NEAR is a home to a number of amazing apps and projects. These developers, founders, and entrepreneurs are using NEAR to effortlessly create and distribute innovative decentralized apps, while helping build a more open web — free from centralized platforms. In recent installments, NEAR Foundation explored the BOS with Pagoda’s Chief Product Officer Alex Chiocchi, heard from OnMachina co-founder Jonathan Bryce on building decentralized storage, and dove into Move-to-Earn with Sweat Economy’s Oleg Fomenko.
In the latest case study video, Bernouilli-Locke founder David Palmer details how his group is implementing a DAO for team ownership and governance for SailGP boat racing, by leveraging the power of NEAR.
NEAR Foundation is excited to announce that it has joined Hydra Ventures, a “fund of funds” investment DAO. A first in the Web3 space, Hydra Ventures is designed to help other investment DAOs get off the ground.
By partnering with NEAR Foundation, Hydra Ventures will open the doors to the eventual launch of the first investment DAO in the Near ecosystem.
“The combined expertise of the leaders that have created this fund offers a winning formula that will help provide critical funding to purpose-driven, socially impactful web3 startups,” said Marieke Flament, CEO of NEAR Foundation. “We are delighted to be playing a part in launching this DAO and look forward to seeing the role it will play in developing our ecosystem.”
Decentralizing Web3 investment with DAOs
To power the “fund of funds” investment DAO, Hydra Ventures has raised $10M in capital from NEAR Foundation, MetaCartel Ventures, ConsenSys, 1kx Ventures, Collab + Currency, Nonagon Ventures, CMT Digital, among others. Hydra Ventures aims to take a hands-on approach to support investment DAOs, from community coordination and investment practices to organizational design, incentive design, and back office/operations.
“While the first legally wrapped investment DAOs showed us what was possible, many of them have had major operating flaws which have been exposed over the years,” said Peter Pan, co-summoner of MetaCartel and Partner at 1kx Ventures. “Hydra looks to address many of these problems and ultimately emerge with a fundamentally better model for how investment DAOs should be operated. We are thrilled to have NEAR Foundation’s support in this venture.”
Hydra Ventures is incubated by Thing3 and MetaCartel Ventures (the first and one of the most successful investment DAOs created), and backed by leading founders and thinkers in Web3. MetaCartel has incubated and made investments in several category-leading projects like Sky Mavis, Axie Infinity, Arweave, Open Zeppelin, DAOhaus, Zapper Finance, and Rarible, and were also one of the first investors in Mintbase, an NFT marketplace built on Near. MetaCartel members include Ameen Soleimani (founder, Moloch DAO), Stani Kulechov (founder, AAVE), Roneil Rumburg (founder, Audius), Bobby Ong (founder, Coingecko), RAC (Grammy award winner), Peter Pan (Partner, 1kx Ventures), amongst others.
We are more than halfway through the first quarter of 2023 and wanted to share a quick update on the progress NEAR Foundation has made on community funding and accelerator strategies.
First, if you are a project building on NEAR or interested in building on NEAR and need some immediate support, please fill out this Project Support Form. NEAR Foundation will connect you with the appropriate person or organization who can assist.
Important changes in the grant program were announced at the start of January, highlighting the Foundation’s goal for a more decentralized funding process by handing over decision making to community DAOs. What follows is the status of the initial DAOs.
- MarketingDAO is actively reviewing proposals related to amplification and marketing via the MarketingDAO forum channel. At the moment, the core focus of applications is around content and social media, with an exciting ETHDenver bounties initiative having just recently been announced.
- DevGov is ramping up and reviewing proposals supporting technical ecosystem projects via their NEAR.social gig board.
- Creatives DAO is on track for accepting proposals for funding before the end of March.
- NEAR Digital Collective (NDC) is a grassroots movement by the NEAR Community to decentralize. NDC V0 Governance is coming soon! The initial milestone is for the Community Treasury to come online, and it is actively being finalized. V0 focuses on funding the GrassrootsDAOs listed above: Marketing, Developer, and Creatives.
- A beginner’s guide to V0 of the NDC governance structure
- What is the NDC?
- How to Get Involved:
- Join the NDC movement on Telegram:
- Join the Movement
- Start a conversation
- Join or form a Workgroup to contribute to governance and decentralization on NEAR
- Join the NDC movement on Telegram:
From the accelerator side, NEAR Foundation’s past experience with the grants program showed us that founders and teams are in need of a variety of support in order to be successful and take their project to the next level.
To that end, the Foundation’s strategy consists of three elements:
- We are building a product on NEAR Discovery that will allow founders to connect with a range of contributors (e.g., investors, subject matter experts in areas like legal and finance) who can support them in their journey. We are launching an MVP in early March.
