NEAR Business Update: January 2021

Since its launch to mainnet in Quarter 3 of 2020, the NEAR Ecosystem has expanded rapidly across multiple avenues of development. As startup and crypto veterans alike will say, product development very much foreshadows business development: A well-built and well-designed core product that fits a clear market need lays a foundation for robust user engagement, protocol adoption, and ultimately, value into the product. 

The NEAR Ecosystem is very much in the early stages of breaking out as a leading L1 Protocol: The protocol has launched with unique developer incentives, the wallet – while still being tweaked – is built upon an innovative account model that promises to be more user-friendly, and developers can start building their own dApps in common programming languages like Rust. How have these developments affected business development on NEAR? And what can we expect from the protocol in the future?

DragonFly Joins NEAR Validator Advisory Board

Image from near.org

This was one announcement that was slightly overlooked, especially in terms of its implications for NEAR. DragonFly Capital is a predominantly China – USA focused Crypto-Asset Investment firm that has invested in a number of different crypto projects. In this announcement, Haseeb explains how DragonFly now runs the 3rd largest validator on the protocol with a Validator Stake of 17.4 Million NEAR. 

This is important for two primary reasons: First, it shows that at its current stage of development NEAR remains a very attractive investment to large investment firms that specialize in making highly technical investments. Second, the long-term value proposition of NEAR as being developer friendly as well as more scalable and affordable than ETH has been validated by the DragonFly Investment: It’s not only the NEAR team that realizes or believes in the product that they are building. 

Haseeb Qureshi – One of two Managing Partners of DragonFly had two important insights in his announcement blog about joining the advisory board

First, that NEAR is not out there to kill Ethereum. It’s very much a second city in the crypto space: 

“The third path is what NEAR is taking: building a whole new well-governed and compatible layer-1 that can bridge back to Ethereum. In this metaphor, NEAR is trying to build a second city: the Chicago of smart contracts.”

Second, that technically-speaking, NEAR is already available as a massively more cost-efficient and accessible Layer 1 than what newcomers can expect to get from Ethereum: 

“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. Full sharding is not yet on mainnet, but even the current design is massively more scalable than Ethereum.”

The Open Web Collective Launches Its Second Batch Of Projects! 

Image from Open Web Collective

If NEAR is very much in its early stages of breaking out, then the second batch of projects launched in the Open Web Collective stand as a clear signal of what is in store for the protocol in the months to ahead. More concretely, these projects hold the promise of building out the foundational infrastructure of the Open Web across key areas of development: Privacy, Accessibility, Data Management, and Identity.

Here are the projects incubating right now on NEAR:

A more comprehensive analysis of this batch of the OWC and its implications for NEAR will be released in the near future. For now, the resounding conclusion is that there is a plethora of solutions being built for NEAR – across some of the most important areas of development in crypto to date. Time will tell how these projects mature, but for the moment it is a very strong signal that NEAR has a lot of development coming down the pipeline. 

Project Updates on NEAR: Mintbase, Common Fund, Flux and 1inch!

 

In light of the other two announcements there are many more updates about business development inside of the Ecosystem: 

For starters, Common Fund has announced that they will be building on NEAR to launch a project that pioneers the future of non-custodial crowdfunding. 

Mintbase recently had a business update from CEO Nate Geier on the bi-weekly Createbase call. He explained that development to test net is moving along quickly and that Mintbase has added in a number of new features including:

– Voting mechanics

– Follow other users and manage/customize your profile page.

– In the future you will be able to have multiple tethered NEAR accounts to your profile

– Option to flag for NSFW

– Dark and Light mode for the webpage

– Transfer tokens (and airdrop to multiple addresses at once) with verification badge showing it is a legit NEAR account.

– Languages for the website: Chinese, Portuguese and English

Flux Protocol continues to build out its core protocol infrastructure in what is expected to be a Main Net launch in the coming months! While a lot of internal development is taking place on Flux, they have started to attract serious attention from DeFi veterans as well. 

Finally, in late November of 2020, the NEAR Team announced that Mooniswap is bringing its next generation AMM by 1inch to NEAR. This announcement while largely overlooked, has contained within it the promise of creating the world’s first sharded decentralized exchange:

“To start, Mooniswap will migrate their protocol to NEAR’s virtual machine along with establishing a native liquidity protocol on NEAR. The NEAR Rainbow Bridge and EVM integration create a seamless path to market on NEAR in the short term while they architect long term solutions for even more scalability. Eventually, the team will rebuild their core protocol native to NEAR, based on a sharded architecture, and become the first sharded decentralized exchange.”

