NEAR and Ethereum: A Tale of Two Cities

Crypto is an emerging industry – we all know that. Some of us have done this before, in the 1990s during the early days of the internet. Others are here for the first time. With market volatility and crypto twitter, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and revert back to common paradigms of viewing product development, competition, and new products. But emerging industries are usually different – at least at first – and even then, crypto is very different from other industries. 

This article provides an informal overview of how I think it would be healthy to view NEAR’s development in parallel to Ethereum. To date, there have been lots of narratives surrounding Ethereum: Ethereum Killers, Ethereum and Open Finance, Ethereum outgrowing Bitcoin, as well as interoperability between Ethereum and other L1’s (like NEAR or Polkadot). Everyone is very opinionated on the topic, and understandably so: If you have stuck around with Ethereum over the years, you are undoubtedly fond of it. Or, if you missed the boat, you might be looking for the next opportunity. 

Regardless of what your background is, there is a certain picture I want to paint that hopefully does justice to the context of NEAR’s development alongside Ethereum. While that picture will touch upon technical details and protocol design features, as well as the words of NEAR Co-founder Illia Polosukhin, it actually starts with a comparison made by Haseeb Qureshi, Managing Partner of Dragonfly Capital:

NEAR is not trying to kill Ethereum. At this point, Ethereum is going to forever be a fixture in the smart contract landscape. Rather, NEAR collaborates with and augments Ethereum, as another major city in the landscape of blockchain networks.”

Smart contract land, is the name of the space Haseeb refers to when referencing the development of different cities, farms and suburbs (i.e. different protocols, Layer Twos, etc). And when we look at project development from this perspective, it actually dissolves a lot of the artificial divisions we might make between the ‘competition’ and ‘success’ of projects compared to one another: 

Cities rise and fall. Some cities endure for thousands of years, while other cities fade out over time as resources are depleted or better infrastructure is built elsewhere. It’s a process, and at the very center of the process is the identity of the city in question: What kind of a culture does the city have? Is it expensive? What kind of people does it attract? Does it have a massive population? Or perhaps a key focus on sustainability or innovation? 

Another point to keep in mind, is that while some people really identify with ‘their city’ (like New Yorkers or Bostonians) others who grow up in the suburbs, may come to spend time between cities. The point is that comparing cities is not necessarily a metrics-based-comparison, as much as it is a value, culture, infrastructure and identity-based comparison. How should that affect how we view NEAR and Ethereum? 

There Are Some Fundamental Design Differences Between NEAR and Ethereum

Anyone who takes the Open Web and the development of Crypto seriously needs to be able to ask themselves the following three questions:

1. Scalability: For where crypto is going in the future, is Ethereum (or my favorite L1) capable of scaling over time to handle massive levels of mainstream interest and adoption? 

2. Developer Friendly: For how cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will evolve into traditional computer science and software development, is Ethereum (or my favorite L1) developer friendly, accessible or appealing? 

3. Usability: For the global user-base that we expect to use all of these dApps, is Ethereum (or my favorite L1) cost effective, easily accessible and intuitive for new users?

NEAR

NEAR is building a city of the future, based on the original vision created by Ethereum. NEAR’s city is going to be massive, but it will take time for it to grow. NEAR’s City will be a central hub for future crypto innovation and emerging technology integrations, and will attract developers and entrepreneurs interested in quickly getting their business launched. It will be a commercial hub, where anyone and everyone – from any background can participate in the Open Web and a new ownership economy, regardless of where they come from or what they believe in. And perhaps most importantly, it will be a city with a culture of inclusion: Where companies port across ecosystems to other blockchains – like Ethereum – and where the people are friendly. 

Ethereum

Ethereum is the city of the future manifested in the present. It’s extremely developed, beautiful, funded and renowned. A definite wonder of the crypto-world – today and for the next two hundred years. As the first city of its kind, Ethereum attracts the best and the brightest getting into crypto. However, it’s not the most inclusive place: A large portion of its population has lived in Ethereum since before it was this glistening behemoth of the new world. The language can be hard to learn. And parts of the city can be extremely expensive. The character, nevertheless, is that of a global hub for Decentralized Finance and Enterprise Blockchain. The value of the city towers above anyone who goes into it. 

A Tale Of Two Cities: Scalability

Let’s address the first question: 

For where crypto is going in the future, is Ethereum (or my favorite L1) capable of scaling over time with massive levels of mainstream interest and adoption?

We all know that Ethereum Gas problems have made scalability a challenge. 

DragonFly Capital: https://medium.com/dragonfly-research/dragonfly-near-b24537af6f8d

And while the Ethereum team is hard at work, Haseeb refers to the amount of time it will take for a durable solution to be implemented as a long-term solution: 

“Vitalik recently claimed that smart contracts on Ethereum 2.0 will take so long, Ethereum has to go all-in on rollups in the intervening years.”

This is where things become interesting if we ask the same question in relation to NEAR: 

NEAR is already launched as a horizontally sharded blockchain platform. As Illia explains, block times are quick, and fees miniscule: 

Right now we have 1 second blocks, roughly, and 2 to 3 second finality, right. Which in comparison to the ETH 2 approach you guys have like 12 second slots and 13 minute finality or something like that in the best cases. So that is a spectrum, and finding how to create tiers of security – that is what we did with our shards. There will be a lot more validators on the shards then block production.” (Illia – Grilling the Rainbow 

In terms of costs, that translates to an initial price for 1 TGas being 0.0001 N. Making one block 0.1N at the minimum. A larger overview for setup costs on NEAR is listed below: 

Overall, NEAR has baked scalability into the core design of the protocol so that as more projects start to build on top of the network and more transactions accrue, the network is able to naturally handle the transaction load by adding more shards: 

“To give you a sense for the sheer scalability improvements NEAR offers, each shard on the NEAR blockchain can process 10x more transactions individually than Ethereum 1.0. The NEAR blockchain will eventually have over 100 shards. This means that NEAR will eventually be able to process over 1000 times more transactions per second than Ethereum 1.0.” 

One conclusion to take away from this is that while Ethereum will most definitely find a way to continue to operate, it will be some time before it is able to scale at a cost and speed comparable to NEAR. NEAR, while handling significantly less value than Ethereum (eons less in fact) is designed to handle transactions in a quick and cheap manner. 

A Tale of Two Cities: Developer Incentives 

A 2020 Global Developer study suggests that there are 26.9 million developers around the world. By 2030 that number will increase to 45 million. As the study goes on to explain: 

”We can expect an approximate 75% growth in the number of software developers worldwide in the upcoming decade” (Future Processing Business Blog)

From within this context, any person who is seriously invested in the future of crypto and the widespread development of crypto-based solutions and products, needs to then ask themselves the second question from above: 

For how cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will evolve into traditional computer science and software development curriculums, is Ethereum (or my favorite L1) developer friendly, accessible or appealing? 

Let’s take NEAR first this time: 

NEAR is built by and for developers who want to quickly and easily create blockchain-based dApps, games, and other Web3 solutions. To do that, developers can code in Rust and AssemblyScript. Even more interesting, is the small benefit directed towards developers once they have deployed their solution: Developers take 30% of transaction fees home with them from their contracts. These are things that have been said before – what matters is the effects of this design. 

NEAR is built to appeal to the developers of the future by allowing them to build solutions in more familiar programming languages. A lot of other L1 protocols have taken a similar approach (so in this sense it’s not a super unique characteristic of NEAR). The fact that developers take home 30% of rewards from their contracts, is a statement of how value is viewed on the protocol: Developers are natively rewarded by the protocol for building on top of it. 

Ethereum was never created with the thought of appealing to the 20 million new developers that will sign onto the internet between 2020 and 2030. It was the first of its kind. And in this context, Solidity is a programming language that may someday look a lot like Ancient Greek: It inaugurated a paradigm shift in computing, but it remains difficult to learn and expensive to contract for. 

That being said, building on Ethereum does have a number of advantages for developers: Massive amounts of Layer 2 infrastructure (i.e. Matic) has been built to accommodate developers. A huge world of development opportunities exist on top of existing L2s that can be done in other programming languages, and a huge network exists to source talent, connect to existing solutions, and scale an existing product.

A Tale of Two Cities: Usability and Accessibility 

Crypto Twitter is good at creating the illusion that the world of crypto exists in a parallel universe to the rest of the world. But as the history of innovation and technology diffusion has demonstrated at length, dating back to the first industrial revolution, any general purpose technology that creates value is inevitably positioned to tip into other industries with massive network effects. Crypto is no different. 

That means that the Layer 1 Protocols of today, like Ethereum and NEAR, need to be asking themselves what was listed above as the third and final question:

For the global user-base that we expect to use all of these dApps, is Ethereum (or my favorite L1) cost effective, easily accessible and intuitive for users? 

Let’s start with Ethereum on this one: User-engagement presupposes a certain familiarity with Crypto, that does not look to change in the future. Setting up a MetaMask wallet, figuring out private keys and wallet addresses, and navigating custom network RPC’s is baked into the design of Ethereum. That is not necessarily a problem right now, but it is unclear how that will change in the future as more users coming from a more familiar digital environment begin to experiment with crypto. 