- We recently made an open call to partner with accelerator programs that can help us fast track support needs for projects. We will be releasing additional open calls in the coming weeks as we continue building out the support network available for founders. These open calls will be for:
- Engineering support resources
- Talent / Recruitment platforms and services
- Legal platforms and services
- Back office accounting platforms and services
- Marketing services
- Product management services
- We are continuously developing and identifying learning content and tooling that are most helpful for early stage founders (e.g., accounting software geared towards Web3 teams, Go To Market exemplars, etc.). These resources will be available within the product.
Take 1 minute to help us pick a name for the Accelerator here (survey closes on March 1, 2023)!
If you have any questions on decentralized funding, the DAOs, and Accelerator program, please reach out to the Community Team on Telegram, Discord, and other social media channels used by the NEAR community.
And again, if your project is building on NEAR or interested in doing so and you are in need of some immediate support, fill out this Project Support Form. NEAR Foundation will connect you with the appropriate person or organization who can assist.
It’s been a whirlwind year for NEAR – and it’s hard to believe that 2022 is coming to an end. It’s been a year filled with massive milestones and achievements, including the biggest NEARCON ever, record-breaking new wallet creation, and much more.
With 2023 around the corner, it’s a great time to reflect and take stock of all the exciting happenings and announcements that took place in 2022. NEAR Foundation congratulates every developer, community member, and partner that made 2022 a blast.
Without further ado, here’s everything that happened with NEAR in 2022, how the ecosystem is successfully navigating bear market conditions, and why NEAR is primed for explosive growth heading into 2023!
The last 12 months saw huge progress on the protocol level, with an exciting roadmap charting the course for 2023 and beyond. From staking upgrades to new developer tools, the NEAR protocol made huge strides in onboarding new builders and the next 1 billion users.
NEAR also saw the introduction of meta-transactions, allowing third parties to pay transactions for the transaction cost of any account. Users can then be onboarded to NEAR apps without owning any NEAR tokens. Meta transaction development will continue through next year and will be critical to new wallet growth.
Stake Wars’ latest iteration also began in 2022, marking another step towards decentralizing the network. Stake Wars will increase the total number of validators as chunk-only producers for the next phases of sharding. The chunk-only producer role will be more accessible to new validators who don’t have sufficient $NEAR to run a Block Producer node.
Phase 1 of Nightshade Sharding Commences
Stake Wars was a critical step in the transition from Simple Nightshade to Phase 1 of sharding in 2022. As Phase 1 continues, total validators will increase from around 100 to 300, with a significantly lower seat price. Phase 1 was crucial to facilitate scaling, improve decentralization, and bring the Open Web to mass adoption.
There will be an 86% decrease in collateral requirements to become a chunk-only producer as Phase 1 of Nightshade concludes in 2022 and continues into the next year. Phase 1 went live on mainnet in September 2022 with key contributions and assistance from the Pagoda team.
As NEAR co-founder Illia Polosukhin told CoinDesk in the lead-up to the Phase 1 roll-out, “the more users the network gets, the more decentralized the network gets as well.” This allows NEAR to add more validators in response to more demand for the network, delivering on the promise of speed, scalability, and efficiency.
Major Strides in Funding and Transparency
A thriving NEAR ecosystem requires resources and trust, both of which made major strides. The birth of Transparency Reports assured the community that all core stakeholders in NEAR are operating in good faith and from a position of financial strength. These reports provide important information about the health of the protocol and ecosystem, including staking distribution, daily transactions, and new accounts created. (Read the Q3 Transparency Report.)
To see how NEAR Foundation and other ecosystem funding projects have been distributing portions of the $800M in funding throughout 2022, check out Q1/Q2 and Q3 Transparency Reports. Key areas of funding include Proximity Labs and DeFi, DAOs, NFT infrastructure, and Regional Hubs. The NEAR Digital Collective (NDC) was also announced and launched at NEARCON, with one of the goals being to further decentralize and democratize grants giving and decision-making processes.
NEAR’s 2022 was one of huge growth and innovation. New partnerships like Sweatcoin and SailGP were major stepping stones toward bringing Web3 to the masses. Projects in areas such as gaming, music, and NFTs showcased that the NEAR ecosystem is thriving and poised for new heights in 2023.
The NEAR protocol experienced 15x growth in cumulative accounts over the past year with 22M+ today. NEAR also has 900K monthly active wallets, marking a major increase from this time last year. And in 2022, the NEAR ecosystem generated $330M of external capital in projects building on NEAR.
One of the biggest catalysts for new NEAR wallet and account creation was the partnership with Sweatcoin. The $SWEAT token rewards users for every step they take throughout the day, encouraging users to live healthy lifestyles. Sweatcoin migrating to NEAR pushed total wallets from 2 million at the beginning of the year to over 20 million by November. As Flament pointed out during the Sweatcoin keynote at NEARCON, the movement economy is in its infancy, and NEAR is poised to be a leader in the space with the help of Sweatcoin.
