Account model does so well that other projects either have to try to build into their protocol at a later point, or simply ignore it altogether and limit their scope to crypto-natives. NEAR will scale to entirely new users – the next generation of gamers, existing Fintech, artists, creators, you name it.
NEAR is Future Proof:
Why does being future proof matter? Because the tempo of innovation into the future is increasing extremely quickly. Existing projects today should enjoy the moment, but anyone interested in the future of the space needs to be asking themselves about the future in an honest manner.
How will interoperability across chains roll out in the coming years? Will that be decentralized and permissionless? Will it have to be?
How will crypto appeal to the masses or those looking for alternatives to the existing system? Is friendly UX and easy onboarding a means of accelerating that process?
What type of governance structure will not only be streamlined on a single Layer 1, but also across Layer 1s? How does community-based governance play out in the coming years, with existing infrastructure and silos?
The launch of the Rainbow Bridge is a monumental accomplishment for the NEAR Team, and a first step towards a future of interoperable and cross-chain innovation. But that is only the beginning. With the launch of the Rainbow Bridge – and the impending launch of the NEAR EVM – a host of applications will start to move onto NEAR Protocol. From DeFi, to NFTs, to Social Tokens, to entire Layer 2 solutions, NEAR is a low-cost, user-friendly solution for projects looking to scale and grow.
The task for the NEAR Community is to take the value proposition of the Rainbow Bridge far and wide – across the crypto-verse – so that everyone wishing to run a blockchain based application without enormous gas fees can do so on NEAR.
Rainbow Bridge Spotlight: Spread the Word Far and Wide
To mobilize the NEAR Community, a special spotlight has been created in NEAR’s Open Web Sandbox. A 20% bonus is added onto ALL activities relating to Rainbow Bridge materials, content, social media engagements, and designs.
Now is the time to join the NEAR Ecosystem and promote the Rainbow Bridge. The Ecosystem is young. The opportunities are plentiful. There is a clear need for community members committed to the vision and mission of NEAR Protocol.
Jump into the Sandbox and start spreading the word about the Rainbow Bridge today to earn 20% more on your NEAR Rewards!
Protocol development is a process that takes time. Metrics for success surround the number of active developers as well as the number of new applications launching on top of the protocol. To jumpstart development and build a foundation for years of robust activity, NEAR Protocol has developed its own project development funnel via the Open Web Collective. In short, the Open Web Collective incubates projects, ideas, and founders that can then thrive on top of NEAR for the long-term future.
This structure is not only important for developing the NEAR Ecosystem and building value behind the NEAR Token, but it also plays a fundamental role in the creation of the Open Web. As the Open Web Collective goes on to describe about it’s second batch of projects, it is incubating “Mission critical infrastructure of the Open Web” including Privacy, Accessibility, Data Management, and Identity. These projects are thus not only building out a new more transparent layer of the internet – but they are also bringing innovative and high value solutions to NEAR.
From April 13th to the 14th, the Open Web Collective will host a Demo Day featuring presentations from the different projects in the batch. To prepare for that, below is a brief outline of what kinds of emerging projects will be featured from around the globe! Sign Up Here!
Next Generation Decentralized Applications
To kick off the outline of new Open Web Collective projects, it’s important to note that some of these projects have already garnered serious traction and development. The first one of particular interest is Wifi Coin:
In short, Wifi Coin intends to build out one of the first decentralized applications for what is described as being a community-owned global internet provider. While Wifi Coin remains extremely young in its development, it currently has grown into the Airline industry:
Through the Open Web Collective Wifi Coin is positioned to move beyond the Airline industry into an ever larger number of hotspots around the world. With eSim cards and a future that revolves around data this is one project that is exceptionally well positioned to thrive.
Mintgate is a project at the intersection of social tokens and NFT’s. As it describes its vision on it’s website:
“Our collective vision is to create a new way to interact between creators and their audiences by giving the community a way to have a stake in the creator’s success.”
