Škoda India, in collaboration with NEAR Protocol, announces its foray into the world of NFTs and blockchain technology with Škodaverse India. This new platform forms a part of the global Škodaverse initiative and will bring a fresh wave of digital innovation to Škoda automobile fans in India.
Škoda, one of Europe’s biggest car manufacturers headquartered in the Czech Republic, is quickly becoming one of the most forward-thinking industry brands in Web3 and the metaverse. Late last year, the company announced its global Škodaverse initiative, integrating virtual test drives and NFTs into an immersive environment.
And now the Škodaverse is coming to the Indian market, powered by the NEAR Protocol, that will enable Škoda fans to buy, trade, and engage with NFTs in Web3. It’s a crucial step in the brand’s journey towards building a tight-knit community of Škoda loyalists, offering a space for fans to connect, co-create, and establish long-term relationships with the brand.
Steering Škoda fans towards NFTs with NEAR
Mr. Christian Cahn von Seelen – Executive Director of Sales, Marketing, and Digital, Škoda at Auto Volkswagen India – expressed excitement at the unveiling of the Škodaverse India NFT platform. He envisions it as a dynamic hub for connection and creativity, exemplifying Škoda’s commitment to its customers and fans in India. The Škodaverse India will offer unique and immersive experiences to a rapidly growing market.
“Škodaverse India signifies the brand’s leap into uncharted digital territory,” said von Seelen. It’s not just about creating extraordinary digital assets, it’s about forging deep connections with a community that shares an unwavering passion for the brand and its initiatives in India. It also showcases our commitment to sustainability and innovation, through leveraging carbon-neutral blockchain technology that enables secure, transparent, and decentralized transactions.”
Škodaverse India is designing its metaverse platform to be exciting and engaging for Škoda enthusiasts of all demographics, whether they’re familiar with blockchain technology or not. Whether it’s an image, video, sound, or ticket, each NFT collection released on the Škodaverse India platform will be curated to create memorable driving experiences
The first NFT collection, honoring sustainability, will be created on NEAR Protocol. As a South Pole-certified, carbon-neutral blockchain, NEAR’s eco-first philosophy aligns seamlessly with Škoda India’s sustainability efforts.
Driving Škoda India’s Web3 Strategy into the future
As part of the brand’s intensified Web3 strategy, Škoda Auto India is collaborating with Antier, a leading blockchain consulting firm, to foster the creation and minting of innovative NFTs. Each NFT collection released on the Škodaverse India platform will be thoughtfully curated to represent memorable driving experiences.
These unique collectibles will unlock exclusive experiences, strengthening the bond between Škodaverse and its community of users. The Škodaverse India platform also ensures users stay updated with the latest in the creation and sale of NFTs. Users can sign in, create, and maintain their profiles, and monitor for updates via Škodaverse India’s Discord, Telegram, and Twitter.
With the launch of Škodaverse India, Škoda Auto India embraces blockchain technology, signaling a significant move towards Web3 applications. Powered by NEAR Protocol, Škodaverse India will offer engaging, community-building experiences, further solidifying Škoda’s position as a forward-thinking automobile brand in Web3 and the metaverse.
Rove, one of the most user-friendly entertainment ecosystems in Web3, is now in collaboration with NEAR. Their next release, Rove World v2, will act as a one-stop mobile-based ticketing solution and loyalty rewards program for brands. The update will also feature an in-app store that will include major brands, sports leagues, and musical artists.
Rove and Rove World v2 removes many of the key friction points that occur when brands and creators try to engage their audience with Web3 technology. Notable brands are already on board, as Rove has collaborated with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger on the Web2 side, alongside some of Web3’s largest brands such as Claynosaurz and MonkeDAO, with more exciting partnerships and activations to be announced soon.
“A multichain approach was always at the forefront of our long-term growth strategy for Rove,” said Jason Desimone, Founder of Rove. “Having built and launched the initial version of the Rove World mobile app, our goal is to now expand the reach and traction of Rove to other ‘Layer 1’ blockchain communities and ecosystems that align with our vision and will help us achieve our goals with the launch of Rove v2.”
Let’s take a look at how Rove World V2 is a game-changer for branded NFTs on NEAR.
How Rove is helping brands amp up their NFTs
The Rove ecosystem is a solution to many of the core issues facing brand and entertainment NFT campaigns, launches, and projects. That’s because Web3 itself is often difficult or daunting for the end user, who amongst other things might have questions about the value or utility of NFT ownership.
What Rove brings to the table is a user-friendly mobile app where NFTs are minted in mere seconds and with minimal steps. Brands can also easily add utility to the NFTs which are easily accessible by the user. Rove’s vision aligns seamlessly with NEAR’s Web2.5 strategy of making the onboarding of the next billion users into Web3 as easy as possible.
Brand and entertainment NFT experiences built atop Rove and NEAR lets users log in seamlessly through familiar means like social media log-in, Apple ID, or facial ID. NFTs are easily sent and received on the Rove app via usernames, again with a similar Web2 interface to that of Venmo.
Rove World v2 release lets brands create buzz
The Rove World v2 release will be a major part of Rove’s suite of tools that make it easy for brands to get started with blockchain technology. Their approach is to allow brands to engage with NFTs in a collaborative manner that benefits creators, brands, and end users alike. Rove World v2 on Near is a huge leap in that direction.