Another huge addition to the NEAR ecosystem was the world-renowned boat racing league, SailGP. SailGP partnered with NEAR to pioneer the intersection of sports, Web3, and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). In addition to offering NFT collectibles on the NEAR blockchain to fans, SailGP will use AstroDAO tooling to create the first fan-owned team as a DAO. In addition to the growth of ecosystem projects like Kin DAO for equity and inclusion, it was a banner year for NEAR and DAOs.
You may not have noticed, but 2022 saw a massive surge in interest about music and Web3. And one of the most innovative projects in this area was in the NEAR ecosystem, with the launch of Endlesss. The music creation, marketing, and community development platform’s NEAR integration went live in the summer as a virtual gathering place blending social media features with music production tools. Endlesss enables musicians of all skill levels to conduct “jam sessions” on the NEAR blockchain and mint their music as NFTs.
The NEAR ecosystem got a huge dose of star power with the unveiling of Armored Kingdom. Backed by Hollywood star Mila Kunis, Armored Kingdom will be an immersive gaming, NFT, storytelling, and metaverse experience built on the NEAR blockchain. The project kicked off with a first edition NFT comic book airdrop at Consensus, Austin. NEAR also announced the launch of the South Korea Regional Hub with a focus on bringing the NEAR blockchain to the massive local game development community.
PlayEmber also established itself as a key player in the NEAR gaming ecosystem, taking a mobile-first approach to Web3 gaming and bringing advertisers into the space. PlayEmber’s games now have over 4.2 million monthly active users, and recently closed a $2.3 million pre-seed raise led by Shima Capital.
With core NFT infrastructure maturing in the NEAR ecosystem, 2022 was a year of innovative use cases and groundbreaking projects. NEARCON saw the announcement of a key grant to Few and Far, a premium NFT marketplace on NEAR with a seamless UX and simple minting solutions. One of NEAR’s biggest NFT projects, Mintbase, received over $12 million in funding this August. Mintbase empowers niche creators with the ability to mint NFTs of any type with little technical know-how, exemplifying NEAR’s commitment to making Web3 easy for everyone.
From the launch of Phase 1 sharding to protocol upgrades and ecosystem growth, 2022 was a huge leap for the NEAR ecosystem in many respects. It’s the year that the “Create Without Limits” vision was introduced, the biggest NEARCON ever took place, and some of the most important partnerships in the history of NEAR were cemented. It was also a year in which NEAR committed to more transparency and communication with the community.
Looking forward, NEAR will continue to champion Web3 as a catalyst for change, in addition to environmental sustainability as a carbon-neutral blockchain. In 2023, the NEAR community can expect even more partnerships that push boundaries and support projects that will enhance and empower a prosperous NEAR ecosystem.
The recent stream of news clearly demonstrates that the world needs Web3. Trust in legacy institutions is breaking down, individual privacy and individual freedom are equally at risk, and the major Web2 platforms we use every day have become monopolies that focus on profit, not people.
Yet Web3 also hasn’t fully delivered on its promise to open the web. While important progress has been made, much more needs to be done for this technology to deliver fairer, freer digital systems. Today’s Web3 suffers from inaccessible user experience, siloed applications which are difficult to discover, few real-world use cases, and technology tribalism. Put simply, too much hype and not enough value for users.
Since 2018, NEAR has focused on building scalable, secure technology and infrastructure that is easy to use and enables developers to freely create usable applications. Since launching Mainnet in late 2020, the NEAR ecosystem has made incredible progress, becoming one of the top layer-one blockchains with 22 million accounts, 600K monthly active wallets (active defined as 2+ transactions), and 15x growth in users and projects just in the last year. And despite chaos in the market and a major downturn in recent months, NEAR Foundation has sufficient capital to sustain at least five years of operations in bear market conditions thanks to responsible treasury management.
While Web3 has yet to deliver on its promises, NEAR Foundation believes that NEAR is the only ecosystem where Web3 promises can be delivered and where mainstream adoption can happen. All the fundamentals have been established for some time and NEAR is charging full-speed ahead into its next growth phase in 2023. This post will cover NEAR’s convictions heading into next year, the strategic approach to drive our next phase, and a look ahead at new areas of product and development.
Fundamentals and Convictions
- NEAR has the best technology in Web3. Provably scalable, easy to onboard and use, developer friendly, secure, and decentralized, with the most advanced account model and onboarding in the blockchain space.
- NEAR has world-class talent and ample runway. From the core teams at the Foundation and Pagoda, to the incredible NEAR Foundation Council and advisors, to the diverse group of brilliant entrepreneurs building companies, apps, and funds on NEAR, some of the best talent in the world is here on NEAR. And thanks to the Foundation’s responsible treasury management, core ecosystem operations and funding are well-positioned to run for many years to come.