In short, Mintgate is a way for content creators to turn online content into monetizable rewards for community-backers. Only backers are able to access the content, and those backers can then choose to use, sell, or hold onto that access as the value of the content changes over time. In many ways Mintgate can be thought of as the ‘Mintbase’ for Social Tokens. Content from articles, to product blueprints, to tweets, can be locked within Mintbase, and only accessed via the link generated from possessing the token.
Paras has been featured before on NEAR Without the Noise, and is growing into an NFT giant on NEAR in its own right. As a platform for digital collectables that is equally adding launchpad infrastructure and more tools for artists, Paras provides an exceptionally user-friendly means for minting and selling NFTs.
Hash Rush is a NEAR based survival exploration game. As a first foray into the world of blockchain-based gaming, RUSH is already tradeable on Uniswap.
The unique value proposition of Hash Rush, and one that will continue to develop as the game evolves over time, is that players can compete in a virtual world, for digital currencies that have real-world value. In this sense, building, fighting, and trading with other players can become a real income stream for some!
Vetz is a music rights marketplace. Already available as an application in both the Android and iOS store, Vetz can be downloaded and used as a marketplace by artists and songwriters for sharing royalties in their creations. As Vetz describes itself on its website:
“Vezt is the first mobile app where music fans can share royalty rights for songs and recordings by artists they love. We exist to improve the music industry by providing artists, songwriters, and producers with funding sourced directly from their fans on a global basis. In exchange, fans get the right to receive royalties earned by their favorite songs and recordings.”
Based out of Los Angeles, California, Vetz sees the current value of NFT’s in Art playing an even more important role in upending the music industry!
Open Finance Teams
Open Finance has been touted as the future of finance, and especially relevant for the global south. Two projects from the second batch of the Open Web Collective have focused on expediting the future of open-finance in two very different ways.
Kamix is a platform for transferring money, specifically targeted for Africa and the global African Diaspora. While it currently is live in Cameroon, it plans to launch soon in Nigeria as well.
As a product, Kamix puts affordability and usability first, by making it quick and easy to set up and account, with 0% commission charged on transfers. In 2019, Kamix won the Africa Startup Summit Afric’ Up in Tunis.
HEO Finance is a stable coin crowdfunding platform that intends to build in crypto-economic incentives for early crowdfunders helping to get campaigns off the ground. While crowdfunding has traditionally been plagued with gatekeepers and oversight as to what is allowed to be funded or not, HEO is the first step in revolutionizing the free flow of capital between angel investors and projects, individuals, and movements!
Privacy for Web3
NEAR Protocol has established itself as a haven for privacy and privacy advocates, especially after the launch and funding of the Cypherpunk Guild. On NEAR, Privacy is taken seriously as an essential requirement for a prosperous and healthy community.
Nym describes itself as “developing the infrastructure to prevent data leakage by protecting every packet’s metadata at the network layer.” In short, Nym is a privacy juggernaut looking to not only protect existing users from surveillance capitalist companies and agencies, but to integrate such infrastructure with the rapidly emerging Web3 space.
Well funded and with a highly qualified team, Nym convincingly compares their solution to VPN’s, TOR, I2P, and Facebook, before discussing scalability on their FAQ questions page. The full NYM whitepaper can be read here.
For more information check out the Nym Website. Littered with references to Surveillance Capitalism, Five Eyes, the importance of privacy and anonymity, as well as a host of papers and videos, Nym putting their ideas to work in building out the next generation of privacy infrastructure.
“Nym is partnering with the stealth startup Kryptik to release a mixnet which has superior privacy properties to Tor against global passive adversaries. This mixnet is the culmination of years of academic research into surveillance proof networking by the PANORAMIX project.”