NEAR, differentiates itself from the pack when it comes to usability. On NEAR there are two different types of Accounts:

Source: https://gov.near.org/t/account-faucet/458

As Illia explains, accounts on NEAR are able to be ‘named’ with an AccountID. These accounts in turn have additional progressive security features including email and phone number verification and backups. 

The Main Differences Between the NEAR Account Model vs. ETH

Notably, this model can create its own host of problems as well (i.e. See here the Account Faucet Discussion), but the overall intention is to make the NEAR ecosystem more user-friendly, intuitive, and familiar to new users. Future projections about mass adoption and new users entering the space are exactly that – projections – so the real effects of the different user-engagement designs will only be revealed in time. 

What Does A Tale of Two Cities Entail Into the Future?

To conclude, I want to take a big-picture view of the crypto space and its development in the coming decade. One thing that I think is highly underestimated in this space, is the lack of focus on accessibility for new participants:  

If we believe that Web3 will continue to grow in both development and users in the coming decade, we need to ask where those users will be coming from?

While one may stereotypically assume that Europe, the United States and East Asia will be the fundamental drivers of the crypto revolution, others hold that much of the developing world will be the primary users of a lot of the core products being built today. Charles Hoskinson, Founder of Cardano and current CEO of Input Output, discusses in the interview below why he believes that the future of crypto is largely to be found in developing economies predominantly in Africa, South East Asia, India, and South America: 

In the context of building the great blockchain cities of tomorrow, it is important to recognize that in order for crypto to be accessible and appealing to this massive user-base, it also has to be affordable. And while protocol gas fees are high on ETH, much like an expensive city, the crypto space is young and looking to expand outwards. 

Into the future, the two cities of NEAR and Ethereum will both continue to build and morph into deeper and more complex environments. Time will tell what unique characteristics, identities, and cultures they both come to reflect. 

Education at NEAR: Scalable Affordable dApps for Hackers and Entrepreneurs

At BlockHash Live 2020, (3:17.29) NEAR Head of Education Sherif Abushadi spoke about the way the NEAR team has been building NEAR Protocol in light of the evolution of the world wide web, the future of cryptocurrency, and the nature of open-source project development. In parallel, the NEAR Education Guild led by NEAR’s James Waup, is planning to launch in the coming month by supporting research and ecosystem development on all things related to learning about and building on NEAR. 

“Building a strong community is hard and takes time to get right (and a lot of luck). You basically want to attract the biggest and brightest minds but to do so you have to have a compelling narrative that gets these people excited and motivated.” – The Daily Gwei 

What is the Open Web? Getting Behind The Narrative Grounding NEAR

Sherif delved into the history, present, and future of the web in his BlockHash Livestream. Covering the development of Web 0, Web 1, Web 2, and now Web 3, Sherif contextualized the development of NEAR within the revolutionary paradigm shift that distributed ledgers and digital tokens propose for creating a new internet of trustless value. 

While Web2 has been characterized by ‘broadcast media’ and the capacity to share large amounts of information, images, and videos with other people, Web3 is characterized by decentralization and ownership. 

In Web2 we are used to fast, cheap data. In Web3 one of the core features will be data unassailability and data permanence. This is a major shift.

– Sherif Abushadi, NEAR Head of Education

The narrative that NEAR embraces as a Layer 1 Protocol, is that it is uniquely positioned to not only scalably develop the Open Web – but to do so in a way that puts users and developers first. That vision is at the heart of what NEAR hopes to achieve: A scalable and usable Web3 platform capable of achieving mass adoption. 

Developers can Expect Easy Building and Built in Optimizations on NEAR:

To date, most blockchain protocols require developers to learn a special programming language in order to create smart contracts and applications (i.e. Solidity). NEAR approaches development by making it easy for existing developers (From Web2) to easily start building in familiar languages: Contracts are written using AssemblyScript or Rust and compiled to Wasm, which is almost Javascript, 

In addition, Sherif explains how optimizations on NEAR are built into the protocol, resulting in a network that is 10x-100x cheaper than ETH, where developers get 30% of the transactions that your smart contract uses, and where 1 second block time and 3 second finality make it easy to rapidly send transactions onto the network.

There Are A Lot of Opportunities To Get Started As A Developer or Entrepreneur On NEAR:

The Open Web Collective (-15 million raise for projects in 2020): Founders and teams have the opportunity to apply to the Open Web Collective as a unique crypto accelerator for their project dealing with all aspects of product design, business development, funding and team building. For more on the opportunities available click here. 

NEAR Grants Program (100k NEAR Budget): For solo projects, small fixes, events, NEAR is about to start their Grant program. This opportunity is for Web3 project planners, NEAR Community Members, and Guilds to leverage the grant system to continue to build the ecosystem. 

NEAR Bounty Program (50k NEAR Budget): At Near.org/bounties community members and public hackers have the opportunity to help build certain aspects of the NEAR ecosystem for a set reward. Bounties can be set by team members or Guilds. 

Figment Learn Pathway for NEAR: NEAR recently partnered with Figment Learn to provide a pathway for developers to start building dApps on NEAR. Completing the pathway will earn prospective developers 10 NEAR and also provide them with a basic overview of development on NEAR!

Gitcoin Kernel (8 Week Fellowship): Last but not least, through Gitcoin Kernel, developers have the opportunity to apply for an eight week fellowship to fully develop a specific project within the NEAR Ecosystem – this could relate to the EVM, Rainbow bridge, or any project or protocol building on top of NEAR! 

The NEAR Education Guild is Here!

The recently launched NEAR Education Guild is a collaborative place to discuss the growth of the NEAR community, set and earn bounties on communicating NEAR, and working with other interested community members interested in understanding all of the facets of NEAR protocol. As NEAR is a young protocol, and the education guild is even younger there is a world of opportunity for interested crypto enthusiasts, Web2 developers and genuine intellectuals interested in the new frontier of opportunity provided by the Open Web! To join the conversation, click here. 

A Home For NFT’s Is Building on NEAR: Here Is Why That Matters

Most people have heard of Non-Fungible Tokens: Crypto-Kitties. A New Ownership Economy. Tokenized Art. Real Estate. There are plenty of different buzz words used in reference to the massive potential that this rising asset class holds whether it be for providing new value, business models, or personal credit to creators and investors alike.

In context, Non-Fungible Tokens have somewhat silently emerged in the past 6 months beneath the DeFi frenzy, with nonfungible.com registering over $8.6 million dollars in value exchanged in the past month alone – 5.9% of the total value that NFT’s have garnered since they were created.

Define Non-Fungible Token According to the NFT Bible:

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique, digital items with blockchain-managed ownership. Examples include collectibles, game items, digital art, event tickets, domain names, and even ownership records for physical assets. 

If you are not familiar with NFT’s you may have a hard time conceptualizing their value or how they can be used. Here is a general point to keep in mind: 

With NFT’s, you have the opportunity to establish unique digital ownership over a specific asset, in which you alone possess that asset, and the details (or metadata) pertaining to that asset are built into the smart contract beneath it. That means that the asset can be divided and sold, value can be pushed into the asset from another contract, and changes in ownership over time are recorded in its digital mechanics.

Where is Disruption from NFT’s Going To Happen (First)? 

Art, Music, and Content: According to Matty (@DCLblogger) NFT’s have the potential to bring the following to creators and artists alike: They Can be tied back to the Artist, Sales history tracked, Bought & Sold on the Marketplace, Authenticated as the ‘original’ piece. Royalties can also be built into the transfer of ownership of the piece of art, music, or content in question. 

Real Estate and Land: Tokenizing houses, pieces of land, or geographical coordinates has the added benefit of better managing ownership, distributing / fractionalizing value, and increasing exposure to different markets. From being a smart real estate investor to plotting out land tenure claims in the developing world, NFT’s bring a host of value to multiple industries dealing with both physical and digital land. 

Tickets and Events: Ticketing and event management is an interesting one, that assumes the future of tickets, event management and voting is going digital. In a post-covid world that idea does not seem to be too far fetched. Here is what Mintbase’ Nate Geier had to say about NFT’s for ticket management: 

“NFT’s are really going to start shining when using voting and tickets with NFTs. You can buy the ticket using a decentralized currency and go to an event. But as soon as you say there is an open API anyone can interact with to create voting apps or ecosystems, then you can add things by saying, anyone who has a DAppcon ticket can cowork at our space as well – this is really exciting.” – Hack the Rainbow Session 5. 

In essence, using NFT’s for ticketing, voting and events allows project managers and event hosts to digitally push value and additional perks into their audience’s pockets for services that may relate to an event (i.e. free access or claim) or even go beyond it (i.e. anyone who attended Web Summit gets a free coffee certificate to Starbucks every month for the next 12 months through their NFT). 

Gaming: Online Gaming, predicted by some to be the home of the next trillion dollar company is another key area where NFT’s are shining. In games like Zed.run users are able to purchase scarce digital assets that have the opportunity to improve their performance or add uniqueness to their character. From horses, to weapons, to rare items, game creators can embed such objects into their gaming worlds and let them take on a life of their own on alternative markets, and among players and collectors. 