- Achieving mainstream adoption is about users. Not TVL, not flashy headlines, not cultish maximalism. NEAR focuses on what matters for the long term and the bear market will separate the high quality projects from the ones fueled mostly by hype.
- Web 2.5 will get us there. Sweatcoin proved that NEAR can support an app with tens of millions of users on open web infrastructure. This is the next phase of adoption: helping another generation of Web2 apps and communities take advantage of the opportunities Web3 offers while providing a richer, more sustainable experience to their users.
Enabling NEAR to make the most of these convictions in today’s climate means committing to the following goals over the next year.
Growing usage on NEAR will begin with a top-down approach focused on partnerships. The world-class business development team at the Foundation will focus on working with major applications and brands with substantial, established communities to partner with NEAR on real use cases that drive engagement, such as ticketing and earning. High-traction focus verticals include sports, entertainment, and loyalty. Major partnerships in recent months include Grupo Nutresa, Google Cloud, and Sweat Economy.
Any great Web3 ecosystem is an emergent product of a dedicated community of believers. The bottom-up, grassroots approach for the next year on NEAR will empower the community to invest in its own expansion through grants, primarily through 3 major community DAOs: Developer DAO, Marketing DAO, and Creatives DAO (visit the DAO websites to get involved). This means the NEAR Foundation will no longer directly allocate capital to projects, instead supporting the community in these decisions and further decentralizing key elements of the ecosystem. These grassroots DAOs will be supported by the NDC, which has achieved initial traction, including launching a new Governance Working Group and plans to roll out a v1 governance infrastructure for the ecosystem early next year.
In the new year, the NEAR Foundation will form an early-stage accelerator that will provide support to promising projects and founders on NEAR in areas including education, tech, hiring, legal, UX, and GTM guidance, setting them up to grow into the landmark Web3 projects of tomorrow.
With NEAR’s protocol, infrastructure, and developer tooling already well established, the next step in providing the best user experience to Web3 will be at the discovery layer: the connective tissue that connects applications, tooling, social, earning, and developer components across the open web. This stack is what we call a “blockchain operating system.”
Many of the building blocks of the blockchain operating system already exist on NEAR, either as features or apps. These include NEAR Crowd, a gig economy platform with 50% of users transacting every day, and NEAR Social, an on-chain social network with a widget framework that lets developers fork entire app frontends to build new experiences. Combined with upcoming improvements to onboarding, including from EVM wallets (which we’re calling remote accounts), native meta transactions, Keypom, and new chat/social capabilities, NEAR will deliver even more amazing value directly to developers and users.
All of these user-centric elements further up the stack, particularly at the app layer, will form the basis for a core component of the NEAR ecosystem’s product and technical focus in 2023. Pagoda, NEAR Foundation, and other key ecosystem participants will work together to deliver the best possible technology with an increasingly integrated and seamless experience for developers and end users. The goal from here is evolving NEAR to be more than just a layer-one blockchain: it will become a global blockchain operating system. It’s still early days, but building is underway and the vision is clear.
NEAR is Now
NEAR is the place where mainstream adoption of the open web will happen. Soon, anyone in the world—app users, developers, founders, creators—will be able to create without limits.
Thank you for reading our NEAR 2023 Strategy Blog Post and/or participating in the NEAR Go Forward Strategy Twitter AMA! If you have questions or comments we would love to hear them!
The global community is being heard. Web3 continues to surge in popularity as developers and end-users alike instill confidence in decentralized blockchains, where information lives transparently and out in the open, in direct opposition to Big Tech’s private, opaque databases storing massive amounts of data.
Just as NFTs went viral in 2021, DAOs are now emerging as 2022’s hottest Web3 topic. Within the NEAR community, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are exhibiting rapid growth while bringing more project diversity to the ecosystem.
Decision making from the bottom-up
A decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, is a formalized, self-governing community, analogous to an internet-native Web2 company—where control is centralized. Owned and managed by its members, a DAO carries out a set of instructions determined by prewritten smart contracts, with voting required by members for any changes to be implemented. At its core, the DAO has a built-in treasury that no individual has the authority to access without the approval of the group, fostering the “trustless” environment championed by Web3 platforms.
The first-ever DAO, created in 2016, made waves when its token sale raised the equivalent of $120 million USD, making it one of the largest crowdfunding campaigns in history. While the DAO’s underlying principles and core values remain the same, they have experienced a remarkable evolution in the last several years.
Uniquely Web3 with unmatched power
In 2022, new Web3 users will find DAOs quick to set up, global in scale, extremely customizable, and exceptionally transparent. Think of them as a toolbox that invites anyone to create a business structure with elegant simplicity and flexibility baked in. As such, an immense diversity of structures and scenarios emerge from them. Flat or hierarchical, open to everyone or members-only, the power is invested in the stakeholders to determine how the community should be governed.