Sarcophagus is an Ecosystem built as a ‘dead-man’s switch platform’. In short, Sarcophagus provides a means for accessing the digital identity, keys, and digital materials of a person based on a pre-coded inaction that they fail to do. From political activism, to emergency communication, to will and trust management, Sarcophagus is looking to enable a future where machines will be able to act where users cannot.
By playing to a system of incentives amongst different stakeholders Sarcophagus creates a host of new services for crypto-users, right at a time when privacy and digitization have made digital ownership a precious commodity:
With Sarcophagus we witness the activation of code in service of human behavior. Tokenized and managed by a group of distributed stakeholders, a new future awaits with Sarcophagus embedded in our digital systems.
Verida is a project that believes that data should be owned and managed by users first. In line with the mission of the Open Web to create a world where user owned data becomes the standard, Verida is building decentralized data management technologies for businesses, governments, and individuals to all handle the commodity of the 21st century in a better way.
From Data Store Servers, to connecting APIs, to trusted transactions and frameworks, to schemas and single-sign on, Verida is building out the base layer infrastructure for a data management system that puts privacy and ownership first.
Conclusion: The Open Web Collective is Bringing A New Generation of Dapps to Market
With this second batch of projects scheduled to showcase their products and technology at the Open Web Collective Demo Day, the Open Web Collective continues its march to creating a digital future that is decentralized, open, permissionless, and user-focused. The numerous different solutions from the second batch foreshadow a future of machines, instant payments, tokenized value, and better privacy and data ownership.
The long awaited announcement for the launch of the Rainbow bridge has finally arrived: The NEAR – ETH Rainbow Bridge is live! A new era of interoperability between blockchain ecosystems has begun. Beyond the hype and the enthusiasm for seeing lots of new applications and assets move onto NEAR Protocol, the launch of the Rainbow bridge is a small progression in a much larger process: The prospect of building an Open Web.
“We live in a vastly interconnected world and the web3 ecosystem is no different. The concept of a new, accessible open web is aimed at making everything interoperable and building a permanent, ownerless, and borderless foundation for the connected global community of which we are all a part of.”
With the successful launch of the bridge, an initial advance has been made in creating a more connected and collaborative crypto-community, specifically between the NEAR and Ethereum Ecosystems:
“The Rainbow Bridge allows developers to utilize Ethereum assets and smart contracts on NEAR—a fast, scalable, and low-cost environment. The Bridge has the power to accelerate community development as it allows ETH users immediate access to apps built on NEAR.”
Notably, the real value proposition of the Bridge is that it creates win-win solutions for developers looking to build across blockchains. While in the past, crypto development has been largely focused on expanding infrastructure and solutions inside of a particular ecosystem, the Rainbow bridge inaugurates a paradigm shift for developers looking to create collaborative solutions across ecosystems. This is at the very core of the NEAR Team’s mission in building the bridge. As they originally wrote:
“We want to freely move our assets and data between the blockchains, or even better — run our product on several blockchains at the same time and leverage each of them…At NEAR, we do not want Ethereum developers to choose between NEAR and Ethereum and commit to only one. We want them to have the same asset on both blockchains and even have apps that seamlessly communicate across the boundary. So we are building a bridge, called Rainbow Bridge, to connect the Ethereum and NEAR blockchains.”
Building the Open Web means building Open Infrastructure for Open-Source Communities interested in collaboratively preserving open systems of money, identity management, and data. The Rainbow Bridge is a massive step towards that future.
“So a bridge is a way to bring these assets that are originating right now on Ethereum – and bring them to NEAR and unlock all of these abilities. Obviously as this progressed, there are a lot of applications that might have originated on Ethereum but don’t fit right now in the current paradigm of financial craziness. They need a home that still connects to Ethereum because there is still more liquidity there even for non financial assets like NFT’s or some other things. So this bridge can also host arbitrary communication – sending other types of data information – which NFT’s are, and this was also in its purview. So in reality, as it progressed, we kind of realized this can become a platform to really connect with Ethereum and provide all of the functionality that people want early on especially coming from Ethereum, kind of on NEAR – while we still can develop in the Ecosystem.”