Financial Instruments: Last but not least, NFT’s have the potential to revolutionize financial instruments – especially in how value can be stored, fractionalized, and traded. An easy example of this would be to use an NFT of an asset (i.e. a digital piece of art or a bottle of wine or a house) as collateral for backing a loan. The NFT is locked in return for accessing the loan. Only once the loan has been repaid, is the NFT transferred back to its owner. These functions are programmed into the smart contracts underlying the tokenized assets. 

Ready for something really mind boggling? You could tie a stake on a protocol into an NFT, and then fractionalize that NFT and sell pieces of it to different users interested in accruing state interest over time. This is how it is explained in the NEAR – ETH Rainbow Hackathon: 

“Mark just minted an NFT that allows you to accrue your states interest, if you are the owner of that NFT. So if you want to give that NFT to your friend for christmas, then they can start accruing the interest. The owner of the NFT is the staker – the Aave staker. The NFT offers portable stake pieces that can be shared or loaned out. DeFi NFT stuff is the next frontier.” – Hack the Rainbow Session 5

Why is NEAR the Home for NFT’s? 

A lot of people underestimate the importance of accessibility and usability in the context of new technology or innovative products. Put simply, if it’s not easy for average people or niche market segments to access and use a product in question, it probably will not go mainstream anytime soon. This sentiment is echoed by dApp Radar’s Ilya Abugov when he tells Cointelegraph about the following challenges NFT’s are facing: 

“Although there is a bit more engagement, there is not much ready for mainstream use in terms of UX/UI. Moreover, NFTs inherit all of the typical difficulties of a blockchain-utilizing project and some of the traditional industry challenges may cross over as well. For example, art and collectibles are not very liquid.” (CoinDesk

NEAR is well positioned to become the home for NFT’s because NEAR provides a platform that is exceptionally user and developer friendly: Use an Account Name, Build solutions in Rust or AssemblyScript, No Network Congestion Worries, and most importantly, Community Infrastructure to support creators and projects. What this means, is that NEAR is at the forefront of making NFT’s digestible to average users, investors or collectors – without having to worry about technical terminology, alphanumeric wallet addresses, and high transaction fees. For a more comprehensive overview of NEAR Protocol and its many features, see The NEAR Investment Thesis. 

NFT’s On NEAR: What’s Happening Right Now

As a protocol, NEAR recently launched their main network back in September. In the short couple of months since that time a number of different projects focused on supporting the growth and development of Non-Fungible Tokens has organically arison on the platform. At the time of writing (December, 2020) a foundation is being built for a robust NFT community on NEAR. Here are the main players involved in that community: 

Mintbase: Mintbase is in many ways the Mothership of NFT’s on NEAR. It’s a base-level platform that allows anyone and everyone to easily mint their own NFT’s and collections for whatever purpose they have in mind. Original planned for Ethereum, but now building fast out of Portugal, Mintbase boasts over 980 existing stores and more than 81,000 transactions. A transcript and general overview of Nate Geier’s Session at the Hack the Rainbow Hackathon can be found here

Createbase Guild: CreateBase is one of the fastest growing Guilds on NEAR. Managed by a community of artists and creators actively building on the platform, Createbase holds weekly calls to discuss project opportunities, funding rounds, and new ideas relating to the development of products and materials that will help promote NFT’s, Art, and other unique assets. To see the project pipeline click here. 

FlamingoDAO: FlamingoDAO is in its early days but from what is known about, is that it will exclusively support the development of NFT’s with funding, NFT acquisitions, and guidance for founders and developers. A full overview of FlamingoDAO can be found here. A fill overview of NEAR’s engagement with FlamingoDAO can be found here. 

Snark.Art: Snark.Art describes itself as a technology laboratory at the intersection of crypto and art, exploring the commercial value proposition behind tokenized art. To date, users are able to purchase digital and physical art on the platform, while also connecting with artists. 

ARterra: ARTerra describes itself as a home for digital collectables, at the intersection of gaming, fan engagement and events. NFT’s are used as a unique bridge in value between teams and fans, to increase overall engagement in sports and provide new value diffusion mechanisms to loyal followers. 

ZED / ZEST: When Digital Race horses meet NFT’s. Users are able to own, breed, and race their digital race horses. Customizations and staking coming soon. While the original platform is built on Ethereum, the Zed team has shown a deep interest in building out more on NEAR as their ecosystem continues to develop in both sophistication and adoption. For more on Zest check out NEAR Without the Noise Episode 5. 

Plantary: A hackathon project developed by Mykle and Lenara working at the intersection of Art and NFT’s. For more about Plantary check out the writeup on their NEAR Without the Noise Episode. 

What these many projects indicate – to future artists, musicians, developers, and entrepreneurs, is that the NEAR Ecosystem is an emerging home for NFT’s. With a robust community that is both funded and active in sharing ideas, and projects, NEAR is building out the groundwork for creators, artists, and entrepreneurs alike to take NFT’s to the masses in the coming years. This comes at a time when NFT’s are poised to break through as one of the most exciting and valued asset classes in crypto. 

To join the Createbase chat click here. 

Alexandra Tinsman On NEAR, Crypto, and The Future of DeFi

NEAR recent hire Alexandra Tinsman (Vice President of Marketing) did a live stream with OKex on the topic of DeFi and the future evolution of crypto in context. As one of the first public appearances for Alexandra, there were a number of different insights put forward: 

Note a full link to the discussion can be found here. 

DeFi is In Its Experimental Stages: There Is a Lot of Work To Be Done

“There are these companies that want to establish their reputation right away. And they are trying so hard to get fame and mind share, and really I think about a lot of the protocols and the fact that they are giving away tokens. You see that a lot in DeFi. It’s not sustainable: It is just not sustainable. So I think the next up with crypto-economics and DeFi and taking a closer look at the protocols is really the question we should be asking is how are these companies that are giving away all of these tokens going to switch to something more sustainable in the future. Is this system still going to function if they do not find a way to stabilize inflation? I personally think we are seeing developers don’t know the answer to that. I think that is a problem and they are hoping to figure it out.”

As the quote from Alexandra explains, crypto-economics more generally and DeFi specifically, are in their early, early days, with large amounts of experimentation still taking place. Developers and founders are still ironing out problems that their platforms run into, while more sustainable and long-term thinking still needs to catch up. 

“I like to remind people entering the space, and myself included, that this is still in the experimental stage – it is so easy to get sweeped away with the idea of a product, but you have to look under the hood. I think we have a long way to go until we can see really good evidence of what is going to make it to mainstream.” 

 Education and Governance Are Crucial Pain Points of DeFi

The discussion moved on to emphasize how DeFi is both new but also immensely complex. With the host even commenting that DeFi is starting to resemble more and more the complex financial products we see in the mainstream. As such the largest barriers to overcome for more general crypto-adoption (even before going mainstream) center upon education and governance. Here is what Alexandra had to say on that topic: 

DeFi governance is super underdeveloped. I think that projects in the DeFi space are releasing these governance tokens without enough structure or even how and when they are going to get used.

In general, she emphasized that governance, regulation, and the future development of a platform are all strongly interlinked. New projects entering the space must then craft a delicate balance between incentives and sustainable development that is not always easy to manage. 

You have to have great economics, but also assurance that governance is going to protect those economies. And if they start to do better, then the chances are that DeFi is going to take over the crypto world and traditional finance probably.

The Next Wave of Crypto Innovation Is Here: 

While on the topic of DeFi, different crypto-economic protocols and the future of blockchain, the discussants also touched upon the growing amount of real-world adoption taking place with digital currencies. This was discussed in detail with reference to Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC’s) and especially the Digital Yuan pioneered by China: 

“This is going to change world wide commerce and is likely going to shift digital dollars and digital yuan within a decade. Even today I was reading on Coindesk that the Chinese Central Bank just shared over 4 million transactions totaling more than 2 billion Yuan have been conducted using the digital Yuan. My jaw drops because China is already doing it. They are testing it out and rolling it out. It’s happening. So that evolution of economies is pretty exciting.”

The main takeaway is that, Crypto is on a pivotal tipping point on the edge of mainstream adoption. In the future these protocols will not only be home for crypto-entrepreneurs and experimental communities, but also companies, institutions, governments and associations, as well as average consumers. 

The NEAR Team Is Really Trying to Build the Open Web

In what should be a strong confirmation for NEAR community members and those who are aligned with the larger vision of NEAR, Alexandra emphasized how the NEAR really got her onboard because of their vision, and the values they hold while looking to execute such a vision. 

The whole idea being a very developer friendly, proof of stake public blockchain is something that really resonated with me. I think the biggest thing that I saw with the NEAR Team – super smart and savvy. Amazing background. But really they are able to open up blockchain app development for developers who are not specialists. And for me, there was a lot of potential there. I began checking their community and looking more….I think the possibility of going deeper in the ecosystem and the industry is what I am attracted to and the interoperability is the aspect that to be me is always going to be appealing.

The focus point here is that NEAR’s emphasis on usability and being developer friendly is attracting support from crypto-veterans. As crypto becomes more understood, bridging the gap between Web2 and Web3 remains an important task that so far NEAR seems to be exclusively attacked on all fronts! 