Image from near.org

Altogether, the clear takeaway is that NEAR is growing. Projects are developing quickly within the NEAR Ecosystem, a class of new projects is being incubated through the Open Web Collective, and the Protocol itself remains an attractive investment for crypto veterans interested in making a long-term play on the future of the space. 

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest NEAR Ecosystem news and content.

The Starters Guide To The Open Web: Introducing the 4NTS Vector Strategy

Today, 4NTS Guild is excited to announce the launch of a New 2021 Initiative that will see NEAR enter the classrooms, campuses, and universities of the world. The 4NTS Vector Strategy. 

The 4NTS Vector Strategy refers to our approach to bridging the gap between the confusing and oftentimes maddening world of crypto, with the larger intellectual and business communities that work across industries: Finance, Political Science, Economic History, Entrepreneurship, Emerging Technologies, and Education (among others). 

This is very much the beginning of our outreach strategy, but it is one that will snowball over time to bring new minds, ideas, and events to the NEAR Ecosystem from a community of curious and creative intellectuals. To kick off that initiative, 4NTS is pleased to public The Starters Guide To The Open Web. This introduction is meant for those interested in the paradigm shift that crypto-currencies represent, from a Macro perspective.

A brief overview of what this Guide entails includes the following Table of Contents: 

Outline of the State of Affairs: What Is Technology For Us? 

Surveillance Capitalism and the Advent of Psychopolitics

How Blockchain Can Empower You and Your Community

The Ownership Economy: Where Value is made Transparent, Fractional, Contract Based, and Global

Smart Contracts as a New Form of Management Responsibility

Legal Issues Accompanying Smart Contracts 

Why Build on NEAR? “The devil is in the details”

Governance and New Paradigms of Collaboration and Power

DAOs: What Are They?

What Kind of Leaders Do We Need?

Where Do We Go From Here? 

This Starters Guide Kicks off the 4NTS 2021 Vector strategy. In the coming months 4NTS will be reaching out to academics, business leaders, and innovation experts – and welcoming them into the NEAR Ecosystem so as to create value at the intersection of different fields of expertise. This may include livestreamed conversations: Interviews: Publications, and Events such as Symposiums and Conferences.

Are you currently studying at a University – What areas that you are studying could be enhanced or complimented by the value proposition of the Open Web? 

Do you have an old professor or business partner who would be interested in the Open Web and the value proposition of NEAR? 

What topics or research do you believe is important to bridge the gap between crypto and existing industries? 

The Case For NEAR Episode 1: Enzyme (Previously Melon Protocol)

Introduction

The NEAR Protocol Main Net Launched in Quarter 3 of 2020, roughly two years after initial development began. In tandem, on March 1st, 2019 (while NEAR was Building) Melon Protocol, now known as Enzyme Finance, launched it’s Version 1 on Ethereum. 

Since that time, both protocols have been developing at breakneck speed: NEAR, for its part, is finalizing the NEAR – ETH Rainbow Bridge, has onboarded a number of new projects, and is also finalizing updates to its wallet. Enzyme meanwhile, has gone through a rebranding, has more than 435 active funds on its network, and continues to recruit fund managers onto its protocol. 

In The Case for NEAR Episode 1, we put forward an argument for why Enzyme would benefit from bridging onto NEAR, so as to allow future fund managers to operate funds on either NEAR or Ethereum. This starts, in Section 1, with an overview of what Enzyme is and where it stands in its development. Section 2, explains how Enzyme currently works on Ethereum. Sections 3 and 4 explain the value added by NEAR Protocol, and puts forward a thesis specifying why Enzyme should consider migrating onto NEAR. 

What is Enzyme? (Previously Melon)

“Melon is an Ethereum-based protocol for decentralized on-chain asset management. It is a protocol for people or entities to manage their wealth & the wealth of others within a customizable and safe environment. Melon empowers anyone to set up, manage and invest in customized on-chain investment vehicles.”https://melonprotocol.com/

As described on its website, Enzyme is an open-source protocol that allows fund managers to create and manage a pooled asset vehicle on chain at “a fraction of the cost” of a traditional fund. In short, Enzyme is a decentralized solution for financial asset management: Whereas traditional funds are complex, riddled with fees, intermediaries, and legal documents, Enzyme embeds all of the rules for managing a fund between a portfolio manager and different stakeholders on a smart contract level – making it more cost-effective and straightforward, while still maintaining trust, asset custody for investors, and security. 

As summarized on the Enzyme Documentation page, Enzyme provides the following to prospective investors and fund managers: 

Rules and Parameters Up Front: Requires fund managers to define the key rules and parameters of the fund which are in turn deployed to the blockchain and enforced by smart contracts – no more need for fund administrators.

Transparent and Immutable Transactions: All transactions are recorded (transparently and immutably) on the blockchain – no more need for complex auditing.