In itself, the Bridge holds the promise of providing an interoperable channel for the transfer of assets, data, and cross-chain calls, between the NEAR and Ethereum blockchains. In context the Bridge signifies a monumental enhancement for the crypto-verse: Permissionless interoperability between two parallel blockchain ecosystems building the Open Web.
A simple review of the most common questions surrounding the Rainbow Bridge, as well as the context for its development, and its significance in the Macro Crypto environment helps contextualize this event:
– What is the Context for the Rainbow Bridge?
– What Are the Technical Components of the Rainbow Bridge?
– Is the Rainbow Bridge Decentralized?
– If I am a User What Can I Expect When Using The Bridge?
– What Operations does the bridge execute on the backend, during a Bridge Transfer?
– What is the Significance of the Bridge if I build on NEAR or Ethereum Right Now?
– What, in principle, can be Transferred Across the Bridge?
– What can currently be transferred across the bridge?
– Who Pays for the Bridge Currently?
– What is the Long Term Goal of the Bridge?
– What is Rainbow Protocol?
– What does the Faucet refer to?
– Where Can I Find Analytics Relating to the Bridge?
– What Applications Exist That Currently Utilize the Bridge?
Ultimately, The Decentralized Web is evolving to the point that two massive parallel blockchain ecosystems can seamlessly interact with one another, to share assets, data transfers, and cross-chain calls. The Open Web is growing up!
What Are the Technical Components of the Rainbow Bridge?
– An Ethereum Light Client implemented on NEAR (Including an Ethereum to NEAR Relay Service)
– A NEAR Light Client implemented on Ethereum (Including a NEAR to Ethereum Relay Service)
– An Ethereum Prover implemented on NEAR, to verify Ethereum Events.
– A NEAR Prover implemented on Ethereum, to verify NEAR Contract Executions.
– ‘Connectors’ enabled by Provers, for locking and minting assets on ETH and NEAR respectively (currently contracts are only available for ERC20 tokens).
– A Watchdog Service For Challenging Headers from NEAR transactions on the NEAR Light Client in Ethereum (Due to the current latency of NEAR → ETH interactions).
The respective relays and clients, move and maintain assets across the bridge, while the provers allow for the verification of events/contract execution results from the opposite blockchain. With this base level foundation, specific contracts can be written for different token standards to migrate back and forth between the different blockchains. In fact, Connectors use the core bridge contracts in tandem with header relays and the watchdog to prove that information coming from other blockchains is correct. In essence this is a permissionless Oracle for the movement of assets between chains!
Is the Rainbow Bridge Decentralized?
As explained in the release blog, the rainbow bridge “does not require special permission to deploy, maintain, or use. Anyone can deploy a new bridge, use an existing bridge, or join the maintenance of an existing bridge without getting approval from anyone else, not even NEAR Foundation.”
However, this can be nuanced pendent upon the development and roll-out plan for the Bridge: While the final bridge release will be fully decentralized, it will be ‘rolled-out’ in different stages. Based upon the Bridge Upgradeability and Governance Plan, the bridge starts with PoA based governance and subsequently decentralizes as it upgrades over time.
If I am a User What Can I Expect When Using The Bridge?
For users interested in sending assets across the bridge, the experience is similar to other wallet transactions in Crypto:
1. The User Provides Credentials
2. The User Chooses a Beneficiary (address) and an Amount to send
4. Once the transfer has succeeded, the user is provided with visual confirmation on their interface.
What Operations does the bridge execute on the backend, during a Bridge Transfer?
The example provided in the blog uses the classic characters of Alice and Bob. The basic idea behind the backend transfer can be summarized as follows when Alice transfers DAI to Bob from the Ethereum to the NEAR blockchain:
1. A Token On Ethereum is Sent and Locked: The respective amount of DAI is transferred from Alice to the Tokenlocker that subsequently locks the tokens.