New Team Members on NEAR: A Strong Team is Getting Stronger

In crypto the team behind a project is as important, if not more important, than the technical goals and larger vision that the project puts forward. As the 2017 bubble has demonstrated, being able to execute as a team and bring to life the goals of a particular crypto-ecosystem, is very much dependent upon the personalities involved in that ecosystem day-in-and-day out. 

The NEAR Team has been known for being exceptionally strong, with serial entrepreneurs, gold medalist coders (6 Gold Medals at ACM ICPC), and decades of combined experience at top Silicon Valley Tech companies (5 ex-Googlers). Nevertheless, there are a couple of noticeable recent hires that should continue to inspire confidence in the development of NEAR as it becomes more widespread, known, and used across the crypto space: 

“Some hubs are located in Switzerland, Germany, Russia, the US and China. Regardless of where you work, this is a high performance culture that values ownership, execution and professionalism but pairs it with curiosity and experimentation. The vision is big but the right team is behind it.” 

– The Global NEAR Team

Point 1: Alexandra Tinsman Joins NEAR as a Vice President of Marketing 

Alexandra Tinsman brings decades of experience to NEAR. She has worked on Xbox, Pokemon International, and Riot Games. She has been front and center on marketing the world’s first digital assets from League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering Online, and Pokemon Go. What’s interesting is that her background is focused on driving results “by cultivating customer-centered cultures”. In short, she will play a prime role in making sure that usability remains the first priority of NEAR Protocol as it continues to expand for developers and users. 

Note: She will be livestream on YouTube today, December 2nd here

Point 2: NEAR’s Content Team is Gearing Up Alongside It’s Community Team 

Mally Anderson recently joined the NEAR team about 2 months ago to take over as ‘Head of Content’. Her background is diverse and well rounded: She was an associate editor for Penguin Press, a writer and editor at ConsenSys, and well published across mainstream journals including Decrypt, Devcon, and Quartz. 

In parallel to Mally’s hire, James  (@jwaup) and Eunice (@eunicecyl) have joined the NEAR Community Team to focus specifically on Community development in the context of the Guild Program, as well as NEAR Validators. 

When one takes all three hires together, it becomes clear that NEAR is investing in not only the technical and social elements of their ecosystem but also the more creative and community based parts as well. It will be interesting to see in the coming months how new content, planning, and community engagement lead to new initiatives and communities within the ecosystem. 

Point 3: Business Development and Recruitment Rounds Out The Final Group of Hires 

Cameron Dennis and Austin Harshberger join NEAR as recent hires, but this time with a focus on the business and recruitment side of things: Cameron is previously president and founder of the blockchain acceleration foundation based out of California. He Joins NEAR as a Business Development Analyst. Austin meanwhile, is a software engineer by training who is looking to recruit developers into the NEAR ecosystem – he brings experience from Apple, Coinbase, and Github. Last but not least Ashley Tyson, Co-Founder of the Web3 Foundation, is also listed on the NEAR Team Page (although the full extent of her role isn’t clear). 

Point 4: Dr. Alex Shevchenko The Joins Rainbow Bridge Team 

Dr. Alex Shevchenko joined the NEAR team four months ago. While not a super recent hire, he is an important point in the development of the NEAR Team, especially as it relates to the NEAR – ETH Bridge. With experience from Bitfury, and a Ph.D. in Physics and Mathematics, Alex brings deep experience in high performance computing – perfect for handling massive macro challenges like the NEAR – ETH Bridge, and the implementation of EVM on NEAR. 

Taking Stock: New Hires For Growth 

The most recent set of hires for the NEAR team brings together more talented individual to execute the NEAR Team’s ambitious vision of Building the Open Web. Team members come from the likes of Pokemon Go, Academia, Apple, Coinbase, ConsenSys and much more. 

Most importantly, the hires reflect a balanced engagement with the different pillars of the NEAR Ecosystem: Marketing, Business Development,  Community Development, Content, Recruiting, and Ecosystem Growth. 

NEAR is Hiring! 

If you are interested in joining one of the most stacked teams in the crypto space, check ou the open positions on the NEAR Website. Ecosystem Development, Engineering and Operations are looking for many hires in the coming months! 

The NEAR Investment Thesis

Disclaimer: None of the insights or facts explained below should be taken as investing advice. Please consult a financial professional when investing in utility tokens and other financial products. 4NTS Guild does hold NEAR. 

A Hosted PDF Version of the Thesis can be found here.

Introduction: 

This is a macro-level overview for prospective crypto investors and entrepreneurs interested in better understanding the position of NEAR protocol in the larger crypto- and emerging technology marketplace. For an introduction to NEAR, readers can review The Long Term Value Proposition for NEAR Protocol. In this short paper, a thesis is put forward for NEAR protocol that explains the position of the protocol in the larger crypto – and Web3 space. As an argument, we argue that NEAR is extremely well positioned to sustainably grow in the coming decade, based upon its technical design, developer incentive structure, focus on usability, and global business development approach. 

Before we explain our reasons for this thesis, we start by explaining the context of NEAR in the larger Web3 space. This context centers upon an impending crypto bull run, growth of peer-to-contract applications (encompassing decentralized finance, but also much more), as well as the larger infrastructure inversion that Web3 presents and the development opportunities contained therein. 

Argument 1: We Are On The Precipice of a Web3 Revolution 

Define – Web3: The standardization of value built as a protocol layer of the internet. Peer-to-Peer and Peer-to-Contract network infrastructure from which data and value is handled in a decentralized, public, and permissionless manner using token-based incentive models. 

Overview: After three previous market cycles, the cryptocurrency space is positioned for a fourth cycle at a time when smart money, institutional acceptance, and private interest in Web3 is on the rise. Similar to previous technology revolutions, this fourth cycle marks the beginning of a fundamental infrastructure inversion for many of our digital and physical systems. As a result of this inversion, a host of new opportunities and business models will be born in the coming decade plus. NEAR protocol is the platform that is optimally positioned for handling these opportunities. 

Premise 1: Demand Factors 

Smart Money Before the Masses: After 2 years in a bear market, interest in cryptocurrency and digital tokens is on the rise once again, signalling for many the start of the next bull market. Notably, at the current stage of this cycle, it is predominantly wealthy zip codes in Silicon Valley and New York indicating the entrance of smart money – interested in the value proposition of the underlying technology, and hedging against a weakening dollar. Bitcoin as a whole remains at well below 1/10th of the market cap of gold. 

In context, the majority of mainstream finance across the global economy, remains on the sidelines for not only Bitcoin but all of crypto. The trickle-down logic is as follows: If Bitcoin is validated as a serious investment by mainstream investors, private companies, and institutions, interest in other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum will follow closely. Demand for the more encompassing value proposition of Layer 1 blockchain protocols arrives: As Bitcoin rises to prominence, other cryptocurrencies as a whole rise as well. 

Institutional Acceptance of Both Crypto and Blockchain: News about Microstrategy, to Grayscale, to Paypal, to even AirBnB and Venmo are clear indicators of the integration of cryptocurrency payment systems with legacy internet payment systems. Institutional adoption validates the usability of cryptographic tokens – an early stage signal of what the future will look like. This signal is further complemented by numerous central banks planning to launch digital currencies in the coming years. In short, institutional acceptance of cryptocurrencies and the underlying distributed ledger technology (be it private or public), validates the long-term interest in token-based economies and the innovative benefits of blockchain. 

The Maturation of Web3: Beyond demand factors coming from traditional finance and institutions, demand for crypto-based products, marketplaces and verticals continues to grow in its own right inside of Web3 itself: The future of blockchain-based gaming, non-fungible tokens, decentralized protocols for music and art, as well as DeFi continue to attract capital and interest. As many protocols have launched, future value in the solutions built on top is only just starting to be created. Demand for these solutions is only starting to develop as they become tangible and usable.

Premise 2: Infrastructure Inversion 

Define Infrastructure Inversion – Change that occurs when new infrastructure is laid on top of old, pre-existing infrastructure – and how that creates a conflict

Overview: Serial entrepreneurs and technology investors look beyond the financial market value of cryptocurrency, and focus on the underlying value proposition inherent to its core technology: blockchain. Blockchain has the capacity to re-create digital systems such that self-executing software can operate without human interference in an open and permissionless manner. These recreated digital systems that are self-executing have the potential to not only handle data as currently used on the internet, but also data from other emerging technologies such as sensors, satellites, drones, and autonomous and artificially-intelligent machines. Inverting and digitizing much of our digital or institutional infrastructure thus has the opportunity to offer more inclusive and open systems that in turn can scale with emerging technologies to create new and previously untapped value. 