The power of DAOs is being harnessed right now by communities to advance a number of missions, made possible by NEAR’s extremely fast, super secure and infinitely scalable protocol. In grants giving, DAO members vote and collectively decide which people and projects to fund. Businesses can track owners’ equity and elect managers to make day-to-day decisions, while investors utilize DAOs to pool funds and vote on strategy and decisions. Clubs of any kind can use the DAO toolbox to elect leaders and decide where to spend group funds.
The DAOs on NEAR are diverse, creative, and boundless in terms of growth. Reinventing the social internet, decentralizing finance, providing structure for various Guilds, and working in areas like legal and software development, these are just a few examples of DAOs that leverage NEAR’s sharded blockchain infrastructure.
The types and number of DAO use cases grow daily, and its true potential is just beginning to be realized.
Together we can do so much
The lion’s share of DAO community growth on NEAR can be seen in blockchain infrastructure and the decentralized finance, or DeFi, space. By total assets, the largest DAOs are Aurora, a token exchange bridge between NEAR and Ethereum, and Octopus, a platform for launching and running Web3 independent, custom blockchains, known as “appchains”.
DAOs don’t stop at providing structure for organizations blazing entirely new trails. They are also serving as the foundation for organizations challenging our preconceptions of social networks and even music recording and distribution.
Feiyu, a picture-based social network on NEAR, allows users to express creativity through memes and GIF sharing. In its novel take on social media, it all happens in an NFT-based metaverse where users earn tokens or NFT items for participating in the community.
Elsewhere on NEAR, DAO Records is reimagining the record label, building tools that will help write the future of the music industry, while working to fairly compensate musicians for their songwriting and recording work. Its founders are encouraging artists to release and package new music as audio NFTs, whose smart contracts allow for an entirely more equitable royalty structure, in perpetuity.
On DAO-powered social platform t² (short for time²), launching in late 2022, users explore a world of narratives “curated by time.” Feature articles are created, curated, and propagated under a curation market mechanism where all participants are fairly rewarded for the network value they contributed. t² acts as the first organization in the Web3 space attempting to monetize human time with the consensus achieved by “Proof of Attention.”
Supercharging the NEAR community
DAO launchpads are gearing up the NEAR community through platforms that allow individuals to join forces with others and create guilds for meaningful projects and more.
Sputnik DAO, a hub for NEAR’s DAO ecosystem, has a platform that welcomes and rewards creators of all kinds within the NEAR community. Individuals can receive rewards by submitting proposals to existing DAOs, it’s that simple. Meanwhile, developers are able to quickly and efficiently build apps on Sputnik because it makes use of coding languages that are already widely known, such as Rust and AssemblyScript. Paired with NEAR’s support and community engagement through Near Academy and the NEAR Certified Developer program, Sputnik is approaching 250 DAOs with a total of nearly 20,000 transactions completed on-chain.
Helping propel NEAR’s ecosystem to become one of crypto’s most diverse, AstroDAO is empowering groups anywhere in the world to make decisions together, collectively. In less than 10 minutes, and without a line of code, everyday users are able to launch a DAO using AstroDAO’s powerful platform. With over 100 DAOs and counting, and a total locked value approaching 90,000 $NEAR, AstroDAO is now a catalyst helping to bring communities together that thrive in the NEAR ecosystem.
The key to AstroDAO’s early success has been a feature set that has been incredibly well-executed on their platform, powered by NEAR. Central tenants are democratic by default, ensuring that decisions like distributing funds and member admissions happen through an intuitive and transparent voting process. Thanks to smart contracts, funds are held in a treasury and always distributed through a community-defined process. Who votes and how it works can be precisely configured to meet a community’s preferred operating style.
Extremely versatile, DAOs act as one component of NEAR Protocol’s commitment to facilitate the decentralization of the network to a worldwide community on a fast, secure, and scalable blockchain. Through their democratic, flexible, and collaborative foundations, DAOs are empowering like-minded individuals to come together and take action in a truly global way.
Robust and disruptive in nature, prepare yourself as 2022 shapes up to be the year of the DAO, powered on NEAR.
Welcome to the NEAR Retrospective! It’s been quite a year for NEAR Foundation, Near Inc., and, of course, all the incredible projects and community members that make all of this possible.
So we thought it was high time to look back at some of the highlights from 2021: everything from protocol upgrades, ecosystem funding, community developments, and new projects launching on NEAR mainnet.
We’ll also be giving a sneak peek at what’s to come in 2022 in a separate post, so keep a lookout for that.
The sign of a healthy network is one that is constantly adding improvements and tweaks to the performance, stability, and security—and NEAR protocol had that in abundance in 2021.
Near Inc.’s engineering team racked up 20 upgrades to the protocol. Among the highlights were protocol update 35 – implicit accounts. This allows NEAR to have Ethereum style accounts that are public keys. They are created on-chain when someone transfers a nonzero amount of tokens to this account.