Investors Maintain Custody of Assets: All assets remain in the custody of investors themselves and can be redeemed at any time – no more need for custodians.

Fund Performance is Transparent: All data about fund performance is on-chain thus transparent, enabling investors and managers alike to compare fund allocation and performance. Transactions on the blockchain are near instantaneous, and unlike transactions in the traditional world which can take several days, do not require clearing and settlement services.

Reduced Fraud and Malicious Behavior: By enabling investors to retain custody of their assets and enforcing fund parameters on the blockchain via smart contracts, Enzyme dramatically reduces the ability of fund managers to act fraudulently or malevolently.

Save Time and Money: By automating so many back office and intermediary functions, Enzyme drastically cuts the operating cost of managing a fund – thereby enabling managers to pass on these savings to investors.

Source: https://melonprotocol.com/docs/solution/

How Does Enzyme Currently Work?

Enzyme is a place to create, manage, and invest in investment funds. In this sense, it epitomizes the transition from traditional, centralized finance, to innovative, decentralized finance. Concretely, Enzyme works in the following manner:

As an investor, you head over to Melon Terminal and can browse from existing funds to invest into. DAI, wBTC, wETH, and USDC are all available to invest into a fund. Once you have decided you would like to invest in a specific fund, you simply have to: (1) Approve the smart contract to transfer tokens into the fund (and Pay the Gas Fee). (2) Read the investment request. (3) From which the request is executed by anyone with access to the contracts. 

As a fund manager, with meta-mask connected, you can log into Melon Terminal, name your fund, set your fees, agree to the rules of your jurisdiction and then create a fund. Once your fund is created it becomes listed on the Melon Terminal, and if it is made public, it is open to investment from any prospective investors. 

Enzyme explains its goal as providing a “Platform for decentralized asset management.” As one of the first projects to build such a solution as a Layer 2 Protocol, Melon has the opportunity to revolutionize and democratize how assets (and future crypto / digital assets) are managed in an open, permissionless and secure manner.

Taken from: https://melonprotocol.com/docs/solution/

To date, Enzyme boasts a total of 432 funds with more than 4.6 million USD in assets under management. An overview of existing funds can be found at: https://melon.avantgarde.finance/.

What Does NEAR Offer Enzyme?

While Enzyme has built an exceptional protocol on top of Ethereum, it stands to gain much more from bridging onto NEAR. The two main reasons have to do with (1) Low transaction fees on NEAR, as well as (2) the long term usability value proposition. Both are outlined in detail below:

(1) Low Transaction Fees on NEAR

Enzyme is designed for either investment managers or investors to interact with the protocol. However, in its current form this becomes difficult, time consuming and costly due to high fees on the Ethereum Network. As it currently stands, it takes 9 Transactions to deploy a customized Enzyme smart contract when setting up a fund. Gas Fees can fluctuate depending on usage on ETH as well as the amount of time. 

1. Begin Setup

2. Accounting Contract 

3. Fee Manager Contract

4. Participation Contract

5. Policy Manager Contract

6. Shares Contract

7. Trading Contract

8. Vault Contract

9. Setup Complete 

Each of these transactions are costly and time consuming for initial setup. This is also the case when it comes to investing in a fund, as every investor must approve the smart contract to transfer tokens into the fund (and thus pay a gas fee when moving funds into or out of a fund). 

On NEAR, transactions are extremely cheap and designed to remain low, regardless of how active the network becomes over time (hence the idea behind dynamically resharding the network as more transactions accrue). While Enzyme currently estimates that it costs a couple hundreds of dollars for setting up a fund on Ethereum, it is estimated on NEAR that all required transactions would cost less than $10 US dollars to get started, with almost no wait time either. 

The numbers here have been outlined by Illia in previous posts

Cost: The Initial price for 1Tgas is 0.0001 N. So one block is 0.1N at the minimum.

Time: With ~1 second blocks and constant validator rotation transaction get routed pretty quickly to the validator that will include them.

Including other common actions such as creating an account and sending funds: 

Source: https://docs.near.org/docs/concepts/gas

Note: Contracts also return 30% of the transaction fee back to the application / developer. In this sense Enzyme would actually stand to earn additional revenue as their platform grows over time, simply from taking a very small percentage of the NEAR used in starting and managing funds. 

“For example, the maximum fee change per block in Ethereum is 12.5%, and the block time is 12-13 seconds. In NEAR, the maximum change is 1% at 1 second block time.” – Deribit Insights

(2) Usability for Long Term Protocol Engagement

The second point that should be considered relates to the long-term usability proposition that NEAR offers Enzyme: Enzyme exists as a place for investors to invest in crypto mutual funds (and hopefully other assets in the future) while managers can handle those funds without actually owning the capital. One question that might be worth asking, is What kind of people would want to invest in a crypto mutual fund? 