Mike Novogratz on Ethereum: Mike Novogratz is a legendary crypto investor who has been actively involved in both Bitcoin and Ethereum from their early days. His understanding of the coming infrastructure inversion is explained when he discusses the real future of value in crypto over the next five years: In a lot of ways the real revolution, which is coming in five or ten years, is when we rebuild the whole architecture of the financial system. That is the Ethereum revolution, or maybe it’s the Ethereum plus whatever – some of these level two’s or someone else a part of the level one.” (21:42)

Avichal Garg on Peer-to-Contract Systems: Avichal Garg is a serial entrepreneur and Managing Partner at Electric Capital. He has argued for a thesis of programmable money since 2016 and has equally insightful points on the nature of the coming infrastructure inversion. Speaking on Building The Open Web Podcast, he explains the context of this inversion:  

“For the first time what we have is a potentially digitally native store of value where the bits in the computer are the money, which is very different from the existing financial system where you do have a ledger and the bank has an entry that says you have such and such money. But it is really just an IOU from the bank – if you go to the bank they will give you some cash. It’s not that the bits in the computer are the money. So if you take that one step further and say, if the bits in the computer are the money, why is that interesting? Well it is interesting because now what that means is that computers can own money. Computers and machines and software can take custody of money. And so for the first time, a human can pay a machine without another human in the loop. Or a machine can pay another machine without a human even being involved. And if you play that forward, one step forward, you say, well, ‘why is that interesting?’ Well it is interesting because there is a set of stuff that computers are better than humans at – and strictly speaking there is only one thing that computers are better than humans at – and that is that computers are better than humans at deterministically executing some set of instructions on some future time horizon. That is literally what computer code is: Do this and the same thing happens every time. If you think about the world, a lot of the world is ‘here is a huge pile of money’ and ‘here are a bunch of rules about that money’ – who has access to that money, and when that money can move and on some future time horizon I need you to execute some set of instructions: That’s a will, that’s a trust, that’s an escrow, that’s a mortgage, that’s a heloc, that’s an options contract, it’s a securities contract, like literally a hundred trillion dollars of the world is ‘here is a pile of money and here is a bunch of rules around that money and how that money can move around.’ So now what you have is an infrastructure where money is digital, computers can take ownership of money, and since computers are strictly better at executing instructions, it is such a perfect match for this hundred trillion dollar slice of the world that has previously been untouched because software couldn’t actually solve those problems natively that we think over the next 20 to 30 years this programmable money stack is just going to eat up that 100 trillion dollars of the world. It feels to us a lot like the early 1990s…” (14:10)

Danny Zuckerman On the Limits of What Can Be Built: One final, and important note on the nature of a comprehensive digital infrastructure inversion is the new opportunities created therein that might have been previously unimaginable or impractical. Danny Zuckerman, Co-Founder of 3Box explains this when he says:

“Basically anything that you can think of is buildable now. There are types of experiences that were just completely impossible a few years ago, but with the speed of what people are building in the blockchain ecosystem and in the web3 ecosystem more broadly, it’s basically possible to piece together any set of experience that you have seen online into a much more interoperable holistic experience, and whether that’s through some of the app building platforms that are gaining steam…through assets and NFTs on blockchains, through composable data, you can start to design things that are maybe not complete yet, but show the future, and I think are going to come very fast. So if you are curious about it, just start building and if you can think about it, start poking around in fun ways to build it.” (35:53)

Premise 3: History of Technology Diffusion

Define Technology Diffusion – The process by which innovations are adopted by a population

Overview: The history of innovation and technological development contains many lessons for understanding current innovations launching today. What technologies from the steam engine, to the automobile, to the original internet demonstrate is that: (1) New technologies require time to diffuse into the mainstream; (2) They often must be refined and simplified for mass appeal; And (3) the speed with which they can diffuse is often correlated with how easy it is for someone to access and engage with the technology itself. 

Deployment Time and Productivity Gains: Economic History has demonstrated at length that innovation and deployment of new technologies takes time to diffuse and become valued within a society or context. For the Steam Engine,“social savings” due to steam engine improvements remained stagnant at 0.3% per year between 1830 and 1850. It took more than 50 years for widespread adoption to occur across the most important commercial facets of society. The incremental adoption indicates that any technology needs to be able to ‘fit’ into the world in which it has been created – and this process takes considerable amounts of time. 

Usability and Mass Appeal:  In the case of the automobile, it is evident that usability and mass-appeal were necessary for the technology to start its diffusion process into the world. While the automobile was credited as being invented in 1886 by Carl Benz, most economic historians consider the creation of the Ford Motor Company in 1904 as the first major development in the commercialization of the technology. Notably, Ford built his company to “To create a reliable, low-cost, easy-to-operate and easier-to-fix device for the masses.” By 1927, Ford had sold more than 15 million cars. 

The Acceleration of Technological Development: On the brink of what has been coined a ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, it is important to understand that technological innovation is developing and diffusing more rapidly than at any other time in history. Open source, crypto-economic protocols are prime candidates for facilitating this diffusion as they very often operate as a base layer for more complex and integrated solutions or applications (say, for instance, with the Internet of Things, AI, or automated robotics). Blockchain-based cloud platforms are very much the general purpose technology that has the capacity to be applied widely and in tandem with other technologies as this fourth industrial revolution accelerates. 

“We are so early in the development of this, that just because the first 30 or 50 million did a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean that the next two billion people will do that thing. And history of technology tells us that over and over again…I tend to think as an investor, probabilistically speaking, the term profiles are such that it makes sense to have a lot of exposure to things that are running at those same objectives, but are not Bitcoin or Ethereum. So in the case of DeFi, yes, I think it is entirely possible that we don’t know what the killer Apps are yet, or that the killer apps have scaling challenges when it comes to Ethereum, and actually some other platform is able to bootstrap enough network security that they can build those sorts of applications, and because it is so much easier to get money in the door that the liquidity feedback loop ends up being faster and faster on a new platform. And ends up eclipsing Ethereum in the next three to five years.” – Avichal Garg, Building the Open Web Podcast Episode 7

Argument 2: NEAR Protocol is Uniquely Positioned To Lead This Revolution

Define NEAR Protocol – A dynamically sharded layer one blockchain-based cloud platform, built with usability and scalability in mind. 

Overview: NEAR is a dynamically sharded blockchain-based cloud platform that is designed to scale according to demand, with low transaction costs, and built-in incentives for developers. NEAR emphasizes usability first, in both its account model design and in offering developers the ability to build dApps on NEAR in both AssemblyScript and Rust. As such NEAR has been built to be easily understood by existing Web2 developers, as well as users familiar with existing internet permission models. 

In addition, NEAR Protocol has been launched with an accompanying Business Engine: The Open Web Collective Incubator, and a global development focus. In the context of Argument 1, NEAR approaches Web3 solutions with a win-win mentality, the capacity to easily scale, and with unrivalled incentive models to developers looking to build on top of it. NEAR in this context, is positioned to power the Open Web over the next 10 years and beyond as a truly permissionless cloud platform. 

Premise 1: Protocol Design

Overview: NEAR is designed such that it can scale, at a low cost, and with low risk for users and developers. Most notably, the protocol has been built and launched in the full spirit of decentralization, to such an extent that a fully interoperable and permissionless bridge between NEAR and ETH is on the brink of public launch in the coming months. This is the first major consideration to keep in mind when evaluating the long-term potential of any blockchain protocol: How does the technical design facilitate durability and growth over time?  

Dynamic Sharding: NEAR Protocol handles transaction loads via asynchronous sharding on its network. The nightshade consensus mechanism is designed to scale a single blockchain known as the Mainchain through consecutively adding shards in proportion to increased transaction loads. This model is one approach proposed to creating a robust and scalable blockchain infrastructure, that is capable of handling a high throughput of transactions at a low cost (less than 1 cent per transaction). The value in the context of making an argument for the viability of NEAR Protocol, is that in itself, it has been designed to scale – the technical design of the protocol is such that it is capable of handling a global capacity load on par with existing centralized financial infrastructure: NEAR has been built to last. 

Low Transaction Fees / No Overpaying: Transaction fees on NEAR are priced in a predictable manner, that does not inflate with increased usage. The protocol has also been designed such that it is not possible to overpay a gas fee: anything paid beyond the required amount is returned to the account of the payer. Such a model for transaction fees makes NEAR optimal for usage and attractive to developers. This is especially the case for the nascent yet fast growing NFT market as well as other core Web3 verticals including gaming and DeFi. 

NEAR – ETH Decentralized Interoperability: The NEAR team has built and is in the process of finalizing the launch of a fully decentralized NEAR – ETH Bridge from which tokens between platforms can be independently moved by developers, users, and projects. This bridge is significant insofar as it: 1) Provides a pathway for projects (NFT’s, DeFi, etc.) to migrate value from Ethereum onto NEAR in the event of unreasonable gas fees on the former and 2) Pioneers one of the industry’s first fully decentralized bridges from which interoperability between platforms can be established and scaled into the future. 

Premise 2: Usability and Incentives

Overview: Making it easy for existing developers to build on NEAR has been a major consideration of the NEAR team in their design of the protocol. As they explain it, NEAR puts usability first. This is not only for developers, but also for users. Similar to parallel enhancements that made the internet more consumer-friendly, NEAR brings a number of first-time enhancements to Web3 that make it more developer and user friendly. 