2. Ethereum client on NEAR blockchain syncs with Ethereum blockchain: Ethereum Client constantly receives the Ethereum block headers from relaying service, and once it receives a block with the transaction from the previous step (plus a sufficient amount of confirmations — 20 for mainnet), the client and a prover contract can be used for proving it.
3. Transfer finalization transaction: A user or any other entity calls the MintableFungibleToken contract (factory) to finalise the transfer. This contract then calls the Ethereum prover (on NEAR) which checks the transaction confirmation (on the Ethereum Client on NEAR). Once it has been verified, the MintableFungibleToken contract reads the Ethereum event and mints the respective amount of nDAI (1:1 equivalent of DAI) for Bob.
Congratulations! That is it.
What is the Significance of the Bridge if I build on NEAR or Ethereum Right Now?
The Rainbow Bridge allows the NEAR and Ethereum blockchains to communicate with one another. Developers building on NEAR can access all existing assets and decentralized financial products existing on Ethereum. Developers on Ethereum, meanwhile, can easily migrate to NEAR if gas fees remain unfeasible, while “maintaining their Ethereum-native user base.” For more information see the thread by Alex Skidanov Here.
What, in principle, can be Transferred Across the Bridge?
In principle, full interoperability means that any transaction or statement from either blockchain can be verified by the other. According to Alex this “enables any asset transfers, arbitrary cross-chain calls and arbitrary data transfers”.
What can currently be transferred across the bridge?
In its current form, support only exists for transferring ERC20 tokens back and forth from Ethereum to NEAR. This is because different sets of contracts have to be built for different token standards (i.e. ERC721 tokens and native tokens).
Who Pays for the Bridge Currently?
In its current state, the Rainbow Bridge is maintained by the NEAR Foundation. The Team is carefully designing an incentive structure for those maintaining the bridge by paying for gas from header relays.
To date, the cost of maintaining the bridge rests at roughly 2 ETH per day (due to the NEAR Headers relaying transactions from Ethereum) with negligible costs on the NEAR Side. More details on the costs of transfers is explained by Dr. Alex Shevchenko:
The costs of these three transactions can be broken down as follows:
The Macro view here is key: The Web3 Ecosystem is developing – The Open Web is growing up with the goal of building a “Permanent, Ownerless, and Borderless Foundation” for connected people all over the world. The Rainbow Bridge is a product meant to enhance the evolution and development of Web3 in a mutually beneficial and positive manner for both the Ethereum and NEAR communities.
What is Rainbow Protocol?
While the Rainbow Bridge refers to the NEAR – ETH Bridge that has just launched between NEAR Protocol and the Ethereum Network, Rainbow Protocol is the underlying infrastructure that will provide decentralized and permissionless bridging between NEAR and other Layer 1 Blockchains in the future. This includes potential bridges to Cosmos, Polkadot, Elrond, and NEO among others. The main components of Rainbow Protocol include Provers, Connectors, Relays, a Watchdog, and Lite Clients for the bridging chain and NEAR Protocol itself.
Figure 1: A blueprint of the Rainbow Bridge that represents the most important facets of Rainbow Protocol.
What does the Faucet refer to?
The Faucet refers to a tool in the NEAR Ecosystem that allows Ethereum holders to create a free Account on NEAR. Specifically, with a minimum balance of 0.05 ETH, users can connect their MetaMask account to the Faucet to create a NEAR Account with a specified Account ID. The Faucet has been created to streamline interactivity between Ethereum and NEAR for token holders interested in porting assets between the two chains.
Where Can I Find Analytics Relating to the Bridge?
Analytics of the Rainbow Bridge is currently displayed here. The data displayed refers to: The Total Transaction Count, The Total Assets Bridged in USD, The Number of Unique Bridged Users, as well as visualizations of Bridge assets and transaction inputs and outputs.