If any segment (now or in the future) of Enzymes’ audience includes new crypto users, or those unfamiliar with handling the in’s and out’s of wallets, private keys, and alphanumerical addresses, then it would be beneficial for Enzyme to bridge over to NEAR: On NEAR, users are able to handle crypto using more familiar Account ID’s, simple login functionality, and one-click access to their wallet or an application on the protocol. 

For the long-term usability of Enzyme, managers from traditional finance and investors new to crypto would benefit (and be more likely to use Enzyme) by having a more streamlined and user-friendly management system than what Ethereum currently offers via MetaMask. For more on this see Alex’s post here. 

The Main Takeaway: If Enzyme were to bridge over to NEAR they would be able to keep their current service offering on Ethereum, but would be making a smart long-term investment in offering a more user-friendly and cost-effective service on NEAR. 

Why Should Enzyme Migrate to NEAR?  

Given these two major benefits, there are ultimately 4 reasons why Enzyme would do well to migrate or bridge across to NEAR: (1) Cost for Users, (2) Time For Onboarding, (3) Usability For Protocol Development, and (4) Support from NEAR.

Cost For Users: On NEAR, Enzyme will be cheap to use for both managers and investors. Starting a fund will not be cost-prohibitive, nor will investing in a fund of your choice. 

Time For Onboarding: Setting up a fund will take minutes instead of hours. Sending money between funds is equally fast and will remain so thanks to NEAR’s sharding design. 

Usability for Development: Enzyme hopes to re-imagine asset management under the guise of building an open, permissionless, and accessible protocol for future investors and fund managers. When taken in context, this means that Enzyme should be accessible to current fund managers interested in moving into crypto, as well as current investors looking to put crypto in the hands of more experienced traders. Both demands are handled by NEAR with their user-first design, easy account setup, and progressive security models. 

Support From NEAR: The NEAR Foundation is currently in the process of finalizing it’s grants program. In parallel, the Melon Council (i.e. Enzyme Council) has stated that they are happy to fund research into initiatives that include “Research on Integration with Interoperability Protocols” as well as “Research on Integration with DeFi Protocols”. Together, the two projects are strong enough to start funding initial research into helping Enzyme bridge across onto NEAR.  

Let’s Make It Happen

The Future of Crypto is collaborative, positive sum, and cross-protocol in nature. Bridging Enzyme to NEAR will not only improve traction and engagement for both protocols, but it will also make decentralized asset management more accessible to the world of mainstream finance at a time when Crypto is only starting to become known. As a long-term play for the next 5 years, bridging onto NEAR offers Enzyme an additional opportunity to engage with users and managers in a cost-effective, time-conscious, and user-friendly manner. Let’s make it happen. 

Announcing: The Case for Building on NEAR

Welcome to 2021. Lots of people have said this is going to be a big year for Crypto: Social Tokens, L1 Protocols, NFT’s, Gaming, you name it. Things certainly seem to be trending in that direction, and there is undoubtedly a plethora of opportunities in front of us. 

On NEAR Protocol, this year is also shaping up to be a big one: The NEAR – ETH Bridge should open as fully decentralized and permissionless, Flux will launch, Mintbase will continue to build, and the Ecosystem as a whole is well positioned to expand significantly on multiple fronts. 

In light of these projections, 4NTS Guild believes that it is important to not forget about the basics: That is to say, the simple things that make all of the difference amidst the noise, euphoria, and innovation. For the NEAR Ecosystem those basics are rooted in the design of the protocol as being scalable, developer-first, and user-friendly. That’s why we are announcing The Case For Building on NEAR Series

In Crypto there are hundreds of projects – and hundreds of protocols to choose from. More often than not, decisions are made not because all information has been consulted, weighed, and calculated, but because development, and business timelines force founders to move ahead. Our bet is that there are a lot of projects in the crypto space that don’t even know what they are missing out on by not building on NEAR Protocol. 

In The Case for Building on NEAR series, we want to go through a selection of crypto projects and protocols; Pick the projects that stand out to us the most in the crypto space, and break down how their solution could work on NEAR, and why that might be a good idea to make the transition NOW. It might have to do with gas fees, it might have to do with usability, and it might have to do with building future solutions in Rust. 

Have a recommendation of a project to break down or make the case for? Let us know on Telegram or Twitter (@4NTSGUILD)! 

Getting Into the Crypto Space: A Student Perspective

How many people don’t want more control of their own money? How many people can be dependent upon themselves to own their own funds and finances? Well, enter decentralization.