Account Models and Function-Call Limited Permissions: NEAR puts usability first. This is manifested in a number of ways, but the most notable pertain to the account model structure as well as built-in advanced permissions that allow users to call contracts directly. Unlike other blockchain protocols, accounts on NEAR are denominated in names as opposed to hashes of alphanumeric characters. Sub-accounts can be created by master accounts, while standard Single Sign-On login options make handling an account more natural to existing Web2 users. Function-Call Limited Permissions allow developers to call contracts on sub-accounts, such that gas can be automatically pre-paid from dApps ahead of time. Technicalities aside, these features illustrate the thoughtful design that has gone into making NEAR protocol Usabile for Web2 developers as well as the future mass users interested in different solutions built on top of the protocol.

Developers Take 30% From Their Contracts: The NEAR website explains this feature most clearly: “Contracts are rewarded with 30% of the gas fees they generate, giving developers an immediate business model for apps and infrastructure.” This is a unique feature from all other existing layer 1 protocols: Developers, Entrepreneurs, and new projects that migrate to NEAR have a direct incentive to build on the protocol – built into the core design – due to the fact that they will be rewarded 30% of the fees that cross their contracts. 

Program in Rust and AssemblyScript: Making it easy to build blockchain-dApps is a key emphasis of NEAR Protocol. Developers from Web2 can quickly and easily code in Rust or AssemblyScript as opposed to a separate blockchain-specific language such as Solidity. In context of the macro transition discussed above, this is another key factor that makes NEAR usable for developers looking to easily transition from Web2 to Web3. 

Premise 3 – Business Engine:

Overview: NEAR compliments its robust technical design and usability-first features with a strong focus on the global business landscape for Web3 applications. The Open Web Collective – an early stage incubator for future blockchain solutions – combined with the global focus of the NEAR team, notably in Asia as well as Silicon Valley, is a strong basis for the NEAR Business Engine.

The Open Web Collective: The Open Web Collective is a blockchain-agnostic incubator for early stage crypto projects. It is operated by core NEAR team members and takes applications on a rolling basis. In context of the development of the protocol, the Web Collective is an extremely unique business engine: It provides NEAR (as well as the general blockchain space) with a means by which new projects and ideas can be grown to scale from ideation with input along the way from experienced entrepreneurs in the space. The value here is that NEAR is able to  reliably facilitate new projects, games, and startups in the coming future as the protocol and its community continues to grow. As the Web3 space matures, the OWC allows NEAR to harvest the next major trend.

Global Focus: Finally, what is often forgotten in Crypto is the global focus that any serious project must embrace. As Joyce Yang of Global Coin Research explains on Building the Open Web Podcast #23, “I think one of the reasons I invested in NEAR was that I knew you guys were globally minded in the first place. Illia spoke Chinese, and I see him in conferences there all of the time. To see a founder engaged with the global community regardless of geography is something worth learning from.” The NEAR team spans across the globe, while the NEAR community – including Guilds – continue to expand on all continents. Such a focus means that NEAR is well positioned and actively engaging the solutions of tomorrow and the next ten years irrespective of geographical location. 

Argument Conclusion: 

Many may be inclined to respond to this argument by focusing on the merits of other Layer 1 Protocols in comparison to NEAR. As stated above, NEAR is a collaborator and not a competitor of such protocols. What differentiates NEAR as a protocol is its capacity to facilitate existing Web2 adoption into a future of decentralization and self-executing software in an equitable, familiar, and mutually incentivized manner. The fundamental premise of 4NTS is that NEAR is Building the Open Web – and as such, is optimally positioned to lead the impending digital revolution and its accompanying infrastructure inversion. This premise is based on both technical and historical factors. 

The context of this revolution is clear: Cryptocurrencies and open-source blockchain protocols are entering a new market cycle of interest and speculation. NEAR Protocol is uniquely positioned to handle such interest for both users and consumers, and with a global focus. As a young protocol that is capable of scaling according to demand, there is almost no better time to become a community member, stake tokens, build dApps, and generally start participating in an open and inclusive Ecosystem building the internet of value. 

For comments and questions, please reach out to m@4nts.com 

NEAR Crypto-Economics: An Introduction in Context

Since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009, the past decade has witnessed the emergence of public computing platforms built around cryptocurrencies: From new currencies, to utility tokens, to security tokens, to non-fungible tokens the area of ‘Crypto-Economics’ has emerged alongside public permissionless blockchain ecosystems. This introduction explains the basics of the NEAR Protocol Crypto-Economic Model in context, and outlines future components of the model that will be discussed in subsequent posts of the series.

Section 1 provides a general introduction to crypto-economics: Why they matter, and their long-term significance for the health of any Blockchain Ecosystem. Section 2, introduces the general outline of the NEAR Crypto-Economic Model and the various incentives contained within it for different Network Stakeholders. To conclude, an outline for future articles in the series is put forward. 

Section 1: Understanding Crypto-Economics

Crypto-Economic models are a natural result of public computing platforms and subsets of game theory dynamics such as mechanism design. In essence, they represent an economic system in which self-executing software and digital representations of quantifiable value are transacted between self-interested and uncooperative stakeholders.
All crypto-economic models are built upon certain core presuppositions, that increase the resilience and durability of the system in spite of unknown circumstances. These assumptions largely center upon incentives amongst the different stakeholders involved:

  • Stakeholders such as network validators, users, and protocol developers are assumed to be non-cooperative and self-interested. This means that the design of any crypto-economic model must direct the self-interested incentives of all stakeholders towards the security and functionality of the network.
  • No single entity can or should be able to leverage a disproportionate amount of control over consensus on the distributed network. This means that of all of the stakeholders involved, the flow of value must be such that no single actor can monopolize or jeopardize the overall network state.
  • Rewards are allocated to network participants in proportion to the degree from which they support the security of the network. Penalties are enacted against network participants in proportion to the degree with which they jeopardize the security of the network. Because of this, there is a direct incentive to strengthen the network and avoid penalties, because each stakeholder involved is assumed to be fully self-interested.
  • Value is created within the network, from the incentives and interests of the stakeholders transacting upon it. This value is imbued in the representation of a digital token or coin. Digital tokens or currencies are the language of value on a distributed network. This means that what makes a crypto-economic system valuable is the use that it provides to interested stakeholders: end-users sending or receiving money, companies storing data, or gamers purchasing items. In any and all of such examples, value is accrued to the overall network and distributed out to the self-interested stakeholders contributing to the networks’ security.

When taken together, these dynamics create the foundation for the Internet of Value: An global cloud environment, in which distributed computing provides the basis of valuable services to self-interested and uncooperative stakeholders, without any single entity or individual controlling the marketplace as a whole.

Crypto-Economic Design Over Time

There is one small caveat for launching crypto-economies of scale. Time. Transactions and commerce across a distributed network are the building blocks for network growth and user-interaction: As more value is transacted on a distributed network over time, the overall value of the network itself increases, just as the incentive to participate in securing the network increases. However, until a network has grown to such a point the underlying incentives for network stakeholders can often be misaligned.

As a result, crypto-economic ecosystems almost always require some type of governing body or distributed autonomous organization (DAO) to direct the network in its infancy and then slowly remove itself over time as the network scales, and more stakeholders and commerce accrues. The responsibilities of such groups include:

  1. Managing initial stakeholder relationships on the network to incentivize network participation.
  2. Designing and implementing the crypto-economic model of the Ecosystem itself according to the proposed function of the network. This specifically refers to how transaction fees are set and managed, whether the system is inflationary or deflationary in nature, and if special rewards are allocated to developers, early adopters, or entrepreneurs.
  3. Establishing a time frame for growing and scaling the network until such a point arrives that the network is self-sustaining without the guidance of the said organization.

Importantly, such organizations are not companies per se: They are often designed as Foundations, or Non-Profit Organizations who simply provide guidance, decision-making power, and structure to the distributed ecosystem.

Altogether, it would be fair to say the following about most Crypto-economic Ecosystems:

  • They are designed around a distributed computing platform, where value is tied to a digital token or currency.
  • They presuppose that all network actors are uncooperative and self-interested.
  • The design is such that stakeholders are incentivized to enhance the network via a consensus structure, and penalized for harming the network.
  • Until a given crypto-economic grounded ecosystem is self-sustaining a governance body of sorts, designs and directs the network’s development and the rules underlying its crypto-economic model.

Section 2: NEAR Protocol Crypto-Economics – the Macro View

NEAR Protocol is a Thresholded Proof-of-Stake Blockchain, in which value is tied to the NEAR Token. Stakeholders on NEAR Protocol are incentivized to participate in validating ‘chunks’ or entire ‘shards’ of the blockchain, by setting up and operating a validator node on the network. To do this, a participant must either lock up NEAR tokens in a smart contract; or alternatively, delegate NEAR tokens via smart contract to an already existing validator on the network. In line with other game theory designs, if a validator succeeds in validating their chunk or shard, they are rewarded:

If validators fail or intentionally sabotage the network they fail, and a portion of their stake is slashed.


While Validators are responsible for validating transactions and maintaining security on the Network, NEAR’s crypto-economic model is also comprised of other key features that work to ultimately create a robust and enduring crypto-economy. For each feature discussed below, a specific blog post in the future will delve into the exact details of the system:

Token Supply, Inflation, and Deflation

Most crypto-economic models begin with a fixed number of tokens in circulation (circulating supply), with clear designs for how many tokens remain to be issued, or when certain tokens might be burned. NEAR’s monetary structure consists of both inflationary and deflationary dynamics, based upon a total supply of 1 billion NEAR tokens. The initial circulating supply is set at roughly 57,500,000.