What is the plan to decentralize governance of the bridge over time?
The full bridge upgradeability and governance plan has been released on the NEAR forum by Dr. Alex Shevchenko. The plan is set out in four stages, moving from centralized management to fully decentralized and DAO based management of the bridge. These stages in brief are:
Stage 1. Centralised governance, no fixed interfaces
Stage 2. Separate multisig governance, proxy patterns
Stage 3. Separate multisig governance, proxy patterns with freeze periods, pausability and escape hatches, fixed interfaces
Stage 4. Validator DAO, proxy patterns with freeze periods, pausability and escape hatches, fixed interfaces
What Applications Exist That Currently Utilize the Bridge?
To date, there are two primary applications that make use of the Rainbow bridge: Flux Protocol and Ref.finance. Flux is a decentralized predictions market protocol preparing to launch on NEAR in the coming weeks. Flux utilizes stable coins to denominate prediction markets. Ref.finance is a community created and governed AMM that allows for the swapping of any bridged tokens with one another. Future apps also include Artificial Exchange, and Mintbase (with the transfer of NFT’s across the bridge).
ART Coin Exchange is a decentralized asset exchange and native stable coin (aUSD) on NEAR Protocol created by NEAR’s Yifang Ma and Bo Yao. Similar to Ethereum based projects like Synthetix, Artcoin allows users to trade virtual assets and cryptos in a decentralized and permissionless manner.
Existing virtual assets include:
– Bitcoin (BTC)
– The S&P 500 Index
Under its current design, the ART Coin Exchange provides a zero-slip, infinite liquidity and instantly exchangeable network for trading between any kind of cryptocurrency, commodity, stock and foreign currency. While existing assets operate on the NEAR testnet as a proof of concept, many more are currently being prepared for mainnet.
Additionally, as one of the first native stable coins on NEAR, Artcoin provides a key piece of essential infrastructure to the development of the NEAR Ecosystem: Stable coins. Hailed by many as one of the first ‘killer apps’ of crypto, stable coins allow users to benefit from the stability of existing currencies, with all of the accessibility and benefits of holding a decentralized crypto.
“The killer app is already here and there is already good evidence of it. They are boring but they are stable coins. The big things holding back this ecosystem was the underlying volatility and mental overhead of asset volatility in various cryptocurrencies. Once you remove that, and you have just a programmable dollar, this is the foundation of DeFi. The DeFi revolution doesn’t really happen without stable coins. 10 years from now we’ll look back and say that was the thing that already unlocked it all.”
With aUSD the stability of an asset is guaranteed by ART token holders staking the ART token. As a native solution built on top of NEAR Protocol, all assets on ART Coin Exchange are NEP-21 tokens. Interested DeFi farmers can lock and stake ART to earn aUSD.
DeFi on NEAR: Why Does it Matter?
As early decentralized financial infrastructure continues to develop, NEAR Protocol offers a number of marked advantages to networks and protocols looking to offer decentralized financial services.
In the case of ART Coin Exchange, NEAR’s extremely high efficiency and performance specifically in handling high-transactions at a cost-effective and accelerated rate means that it only takes ART seconds to be transferred between users with a miniscule transaction fee.
Similar protocols living on Ethereum, such as Synthetix, currently suffer from delays due to high gas fees and network congestion: A transaction can take minutes to hours.
ART Coin Exchange: A Bullish Future
In the context of the development of both NEAR Protocol and the future of DeFi, Artcoin Network is positioned as one of many new DeFi projects preparing to launch in the coming months. This launch comes at a time when synthetic assets continue to gain traction across the crypto-verse in spite of unfeasible gas fees on Ethereum. NEAR’s user-friendly account model combined with extremely low transaction costs, makes it an ideal alternative for both new and existing DeFi projects similar to Artcoin. With much development expected in the coming months – from new assets, and commodities to wrapped crypto –be sure to follow Artcoin’s development on NEAR.
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!