NEAR and scalability: Web3 for a billion people
If you have stuck around the Web3 space for a while, you might be familiar with protocols' race towards scalability. With the onslaught of rapid transaction demands on the most popular blockchain circa 2017, the conversation about scalability spread like wildfire. Since the NFT game, CryptoKitties, went viral on Ethereum and congested the network like never before, the protocol has been slowly trekking towards a future that will allow it to conduct thousands of transactions within a second. After community realizations around the extreme importance for increased transaction throughput, there have been many projects that kickstarted their own chain to make up for Ethereum’s weakness.
Enter NEAR, a team of two ex-google and ex-microsoft engineers that decided to go rouge from their initial plan of growing an AI company.
When NEAR launched in 2018, it was known as an AI company - Near.ai. As the founders learnt more about smart contracts and developed a desire to give developers an easy path for building decentralized applications that could easily scale, NEAR impelled to a full-fledged pivot into the Web3 space. The NEAR founders hold the view that the ideal network experience should be simple, secure and scalable. “As a user, I should not have to worry about some cryptokitties running wild or that someone ran some trading bot and is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on fees. I just want to use this stuff [network] and have a predictable experience. On the flipside, as a developer, I just want to be able to write some code, ship it, and get users really quickly”, says NEAR co-founder, Illia Polosukhin.
Indeed, NEAR is successfully fulfilling its promise of scalability and useability for its users. Just at the start of this year, NEAR had only 2 Million users. But within 11 months, the protocol has shot up its support for a whopping 20 Million users with ease.
So what makes this protocol so special? And how did it manage to get here?
NEAR's technical successes
With scalability being their core interests, the founders of NEAR rolled up their sleeves and dug into sharding, the technology that was the best solution for scalability when they started. But, turned off by the unusability of the popular sharding designs from that time, the NEAR team came up with a simpler sharding design called Nightshade. Nightshade is a sharding mechanism that allows the NEAR Protocol to scale dynamically, giving the network the ability to handle not just thousands, but millions of transactions per second and satisfy the demand for transactions as more and more users start to use NEAR.
To further its commitment to scalability, the protocol is also interoperable with the Ethereum network by using the Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow bridge allows tokens to be seamlessly bridged from the Ethereum blockchain to the NEAR Protocol. This way, Ethereum users get access to higher transaction throughput while paying lower fees.
The development of the Aurora EVM is also considered a key milestone in NEAR’s push for adoption. The Aurora EVM is made up of 2 core components: the Aurora Engine runtime, which allows for the seamless deployment of Solidity and Vyper smart contracts, and the Aurora Bridge (based on the Rainbow Bridge technology), providing for the permissionless transfer of tokens and data between Ethereum and Aurora. Compared to Ethereum, Aurora is able to offer fees up to a 1000x lower and host thousands of transactions per second, representing an increase of 50x the speed over Ethereum.
Its novel technological developments is not the only thing that sets NEAR apart from the rest in the race of scalability. In September, NEAR partnered with the largest fitness app in the world — Sweat Economy, which distributed its new Web3 $SWEAT token to 13.5M token holders. “Sweat Economy is one of these companies that have made it easy for people to access Web3 applications with the help of NEAR, which has led to millions of users for its product and for our protocol,” states the CEO of NEAR.
The NEAR protocol is making big moves to back up its big throughput. Helping to onboard the 13 Million users of the previously Web2 company, Sweat economy, might just be the start of NEAR's mission to onboard the next billion people to Web3. The future of NEAR is one to look out for.