Another stand-out upgrade was protocol update 42. Here engineers lowered storage staking cost from 1N per 10kb to 1N per 100kb. This dramatically reduced the barrier of entry for contract developers. Before this change, when a developer deployed a 300kb contract, they needed to have at least 30 $NEAR on the account. After the change, they only need 3 $NEAR.
Lastly, not leastly, protocol upgrade 48 brought our WebAssembly runtime from wasmer0 to wasmer2. This shift helped half the cost of wasm operations, helping unlock many applications building on Aurora that were previously blocked because their transactions could not fit in NEAR’s gas limit.
This trend continued throughout the year, culminating in our biggest protocol announcement this year, Sharding.
Sharding Takes Shape
When NEAR released its design for the protocol back in 2019, we initially envisioned a completely sharded blockchain. We quickly realized that this brand new network didn’t have an immediate demand for processing hundreds of millions of transactions. Besides, a fully sharded blockchain is a complex endeavor, and we’d need a little time to do it right.
However, the average number of daily transactions has now surpassed 300K. As more and more projects are building on NEAR, the volume of transactions is only going to increase dramatically in 2022. While the NEAR network is still only using a fraction of its total capacity, we wanted to start the transition to sharding now to avoid any unpleasant surprises, as well as ensure we can support all applications on NEAR.
November 15th marked the beginning of this transition, as we unveiled Simple Nightshade, the first step (Phase 0) in our fully-sharded and secure blockchain. We dropped Simple Nightshade now so that we could preempt any unpleasant surprises with transaction speeds later. In Phase 0 of Nightshade, NEAR’s sharding is split across many nodes, making it super fast and ready for the onboarding of leagues of new developers and blockchain users.
In early 2022, NEAR will move into Nightshade Phase 1, in which we will introduce the new role of chunk-only producers—those who only validate one shard. They produce chunks (shard blocks) for a specific shard and don’t need expensive hardware to do so—all without sacrificing network security. In Phase 2, currently scheduled for Q3 of 2022, both state and processing will be fully sharded, and validators won’t need to track all shards. And in Q4 of 2022, we will enter Phase 3 (Dynamic Sharding), in which we will enable the network to dynamically split and merge shards based on resource utilization. This will make NEAR almost infinitely scalable and able to handle any short-term spikes in usage.
For more details on sharding, head over to the NEAR Medium page, where we’re publishing a series of features on how Nightshade is impacting the platform. Beyond a simple primer on how sharding works, we’re also exploring how Simple Nightshade is now powering the DeFi space and helping make NEAR carbon-neutral, amongst other things.
Funding finds its feet
An ecosystem needs support, especially in its early days when projects are just finding their feet. In 2021, NEAR Foundation went above and beyond to foster growth and innovation.
First up, there was the news that the NEAR ecosystem announced a monumental $800 million in funding initiatives targeted at accelerating growth. While NEAR is giving all communities access to this record amount of funding, there will be a special focus on Decentralized Finance (DeFi) teams who are actively revolutionizing and reimagining the way we interact with money.
DeFi projects on NEAR have already been thriving this year, with $200 million total value locked across projects like Ref Finance, Skyward, and Octopus. In addition to ecosystem fund news, Proximity Labs, a research and development firm targeting the NEAR ecosystem, announced its own $350 million grants DAO to build on the momentum.
In the ecosystem, key projects like Aurora raised $12 million in its first funding round. The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) for scaling decentralized applications on NEAR, received funding from the likes of Pantera Capital, Electric Capital, Dragonfly Capital and other funds.
Flux Protocol, meanwhile, the decentralized oracle provider building on NEAR, raised $10.3 million to build the future of open finance earlier in the year. The project’s round was led by Distributed Global, with participation from Coinbase Ventures, CoinFund, Uncorrelated, Figment Capital, Maven 11, Reciprocal Ventures, Jabre Capital, Greenfield One, IOSG, and Flow Ventures.
With funding in place, it was only a matter of time before the ecosystem took off.
Explosive Ecosystem Growth
NEAR’s 2021 was marked by massive growth. Fueled by Rainbow Bridge, which connects NEAR with Ethereum, as well as Simple Nightshade sharding, the NEAR ecosystem saw an exciting proliferation of gaming, Metaverse, NFT, and DeFi projects.
Gaming was probably always destined to be a strong crypto industry, and 2021 proved to be a fantastic year for NEAR-based gaming projects. We expect this Web3 gaming momentum to carry over into 2022.
In 2021, OP Games, a blockchain-based Web3 gaming platform, began transforming how users buy, own, and trade in-game assets. Unlike current gaming platforms, which often monopolize worlds by sandboxing digital assets, OP Games is offering them as NFTs and turning entire games into fractionalized NFTs. This way, players and fans can co-own projects and, if the game finds success, shape how it develops through its DAO.