Two weeks ago I was an absolute newbie to the crypto world to the extent that the only thing I was aware of was that Bitcoin existed. I knew nothing more than that. Nothing about decentralized finance, blockchain, or any of the tools embedded within those focuses. Fast forward, and entering crypto has been the best thing I’ve done for my own interest and development as a student starting a career in this space.  It will give me a great opportunity to grow my knowledge in cutting edge technology as it begins to grow.

Background to Get into Crypto: What I Have Seen So Far 

Guess what? In this world, nobody has a background. The “résumé” to join a Guild or participate in an open-source Ecosystem like NEAR (and the rest of the crypto universe for that matter) answers the questions:

1. Do you have some sort of skill, at all?

2. Are you willing to learn a vast number of other skills (the most important being how to teach yourself)?

3. If you’ve been in this space before, how long?

4. Are you willing to keep trying, engaging and working with others to advance the goals of the community? 

Nothing else matters—not age, years of experience, whether you went to the best school, or any school at all, or how many groundbreaking applications you’ve built. You don’t have to retake college entrance exams to get a job in this cyberspace, and you surely don’t have to have every possible answer floating around. That is an exciting breath of fresh air for students and software engineers like myself, who are interested in participating in projects that we find meaningful and collaborative and that will someday have a lasting impact for the larger world. 

The Basics of the Crypto World: Getting Started

The first thing I learned with respect to this cyberspace is that nothing is set in stone. Things change everyday, and the use cases to all of these tools are absolutely endless. For example, let’s imagine a world where there exists multiple currencies that are not bound by a location. These currencies belong to the world. Sure some currencies may be best for certain situations, but anything would work. With respect to that, the BTC, ETH, XRP, LTC, etc. belong only to the individual when they keep it in their own wallet.

The currency is never owned by a bank or any other third party—the currency takes its turn with each individual and never anybody else. With that, each person must understand that his/her money exists on the blockchain. Any action is final. Send to the wrong address, and the currency is gone. In parallel to the sense of personal ownership, the entire space is truly committed to being open sourced. So not only is value distributed independently, but data is also used openly.

Decentralization

Understanding the idea of decentralization is key to grasping the underlying value proposition of blockchain technology. This is what NEAR is working towards for their ecosystem, but with the added value of having easy to use applications and a generally scalable protocol. From what I can see to date, decentralization is all about opening up access, ownership, and power: decentralizing apps for things like finance allow for more autonomy by individuals while also removing barriers to entry. There is no central person, company, or companies to control the finances or, in the case of NEAR, the open web. From this, we could see serious advances in fields like gaming where efficiency, digitally scarce items, and cryptocurrency integrations are top priorities that may one day be seamless and standard for all games. 

What Lies Ahead

Given that this new currency has no “homeland,” think about global betting markets (on Flux?)  or maybe a new stock market. What about fully decentralized finance (DeFi)?Put a couple of these together and you have a fully operational stock market on a DeFi system. What about all the other applications of these things? The possibilities truly are endless. Many of these ideas only look at the intersection of finance and crypto. What if we look at something like a decentralized and open web? Here at NEAR, we are using this to solve the problems that arise when people start to scale applications that relate to data, privacy, gaming, digital assets, marketplaces of the future, and much, much more.

Using NEAR protocol, these opportunities are made possible using advanced technologies like sharding for parallel computation in unison with a user-friendly account model. Pretty cool if you ask a Gen Z’er like me looking at what the next 20 years of my life and career might look like. 

Advice To Fellow Students and Developers: 

Get into this world….yesterday. As companies begin to understand the advantages to blockchain, DeFi, and NFTs, they will migrate quickly. At that point, blockchain and crypto will blow up. The thing to understand is that this newfound technological journey will not be a lonely road. As I’ve experienced at NEAR and through other contacts, people are more than willing to help you through this space and answer all the questions you may have. I, for example, have accepted this world in stride and feel like I am beginning to find a grasp on the surface of crypto and the general cyberspace in only 2 weeks. The learning curve is high, but the space is never boring. Learn everything you can…the rabbit hole is very deep and growing faster than ever.

Yield, DeFi and BTC Hoarders: How NEAR Fits in this Entropy

This article is fueled by excessive amounts of happy chemicals released in the brain, which is a normal human reaction that occurs after surviving 3 years of a severe bear market and seeing BTC breach an ATH. Be warned.

We’re in the middle of the financial revolution and you are the one holding the banner. No, really. If you are participating in the current state of the ecosystem, you are officially one of the early adopters that put their energy and money into this absurd and bizarre quasi-financial industry which is shaping out to be something that might save the traditional financial system. Don’t believe me? Fine, but even NASDAQ is writing about it.