Importantly, not all NEAR tokens are issued into circulation all at once: Instead, NEAR tokens are added progressively to the network over time in the form of base rewards for validator nodes, and other aspects of the ecosystem.

Taken from: https://near.org/blog/near-token-supply-and-distribution/

More specifically, each year there is a set inflation rate of 5% more tokens minted into circulating supply, with 90% of such tokens going to validators. The remaining 10% of the tokens are sent to the protocol treasury (0.5% of inflation each year).

Taken from: https://near.org/blog/near-token-supply-and-distribution/

As a counter-balance to these inflationary dynamics, NEAR’s design incorporates certain deflationary mechanisms as well. Rather than using transaction fees to reward validators (as done in many other networks), NEAR allocated 30% of each transaction fee back to the contracts that transaction has touched, after which the remaining 70% is burned. Developers of such contracts can then decide how such fees are to be used, while 70% of all transactions on the network are effectively burned. In this manner, a natural deflationary mechanism is built into the design of the network.
Overall, these crypto-economic features indicate that the NEAR Ecosystem will be inflationary in nature at the beginning as it scales and grows, with the opportunity to become primarily deflationary as network usage and transaction fees are burned from the network.

Taken from: https://near.org/blog/near-token-supply-and-distribution/

Protocol Treasury

10% of all inflationary rewards are sent to the NEAR Protocol Treasury. In context, these rewards are used to ‘sponsor protocol and ecosystem development’. While the Protocol Treasury is initially managed by the NEAR Foundation, its design is such that over time it can be managed by a decentralized governance process.

While the full significance of this will be outlined in a future blog, the underlying value of the protocol treasury is that it provides a mechanism for sustainable ecosystem development into the future. As the ecosystem strengthens and becomes more used, support for projects from the treasury will naturally increase to equally strengthen future development on the network.

The Long Term View: dApps and other Tokens

While certain crypto-economic features provide a framework for growing and scaling NEAR Protocol, the prospect of open-source ecosystem development is perhaps the most important long-term indicator of the network’s success.
NEAR is designed such that future applications, solutions, and industry verticals built on top of the platform are directly correlated to the demand of NEAR tokens and the payment of transactions on the blockchain (and therefore, deflationary counterbalances). As such, when new dApps launch, new protocols are developed, and other decentralized marketplaces and platforms build on top of NEAR the entire Ecosystem as a whole grows.
In this manner NEAR is best understood as a modern hub for digital commerce amongst decentralized applications: As more solutions and dApps are built, more stakeholders are brought onto the network, more tokens are used, and more value is accumulated. In tandem, protocol treasury rewards strengthen over time, and more projects can be funded to bring in more stakeholders and so forth. A virtuous cycle of positive Ecosystem development is built into the very core of NEAR’s crypto-economic model.

Conclusion: 4NTS Crypto-Economic Series on NEAR

4NTS is a recently launched NEAR Guild created to help grow the Ecosystem by outreach, communication, analysis and education. In the up-and-coming NEAR Crypto-Economics blog series, we will be discussing the context, details, and Macro outlook for the following topics relating to the NEAR Crypto Economy:

  • Token Functionality of the NEAR Token.
  • Storage Fees and Rent.
  • The NEAR Protocol Treasury.
  • The Value of Inflation and Deflation.
  • NEAR Gas Fees in Crypto-Economic Context.
  • The NEAR Foundation.
  • Ecosystem Development in Context.
  • Staking Delegation on NEAR.
  • Demand Pressures on NEAR.

… and much more!

NEAR Protocol: The Long Term Value Proposition

General disclaimer: None of the following should be considered financial or investment advice – please consult a financial professional before engaging in investment related activities. 

This is a report for anyone interested in NEAR and the long-term value proposition provided by the NEAR Ecosystem. The goal of this report is to put in context the significance of NEAR protocol and to explain why it is uniquely positioned to thrive in the coming years. A general two-page summary of this argument can be found here. 

Table of Contents: 

Section 1: Context

Section 2: Funding and Team

Section 3: Proof of Stake 

Section 4: Building On Top of NEAR

Section 5: Token Functionality: 

Section 6: Conclusion

Section 1: Context

The best place to begin discussing NEAR, is the general environment it is launching within. NEAR has been building its platform for the past two years as the cryptocurrency market has consolidated and blockchain has continued to become more familiar to both businesses and individuals. NEAR is a third generation blockchain project: it originally launched towards the end of the last crypto bull market in 2018, and is now publicly launching on the brink of what is expected to be the next crypto bull market. 

NEAR is a blockchain ecosystem that provides similar services to that of Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, and Polkadot: A fully decentralized cloud platform for quickly building and scaling decentralized applications. In context, however, NEAR is challenging these existing blockchain protocols with its unique technical design: Nightshade. The Nightshade algorithm is used for dynamic sharding, and implementing other developer and user friendly features for managing accounts and building applications. 

NEAR is one of the first projects building the Internet of Value, but with a lot of the tools and interfaces from the Internet of Information. It is bridging the gap between new digital models of governance, value, and decentralization, with familiar management interfaces that we normally use on Facebook and Google. NEAR is appealing to the next generation of entrepreneurs and developers – who grew up during the rise of the internet, and are now looking for a new frontier – The Open Web. 

The context of the Open Web is strongly linked to two separate processes: 1) The Rise of Surveillance Capitalism and 2) The Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Shoshana Zuboff wrote The Age of Surveillance Capitalism in 2017, as an epic description of how centralized tech companies have monopolized the internet, collected data for their own financial profit, and created environments of dependency between users and companies that are exploitative and addictive.

In tandem, Shaping The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab was written as a vision of the largest industrial revolution since the first Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century. Its premise is that the digital, physical, and biological domains will be increasingly interconnected with new technologies, platforms and value-models sprouting around this innovation. The integration of technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Nanotechnology, and Blockchain will create completely new business models and value propositions for both businesses and consumers. 

This is the context from which the full significance of NEAR protocol can be understood: NEAR is building a decentralized platform that not only holds the promise of creating a more equal, censorship resistant, and Open Web (in contrary to the woes of Surveillance Capitalism), but also one that is perfectly positioned to operate as a foundation for the largest industrial revolution in 200 years. This is a HUGE project with HUGE ambitions. 

Main Takeaways from Section 1: 

NEAR is a public permissionless blockchain ecosystem that incorporates dynamic sharding via the Nightshade algorithm to scalably provide the foundation for decentralized applications and the Internet of Value. 

NEAR is launching at a time when blockchain is maturing as a technology and becoming more familiar to businesses, entrepreneurs, and enterprises.

NEAR is a HUGE project that is positioned to attract young talent disenchanted with surveillance capitalism, while also providing a scalable platform that can handle the opportunity and promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  

Section 2: Funding and Team

Everyone in Crypto will tell you to look at the team behind a project and to do your due diligence before thinking about investing in it or working with it. As such, it is important to understand the depth that accompanies the NEAR project and the NEAR team. 

NEAR did a Series A funding round in July of 2019, and raised $12.1 million dollars. The 11 investors in this round included:

Pantera Capital

Electric Capital

Coinbase Ventures

Amplify Partners

IOSG Ventures

Xpring

Homebrew

Greenfield One

MetaStable Capital

Then, in April of 2020, a second round – this time in the form of a private token sale – launched, led by a16z also known as Andreessen Horowitz.This sale raised a total of $21.6 million dollars, with more than 40 other investment firms participating. 

Finally, and most recently, in August of 2020, NEAR launched a public token sale to investors around the world (with certain country omissions due to legal reasons). This token sale concluded with $30 million dollars in commitments made to prospective token holders, from a pool of $152 million dollars in allocation requests. 

In total, since July of 2019, NEAR has raised around $63.7 million dollars to launch the NEAR Ecosystem. Notably, this funding was from both traditional venture capital investment firms, as well as accredited crypto investors from around the globe. 

A full list of backers can be found here

Team: 

The NEAR website features a 40 person team. Here are some notable points: 

Multiple Team Members are Finalists and Medalists of the International Collegiate Programming Contests (ICPC)

Previous experience ranges from Microsoft, to Google, to Wikipedia, to Mozilla, to Facebook.

The team boasts a number of silicon valley entrepreneurs as well as successful startup founders.

If you would like to learn more about the team jump on the NEAR Discord Channel, or follow their content on YouTube

Main Takeaways from Section 2: 

NEAR Protocol is funded by both private venture capital, as well as global crypto investors. Since 2019 they have raised close to $63.7 million dollars from more than 40 different firms and 1500 individual investors. 

The NEAR Team is made up of 40 full time employees, many of whom are ICPC finalists and medalists. Experience from Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley is common among many of these members. 

Section 3: Proof of Stake 

NEAR describes itself as a “Sharded Proof of Stake Blockchain”. The exact design of the proof of stake consensus mechanism is known as Thresholded Proof of Stake. Generally, this means that validators are rewarded in proportion to the amount of NEAR that is staked through their seat on the network. In Very Plain Terms: NEAR validators and token holders can collaboratively secure the network in return for consistent and reliable coinbase rewards. That is to say, ‘passive income’ is earned for locking up NEAR tokens on the Network. 