Similarly, Vorto Network began developing its online marketplace, where users will be able to buy in-game items and digital assets through a crypto wallet. Hash Rush, a blockchain-based, real-time strategy (RTS) game set to launch on Vorto Network in January 2022, will let players immerse themselves in the Hermeian galaxy, where they build, compete, and exchange goods through various levels. Hash Rush will be a great example of Web3’s “play-to-earn” model, which creates a digital goods economy for participants.
Another title, NEAR Lands, is a pixelated land-based open-world game designed as much for the community as the gameplay. In the NEAR Lands online universe, players create characters and items, as well as engage with friends and other participants, while adventuring through the game’s landscape.
As Q4 drew to a close, Inite earned a $50,000 grant to help build its NFT gaming platform. A unique type of Metaverse experience, Inite is a motivational game based on the scientific method, where players receive daily tasks designed to boost their creativity. By playing Inite, players can earn tokens by generating ideas to improve individual cognitive skills and productivity.
Even more than gaming, 2021 was a strong year for NFTs. And with NFTs percolating into the public consciousness, it’s easy to see why. Paras and Mintbase, two NEAR NFT marketplaces, led the charge in bringing more NFTs to the NEAR ecosystem.
Mintbase, which began building on NEAR in August of 2020, officially launched in 2021. The team had originally begun developing on Ethereum, but migrated over to NEAR when it became prohibitively expensive for them. With its fast transaction speeds and low costs, NEAR was the obvious choice for Mintbase, which hosts its own NFT marketplace but also has an NFT utility engine that helps people build their own.
In early December, electronic music DJ and producer deadmau5 and indie rock band Portugal. the Man collaborated with Mintbase and NEAR to mint their NFT single “this is fine”. If deadmau5 and Portugal. the Man go platinum (sell more than 1 million records in the US), they will make blockchain history. It’s already putting Mintbase firmly on the NFT map.
The NFT marketplace Paras offers real-world trading cards of artworks as collectibles, which users can quickly mint, buy, and sell quickly at little cost. Paras recently launched Boom Boom! the first mini digital comic series on NEAR, and PARADIGM. Both of these are part of Paras Comics, the platform’s new comics-specific feature. The Paras marketplace already has thousands of users purchasing one-of-a-kind NFT collections. It also boasts over 18,000 Twitter and 3,000 Telegram followers—a testament to its rapidly expanding community.
From July 17th to the 25th, 2021 at the Shanghai National Exhibition and Convention Centre, Paras collaborated with Web3Games and NEAR to showcase Chinese artists who were selling NFT artworks at an exhibition. One artist, Huang Heshen, created the “Toorich City Series”, a collection of exclusive NFTs on Paras that explores Bu Tu Garden Community, a digital set of 10 luxury single-family villas.
Elsewhere in China, the NEAR dApp Feiyu recently debuted. Built atop NEAR, Feiyu is a new take on social media, where users express creativity by sharing memes and GIFs. All of this happens in an NFT-based metaverse where users don’t have to register a wallet. Driven by rewards, Feiyu users earn tokens or NFT items (skins, weapons, etc.) for participating in the community.
On the audio NFT front, DAO Records is working to reimagine the record label and to fairly pay musicians for their recordings. In the current music industry model, record labels and streaming services take the majority of musicians’ earnings. With DAO records, the founders are encouraging independent artists to release and package new music as audio NFTs.
To Date, DAO Records has released over 150 NFTs from over 100 artists. And in the last 14 months, DAO Records has also produced over 50 virtual events, where musicians, fans, and NFT lovers can meet and socialize in custom-designed Metaverse gatherings.
While much crypto momentum found its way into DeFi and NFT apps, a number of Metaverse apps also launched on NEAR in 2021. These Metaverse apps laid the groundwork, in their own unique ways, for integration with blockchain gaming, DeFi, NFTs, and other crypto projects.
Metaverse AI, for example, is developing an Open Metaverse for Web3. Using Metaverse AI’s advanced AI engine, users will be able to create decentralized identities and high-fidelity 3D avatars. These blockchain-based DiD (decentralization identifier) avatars give users ownership of their virtual identities and assets, and the ability to move them across the larger Metaverse.
Another NEAR Metaverse project is Reality Chain, which will launch on Octopus Network, a substrate-based appchain network on NEAR. Reality Chain offers users gaming and social activities with the feel of immersive, multiplayer functionality and features.
A radically different take on the Metaverse can be found in the Illust Space app. Billing itself as an “open augmented reality infrastructure for the world,” the Illust Space team is building an augmented reality Metaverse. The app gives users the tools to mix the real and digital worlds for their artworks while making them collectible through NFT technology.
Also in 2021, NEAR debuted its MetaBUILD series, a hackathon designed to encourage developers to build on NEAR. As the name indicates, building the Metaverse is a major emphasis of this hackathon. The first MetaBUILD held August 27th to September 19th, and the latest, MetaBUILD 2 (December 22 – February 10, 2022), both made $1 million in prizes available to developers and teams.