Currently, the yields in the traditional economy are disappointing. 10-year Germany sovereign bonds are at -0.567%, and this is not , as there are more European countries that have a negative yield. So you are paying money to hold their bond. This is partly driven by the Covid depression, but quantitative easing (money printing, which is a common meme nowadays) is also at fault. However, if you invest enough money in ETH and set up a node, you can get 5%-20% APY (the number at the time of writing this article is still subject to change). NEAR makes you around 14% annually. Way better than paying money for holding sovereign bonds, right?

Of course, this is not an intellectually honest comparison because risks involved in holding sovereign bonds and staking some weird blockchain tokens are different, and therefore you are being paid a premium for taking on these risks. Fair enough. However, the space matures, good projects emerge out of the entropy and tech gets refined. And as tech gets refined and the risks diminish, new opportunities appear. For example, Circle is offering a waitlist for their new feature – a dollar deposit account that offers you 10.75% fixed term annually. And this happens in an economic environment where you essentially have to pay for holding some sovereign bonds. Circle can do this through different DeFi strategies that probably yield them around 15% annually, of which they give 10.75% to the depositors and leave rest as profits and as treasury in case of a crisis.

Even though this is still proof of concept and not a full-fledged feature, it allows us to take a look at the possibilities that the future might offer usAnd the most exciting thing is not even the fact that in a few years you might be able to add a few zeroes to your total portfolio – it’s that now there is an alternative to the financial system. Now you have another way of getting yield rather than banks or traditional investment – obviously, if you are bold enough and are comfortable with tech. 

The paradigm is changing rapidly – more and more funds are purchasing Bitcoin and coming out about their investment (fill before shill, remember). The last addition at the moment of writing this article was One River Asset Management that claimed that they invested 600 million dollars in Bitcoin in November. And that they are planning up their stake to 1 billion dollars of Bitcoin and Ether in 2021. So what does this tell us? Institutional investors acknowledge the opportunity that Bitcoin constitutes, especially under these global economic conditions. However, they also acknowledge Ethereum, which doesn’t really fit into the digital gold narrative – but does fit into the “enabling the alternative financial system” narrative. Ethereum supply is not limited, whereas Bitcoin is limited at 21 million coins. Ethereum is not hard asset in a sense that Bitcoin is. But it has a very important quality – almost everything is being built on Ethereum, whereas Bitcoin is just an investment vehicle.

“Why did you mention entropy in the headline?” you might ask me. Because this whole thing is still a chaotic Wild West. The progress of the space will be evident in hindsight 20 years later and it would seem like blockchain, digital currencies and DeFi just came into our lives and stayed there. But only the OGs would remember the chaotic, entropic nature of the progress – rugpulls, times when it seemed like blockchain is just a gimmick, exchange hacks. And all these events shaped out something new and beautiful – with some people losing it all in the process. All hail to sacrificial lambs of the new financial frontiers.

There is a concept called the Lindy effect, which roughly means that popular things age “in reverse”. So if the book was in print for 5 years, it will most likely last around 3 more. But if it was in print for 15 years, chances are that it will be in print for 14 more years. And if the book is in print for a century, it will probably live two more at least. This is logical, because if the idea survives, it survives. You can still find a two thousand year old book in your hotel’s bed stand table.

The Lindy effect relates to our topic because Bitcoin and Ethereum are very Lindy – a piece of technology that survived long enough for us to claim that it will survive for an even longer time. One might contrast that to the ghost chains that were “Ethereum killers”. Therefore we can pretty safely assume that Ethereum is going to stay here for a while (going to be excluding Bitcoin from the conversation, because it safely went into the “store of value” category, probably for the better). 

Ethereum is the lifeblood of the current crypto ecosystem as it powers the loans, the on-chain option protocols, and the Uniswap gambling. However, the main problem with Ethereum is that higher transaction speed and lower fees are urgently needed, and they aren’t going to arrive anytime soon, as ETH 2.0 has only started. At the peak of the DeFi craze, it wasn’t uncommon to spend $50+ on gas for a single Uniswap transaction. Obviously, the future of finance can not be built with that kind of fee structure.

Here is where NEAR comes into play. Like other “Ethereum killer” platforms, NEAR has an advantage of being a new network – meaning that they don’t have to design a Proof of Stake system on top of the existing one, which is the case for Ethereum – they can just build a great one from scratch. However, unlike other “Ethereum killer” platforms, the NEAR team realises that Ethereum is not going anywhere, and that projects building on top of it are unlikely to move to other platforms completely.  It is almost like a DeFi Lindy effect. “If a project accrues 10 million in total value locked, it will most likely be a rugpull. But if it accrues 100 million, it will likely reach 1 billion”. And if projects won’t move completely, we can pull the same trick that DeFi devs pulled on Bitcoin – “wrap” and lock Bitcoin and put the tokenized coins on Ethereum, so-called wBTC, wrapped Bitcoin. Same thing here – NEAR “listens” to what happens on the Ethereum network (and vice versa) and wraps Ethereum assets, if needed. So all of the transaction-heavy operations can happen on NEAR, but the assets can stay on Ethereum. Win-win.