The significance of this feature is a key consideration in evaluating the long term value proposition of NEAR for an individual or firm: Token supply, while inflationary for the next five years, will be limited from circulation by the fact that many token holders will be locking up their NEAR on the network. 

Token holders and validators have the opportunity to stake NEAR over the long term – from the very beginning, and earn consistent rewards, while also witnessing the massive growth of the ecosystem and interest in the project, as well as the many projects on top of NEAR. This growth is expected to appreciate the value of the NEAR token. 

This means, very plainly, that NEAR can be expected to perform like many other Staking coins such as (XTZ), (EOS), (NEO), (ATOM), (VET), and, perhaps, (ETH 2.0): The design of the network is such that demand will increase as popularity of the network increases. This is because not only will more dApps and protocols be built on NEAR, but also more token holders will be looking to lock up their tokens on the network and earn a passive return on their investment. This is a pattern that many other PoS tokens have followed before. 

Notably, the window of opportunity on PoS tokens narrows as time goes on and the network becomes more popular: Opening up a position in NEAR now, for example, has the benefit of appreciating with the growth of the Ecosystem over time, as opposed to opening up a position in two to three years. Playing the long-term game is crucial with Proof of Stake tokens. 

Main Takeaways From Section 3: 

NEAR Protocol operates according to a Thresholded Proof of Stake Consensus Mechanism, in which NEAR tokens are locked onto the Network through Network Validators. 

As a Proof of Stake Token, NEAR will continue to be locked into the network over time, in spite of other token functions including storage, transactions, and trading. 

In line with other Proof of Stake tokens, NEAR token holders can learn from other networks such as ATOM, XTZ, and EOS insofar as long-term hodling of a position is more beneficial in the long run as opposed to short term token flipping. 

Section 4: Building on NEAR

With an understanding so far of the context, team, and key value proposition to NEAR token holders, we can now look at the actual product offered by the NEAR Platform: An Ecosystem for Decentralized Applications. Decentralized applications have the potential to (1) Transform existing industries, while also (2) creating entirely new industries. . 

Transforming Existing Industries: Enterprise Blockchain Adoption

For Enterprises, recent data strongly suggests changing attitudes towards blockchain adoption across industries. Here is what Deloitte’s 2020 Global Blockchain Survey finds on the importance of blockchain for companies around the globe: 

“That’s the key takeaway from our 2020 Global Blockchain Survey, which finds that leaders no longer consider the technology groundbreaking and merely promising—they now see it as integral to organizational innovation.” (2) 

More specifically, the following diagram outlines where a platform like NEAR would integrate with existing industries across the global economy: 

What this data indicates is that NEAR protocol – as a scalable, public, permissionless blockchain ecosystem – is ripe for adoption by any enterprise or entrepreneur interested in offering blockchain services. In context, PR Newswire estimates that the global blockchain market size for such industries will “reach USD 57,641.3 million by 2025, registering a CAGR of 69.4% from 2019 to 2025.” 

Creating Entirely New Industries and Business Models: 

Like other blockchain protocols, NEAR protocol has the capacity to offer entirely new decentralized services accompanied by their unique business models: From DeFi (Decentralized Finance), to Asset Management, the Tokenization of Products via Non-Fungible Tokens, as well as cryptocurrency based marketplaces for data. 

These services are important, because all of these future projects, protocols, exchanges, and marketplaces are going to be built on NEAR: the NEAR token will ultimately operate as the base value for managing data across the system, and interfacing with other tokens and sources of value.

Existing projects already building on NEAR include (among others):

NEAR is Incredibly Developer Friendly: 

Last but not least, the opportunities available for building on NEAR are numerous, and the team has done a solid job of providing developers with the opportunity to quickly and easily build apps using common programming languages like Rust and AssemblyScript

Additionally, there are three specific features built into the design of NEAR that suggest it will be easier to not only use and build on top of, but also disseminate to the masses: 

Senders Only Pay For Gas That is Used: In light of much talk about exploding Ethereum Gas Fees, NEAR resolves this problem quite nicely by only charging the user accounts for the amount of gas they use: In this manner any extra fee paid for gas is returned to the user. 

Human Readable Account ID’s Take the Place of Hashes: When sending NEAR, it is simple and easy to designate a username (much like an email address). If the user does not exist NEAR cannot be sent. In this manner the platform is much more forgiving than other platforms where a wrong letter or number means lost funds forever. 

User Friendly Technical Designs: This refers to the fact that (1) Developers can pre-pay gas for first time users so that first-time users do not need to worry about purchasing crypto per se. (2) Function-Call Limited Permission means that a new user can use a dApp or a contract on-chain without having to have a wallet themselves. These two features make it painless for non-crypto audiences to interact with dApps built on NEAR.  

With Nightshade at its core, NEAR Protocol is designed for builders to create the industries of the future while offering easy access to enterprises looking to innovate within their existing industries. Ultimately, whether you are an entrepreneur, a developer, an enterprise executive, or a crypto-enthusiast, NEAR offers a comprehensive package of benefits to those looking to quickly and consistently build dApps, protocols, and other data driven solutions. 

Main Takeaways from Section 4: 

The NEAR Platform has the capacity to sustainably manage the move towards digitization and blockchain, taking place in numerous industries as well as in new industries. 

At its current rate the blockchain industry is growing rapidly, with more and more enterprises becoming familiar with the benefits offered by the general purpose technology. By 2025, it is estimated that the blockchain industry will be valued at $57,641 million dollars. 

Entirely new business models and industries are already being built on NEAR. The NEAR platform is built with Nightshade to scale, in such a manner that any entrepreneur, developer, or enterprise can quickly and easily build their solution in a cost-effective and easily-deployable environment. 

NEAR Protocol has a number of technical designs built into its platform that make it easy and intuitive to use, as well as extremely user-friendly. 

Section 5: The NEAR Token 

The NEAR token enables the economic coordination of all participants who operate the network plus it enables new behaviors among the applications which are built on top of that network.” – NEAR Whitepaper

Crypto-Economics are highly important for understanding the core value proposition of a project. Demand or usage of the token, is an essential concern for project followers and investors. On NEAR, the NEAR token is the placeholder of value used to transact on the NEAR platform. As such, it possesses 4 distinct utilities (and therefore can be categorized as a ‘Utility Token’). 

Network Usage Fees: Any dApp, marketplace, or protocol built on top of NEAR uses the NEAR token as its store of value for pushing transactions between contracts. This means that as NEAR scales, and more dApps are built on the platform, more NEAR will be required to manage the transaction load (these transactions are also eventually burned). 

Medium of Exchange: Similar to Network Usage Fees, if a specific project on NEAR charges a fee for usage of its services, that fee is denominated in NEAR or the project’s specific token built on top of NEAR. 

Security Provider of the Network: With a Thresholded Proof of Stake Mechanism design, NEAR tokens are used to secure the network, as each validator must ‘stake’ NEAR tokens to gain access to a seat on the network. 

Unit of Account: NEAR tokens are used to calculate the cost of storing data on the network – Gigabytes of data require a proportionate amount of NEAR to lock up as ‘rent collateral’ while that data is stored on the network. For more see the Storage Section

What does the functionality of the NEAR token tell us about demand side pressures? That as the network scales, the value of NEAR will increase. Not only is this because more validators will be required to lock up their NEAR to earn a seat on the network (as more seats become available), but also that more value will be transacted, stored, and exchanged on the platform using NEAR. All of these activities will require new parties, developers, enterprises, and entrepreneurs to join the network and participate in the ecosystem via the NEAR token. 

In very simple terms: The value of NEAR is likely to increase as the network scales and grows. The value of NEAR is likely to decrease, if the network fails to garner adoption and does not grow. 

Main Takeaways From Section 5: 

The NEAR token has 4 distinct utilities: For (1) Network Usage Fees, as (2) a Medium of Exchange, (3) a Unit of Account, and (4) for maintaining network security. 

A significant amount of NEAR tokens will be held: by Validators stalking their NEAR on the network, by developers for pre-paying fees for apps, and by different users and applications for storing data on the network. 

All of these utilities suggest that as the Network grows, so will the value and demand for the token. 

Conclusion: 

At this point in time, it is clearly too early to tell whether NEAR will succeed or not. However as mentioned above, the context, team and funding, technical design, and token functionality inspire confidence in the future of the project. There are few other projects in the crypto-industry that are as thoughtful, well-funded, user and developer-friendly, and ambitious as NEAR. The team is professional and the project is well funded. It would be a huge mistake to think NEAR is only a short-term opportunity. Anyone who has spent time in crypto knows, from Bitcoin itself, to Ethereum to most recently ChainLink that high value projects take time to grow and develop. NEAR is no different. 

About 4NTS Guild: 

4NTS Guild is a rising NEAR Guild focused on connecting and communicating NEAR, its different projects, and the tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs, contributors and other Guilds. Feel free to drop us a line at m@4nts.com.