DeFi, or decentralized finance, has become a cornerstone of any crypto ecosystem. In little more than 12 months since mainnet launch, there are now more than 40 DeFi projects calling NEAR home. From infrastructure providers like Rainbow Bridge, Flux and Aurora, to token swap markets 1inch, Trisolaris, and Onomy Protocol, there are staking platforms, lenders, borrowers, credit scorers, and even BananaSwappers.
As noted above, both NEAR’s $800 million global ecosystem fund and Proximity Labs’ $350 million Grants DAO will support DeFi projects and other dapps building on NEAR. NEAR’s Nightshade sharding will also supercharge DeFI by expanding the blockchain’s transaction speeds and security.
Launched this year, Aurora is one of the most notable DeFi projects on NEAR. A platform that makes EVM contracts interoperable on NEAR, Aurora allows developers to keep using Ethereum while boosting their apps with NEAR’s super-fast transactions and low barriers to entry. Aurora is partnering with a number of other promising DeFi projects on NEAR, like the cross-chain oracle Flux and Rose, a stable swap and borrowing protocol, to level up the ecosystem’s DeFi game.
Yet another highly visible DeFi player on NEAR is Ref Finance, a community-led and multi-purpose decentralized exchange, asset issuer, and lender. Ref Finance accomplishes all of this through a single, synchronous DeFi stack. What’s more, it’s fun and easy to use.
If you’re looking for an interest rate market protocol, then Burrow is a dApp to check out. And if you’re looking for a token launchpad, be sure to dive into Skyward Finance, a DeFi platform that makes token launches fair and community-centric, as well as bot and attack-resistant. Another cool thing about Skyward Finance is that its DAO gives the community access to the token launch immediately instead of letting front-runners like private investors and VC firms pump and dump tokens.
If you’re looking for more on NEAR DeFi apps, we’ll be publishing an article on the top DeFi projects building on NEAR. So, stay tuned for that in the new year.
The DAO Community is Growing
One of the major takeaways of 2021 is that NEAR’s community of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations is rapidly growing and diversifying. This is another trend that the NEAR ecosystem and larger blockchain community can expect to carry over into 2022 and beyond.
Sputnik DAO V1, a hub for NEAR’s DAO ecosystem, currently has a total of 248 DAOs, with a total of 17,633 transactions for a total payout of 989,598 $NEAR ($9,292,324 USD). The Sputnik DAO hub now has a Total Value Locked (TVL) of 113,969 $NEAR ($1,070,164 USD). Factoring in those decentralized organizations in the Astro DAOs ecosystem, it’s safe to say there are now over 400 DAOs on the NEAR platform.
Much of the DAO community growth can be seen in NEAR’s blockchain infrastructure and the DeFi space. The biggest DAO by total assets is Aurora, a token exchange bridge between NEAR and Ethereum, and Octopus, a platform for building appchains (independent, custom blockchains).
2021 saw explosive growth in how DAOs experimented with governance tooling on NEAR. In the first half of the year, SputnikDAO went through two iterations—one for disseminating the Community Fund and the other to incorporate custom call ability. By the time Astro DAO launched in October, there was such demand for its offerings that hundreds of DAOs came into existence in only 2 months. And in Q4, the NEAR community did quite a lot of thinking about liability protection, legal entities, and state regulation of DAOs.
Creatives DAO, a fully community-run DAO Vertical, launched this year to support the ecosystem’s creative Guilds and DAOs. Discussions are just beginning about MultiDAOs, and how DAOs can better coalesce for collaborative decision-making efforts. NEAR is also supporting a research initiative hosted by Governauts that is examining DAO-based reward systems.
DAO projects are being supplemented by DAO Guilds, which support these and other blockchain sectors with different resources. Various Guilds are even acting as specialized sub-DAOs working in areas like legal, software development, and DeFi. These and other Guilds are there for when app founders and developers want to tap into specific expertise and resources to improve their own project, technology, or DAO.
DaoBox, based in Switzerland, is another resource for projects and organizations looking to design DAOs. The company offers a toolkit for DAOs building in NEAR, helping them establish the DAO, get a headquarters address, raise funds, and stay compliant through accounting.
A Brief Look Toward 2022
A number of developers building on NEAR will launch their projects in 2022, bringing many more DeFi, NFT, Gaming, Metaverse, and other exciting and cutting projects to the NEAR ecosystem. These teams came to NEAR because they know that whether you’re developing or simply using NEAR apps, joining the ecosystem is fast, easy, and secure.
With NEAR’s $800 million global ecosystem funding initiative, expect to see many more DAOs established as we head into 2022. These funds, alongside Guilds and other blockchain-based expertise and resources, will be vital in helping DAOs succeed and, just as importantly, bringing the masses from Web2 to the Open Web.