The future of DeFi is bright, and so is the future for NEAR. The project couldn’t launch its mainnet at a more perfect time – the market is booming, more and more projects are launching, venture capital is flowing, and even the institutions are going in. But what is more important – is that the NEAR’s team understands what it takes to thrive in the chaos of a nascent tech industry. And in their case, it means collaborating with Ethereum so the two networks propel each other forward rather than cannibalizing each other. And honestly, NEAR also might be a very profitable opportunity for you, regardless of your role – content creator, investor, dev. You just have to survive the entropy.

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. 

4NTS November Newsletter

Welcome to the 4NTS November Newsletter! November has been a huge month for most crypto projects, and NEAR Protocol is no exception. New projects prepare to launch on the protocol, the NEAR – ETH Rainbow Bridge Marches towards public deployment, and the Open Web Collective is open for its second round of applications! Here’s the latest news from within the NEAR Ecosystem this month: 

An Exceptional NEAR Townhall: 17 Projects In the Pipeline 

Earlier this month the NEAR Team put on a Townhall for the NEAR Community featuring Alex, Illia, Erik, Sasha, and many others (including Demos) going into the latest developments taking place on the protocol. For a general summary of the townhall check out the overview with quotes here. 

Among other topics, Sasha announced that there were 17 projects preparing to launch on NEAR in between November and February of the coming year! For a complete update on the current state of Business Development on NEAR check out this video here. 

Open Web Collective Applications Are Open Until December 11th:

The second round of Open Web Collective applications is Open for another 15 projects! Applications remain open until December 11th. For more information on the Open Web Collective, stick around for a December 3rd, NEAR Without the Noise Episode at 4pm CET with OWC Manager Mildred Adada! Applications can be made Here.

CreateBase Guild Is Live! The NEAR NFT Hub Continues to Grow 

As one of the fastest growing Guilds on NEAR, CreateBase has carved out a niche as a home for NFT’s. From Mintbase to Plantary, Non-Fungible Tokens have started to take off on NEAR thanks to low transaction fees and user-friendly account models! If you are interested in building NFT solutions on NEAR and are looking for discussion partners and funding opportunities, check out the CreateBase Guild Telegram Channel for the latest news and updates! 

NEAR Without the Noise Episode 2: The NEAR – ETH Bridge

In one of the most comprehensive discussions to date on the NEAR – ETH Bridge, Dr. Alex Schevchenko joined 4NTS Guild for a one hour live exclusive on the NEAR – ETH Bridge, the nature of decentralization, how NEAR approaches competitors, and the future for NEAR Protocol. A full recap of the episode can be found here. Don’t want to bother with a full video, but got 60 seconds to spare? Go directly to what you’re looking for here

The NEAR Sandbox is Live! 

A community run initiative for contributors, and potential Guild leads of the future has soft-launched known as the Sandbox! As a place for ecosystem participants to collaborate and engage with different projects on the protocol the Sandbox is poised to become a hub for community members looking to make the most out of the NEAR Ecosystem: Network, Design, Build, Form a Guild – the options are open for you. Join the Discord here

Don’t Miss the BerryClub as it Takes Off! 

Berryclub.io has been a fun project brewing on NEAR for a long time created to illustrate NEAR’s capacity to handle transactions. With recent additions, community members can harvest Bananas that can be turned into cucumbers to yield NEAR. Design away and embrace Crypto! 

Mintbase Raises 1 million USD to Bring NFTs to NEAR

Caroline Wend and Nate Geier were grinding hard to create the best minter and NFT marketplace out there, and they managed to do so! After raising 1 million USD in the funding round led by Sino Global, team will be moving to Lisbon to continue bringing NFTs to NEAR Protocol. 4NTS wish them success, as Mintbase is an inspiring story!

One General Thought: 

The current crypto market cycle is turning bullish. However, most analysts have noted that retail traders are still on the sidelines, alongside financial institutions. When – in the coming six to twelve months – can they be expected to join the party? 

What We Are Reading and Watching: 

Some Questions We Are Asking: 

  • How will the impending wave of NFT projects compare to the existing wave of DeFi projects? What will be different and what will be similar? 
  • What cities are emerging as ‘Crypto’ hubs around the world, as we enter the next bull market cycle? 
  • Is the value of blockchain-based gaming underestimated? What segment of Web3 will gaming carve out for itself in the coming years? 
  • How do you get new people involved in crypto communities, when the learning curve is so high? 

4NTS November Highlight – Flux Protocol AMA

Some of you might know Flux as the project that is building in silence – and this is true. This prediction markets protocol built on NEAR is indeed one of the most quiet ones in NEAR ecosystem. But do not confuse this silence with the lack of meaningful updates, they actually have a lot of stuff going on for them. As evident by Peter Mitchell, Flux Protocol CEO just casually popping in Flux Protocol official chat and dropping a few bombs regarding Flux current developments.

  • Flux Protocol has 5 million USD already committed for liquidity provision from its partners and investors
  • Flux Protocol started testing the prediction markets feature with real money on November 13th
  • Project completed a Quantstamp security review
  • Peter said that lack of community updates nowadays is done on purpose – as soon as Flux goes live, everything that the team was working on will be unveiled
  • Flux is actively hiring new people to work on their product
  • Protocol already has layer 2 apps building on top of it, and they intend to take over the esports betting market – stake.gg and ARterra

Overall, it was pure hype! And what made it even more exciting was the nonchalant nature of it. So if you don’t want to miss Peter giving another impromptu AMA in the channel, join their official Telegram group

For the full overview read our AMA recap

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 

Flux AMA with CEO Peter Mitchell: What’s Happening Behind the Scenes at Flux?

On 11 November, 2020 Flux CEO Peter Mitchell hosted a low-profile AMA in the Flux Protocol official Telegram group. As one of the most overlooked AMAs to date a number of extremely important updates on the development of Flux were dropped by Peter: don’t sleep on this one – it is as hype as it gets! A brief overview of the most important points discussed is outlined below, while a full transcript of the AMA is included at the bottom.

Trending Prediction Markets

The AMA kicked off with Peter talking about the recent traction seen around prediction markets especially during the presidential election in the United States. He mentioned that it’s been awesome to see prediction markets take the main stage in the election. Moreover, Peter is excited for the future of markets around politics, and the strong position of Flux in this industry.

“After building in the space for a couple years it was really awesome to see prediction markets take the main stage in be featured so prominently in the US election. I think this is only the beginning and there were a lot of hindrances holding back serious usage, but I think Flux will be primed for upcoming markets around politics.”

Real Money

While categorical and binary mechanics are already live on Flux mainnet today, scalar markets (prediction markets with numerical denominators) are soon to be implemented as well. With scalar markets, one is able to start a prediction market, for example, on how much airline stocks would go up by the end of Q4 2020. With this new feature, new types of prediction markets can be set up. “Testing with actual money starts on Friday 13 November 2020” Peter casually dropped. “At the beginning it will be capped usage to ensure we can refund any funds that could be at risk”, he added.

Quantstamp Security Review

A few issues with varying levels of severity were found during the security review. These issues have been resolved in the meantime. Furthermore, the engineers at Flux are finishing up rewriting the code base. They’re doing this to include better documentation so the protocol is easier to build on, and effectively reduces the time needed for future iterations and audits. Upon completion of these fixes, Flux will be primed for public launch, and ready to scale across prediction markets!

Pressure from competition

Notably, Peter was asked if he feels any pressure from competitors in a way that makes him feel the need to move faster. To this he replied:

“At the moment the market is so young that I think all competitors have the same goal which is to bring in mainstream users. This is a net positive over all for crypto. I think competition will heat up more in roughly 6 months as usability increases and more users begin to enter into crypto. This will then center around a permissionless nature, cheap transactions and the most sticky UX.”

With their current team and roadmap in place, Flux Protocol is by any measure, well on its way to position itself nicely within this industry.

Behind the Scenes

To any Flux community member, it was apparent that the Flux team limited their engagement with the community over the course of the last couple of months. The reasoning behind this is that there were many fake Flux Tokens listed on DEX’s with legal concerns capable of interfering in project development.

Full Transcript of the AMA

  • When moon?
  • No comment lol
  • What are your thoughts on the traction seen around prediction markets during the election?
  • After building in the space for a couple years it was really awesome to see prediciton markets take the main stage in be featured so prominently in the US election. I think this is only the beginning and there were a lot of hinderences holding back serious usage, but I think Flux will be primed for upcoming markets around politics
  • Release date for scalar markets?
  • Categorical and binary mechanics are live on mainnet today and testing with real money starts on Friday. The scalar mechanics are very simple to implement so likely over the next few weeks to get that live.
  • Is Flux hiring developers to work on the protocol?
  • Yes we are actively hiring engineers!

Check out our website here fluxprotocol.org

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