The main feature is the in-app store that brands can now leverage in combination with Rove’s flagship app for curated NFT launches and blockchain-based ticketing. Not only will attendees be able to claim NFTs instantly at the tap of their phone, but brands can also now leverage Rove World v2 to offer seamless in-app purchases via the mobile store.
NEAR and entertainment continue to shine with Rove
Rove has many brands in the pipeline across the fashion, film, music, and sports verticals that want a seamless NFT experience for their customers. This not only brings more notable and forward-thinking brands into NEAR’s orbit but also showcases how the NEAR ecosystem continues to make major strides in the sports and entertainment verticals.
Eventually, Rove will serve as a central ticketing and NFT project on NEAR. Users can easily create assets, mint the NFT, and distribute it however they’d like. The entire experience will be on a single mobile app, bridging the technical gap between users and brands while giving a fairer share to creators than mainstream NFT marketplaces.
All assets on Rove and Rove World v2 also have some form of utility. Anyone who owns an NFT on Rove can stake that asset for Rove credits that unlock various perks. It’s a great example of how Rove is making all of Web3 simple, including things like staking.
Ticketing and NFT distribution for brands and creators are about to get a whole lot easier for everyone thanks to Rove. And with Rove World v2’s in-app store, major brands are lining up to be at the forefront of making web3 truly accessible, user-friendly, and financially fair.
“NEAR’s emphasis on onboarding the next billion users into Web3 with a specialized focus on entertainment, sports, and culture fit identically with our approach,” said Rove’s Desimone. “Not to mention NEAR’s industry-leading technology which enables a seamless migration of the easy-to-use features of the Rove World mobile app onto the NEAR blockchain.”
Solaire – an exciting web3 retail platform that merges physical and digital assets – is revolutionizing the way consumers interact with fashion brands. By harnessing the power of web3 and the NEAR blockchain, Solaire is building out key protocol infrastructure and APIs that will expand decentralized retail and unlock new opportunities for both shoppers and fashion brands alike.
Solaire is pioneering phygital use cases and brands will be able to leverage the NEAR blockchain in tandem with Solair’s powerful APIs to engage with their audience in novel ways. Solaire’s suite of APIs seamlessly integrates with a brand’s existing retail channels. This enables new revenue channels and richer data.
Solaire’s entire backend is fully on-chain and facilitates an easy-to-use web2 interface, with no wallet or crypto needed from shoppers. The NEAR blockchain helps Solaire provide these benefits for brands, as well as unique integrations with NEAR. This includes Solaire integration with the NEAR Mainnet, native NEAR wallet support, and the NEAR token as a payment option.
How Solaire is Changing Fashion with Phygital
Solaire establishes a 1:1 connection between a physical object and its digital twin. Brands can then leverage Solaire’s infrastructure and suite of APIs to engage customers with NFTs and phygital experiences in a seamless, user-friendly way, removing some of the typical web3 friction points.
“We aim to do all the hard work on the backend so that brands and consumers can enjoy a familiar user experience with all the benefits of Web3 but without the hassle of dealing with wallet or crypto,” says Vivian Zhang, CEO of Solaire. “And NEAR’s blockchain is perfectly suited to run enterprise-level protocols to ensure a seamless and frictionless user experience.”
Soliare infrastructure helps brands create meaningful digital twins for physical goods, as well as providing a means for consumers to buy and trade phygital assets. Solaire allows for minting unique NFTs attached to physical goods and offers an end-to-end solution for securing and tracking a product from manufacturing through its entire product lifecycle.
Solaire has already collaborated with major fashion brands like Freeman’s Limited Edition Phygital Harry Potter™ Collection and Ilona Song. Smart contracts facilitate shipping, returns, and exchanges all on the NEAR blockchain This allows customers to shop and purchase with transparency and confidence.
Benefits of Phygital Assets for Fashion Brands
Phygital assets are a new way for fashion brands to engage consumers, combining the physical and digital worlds to create a more immersive shopping experience. For example, when a customer buys a dress in real life, they also receive a digital wearable. This can be in the form of an AR filter, a digital skin in their favorite game, or to wear in the metaverse.
“Solaire’s mission is to empower the retail industry with web3 tools to cultivate a more connected and automated ecosystem,” Zhang continues. “With our suite of APIs, brands are able to maximize revenue and gain valuable data from digital assets, facilitate the secondary market, and build community.”
Brands can then use Solaire as a powerful CRM tool. Through the digital twin in customers’ wallets, brands will have a constant open channel of communication with both the primary customer and secondary owners. Smart contracts also automate royalties from secondary selling, giving brands visibility into trading data.
Another exciting feature is the secondary market experience brands can now provide. Solaire’s backend enables peer-to-peer physical asset trading without a middleman, utilizing blockchain-secured data and smart contracts. Buyers and sellers can independently confirm possession and authenticity of assets on-chain, and smart contracts resolve any disputes.
Solaire and NEAR Building a Phygital Fashion Future
“We’re building on NEAR because it champions community, and it’s one we have found to be incredibly supportive,” remarks Vivian Zhang, CEO of Solaire. “We’ve been able to connect and collaborate with so many partners as we build an entire retail ecosystem together on NEAR.”
As fashion brands recognize the value of web3, NFTs, and phygital technology as important audience touchpoints, Solaire has the potential to partner with even more fashion brands and designers. Solaire’s game-changing approach and tech stack – aided by the NEAR blockchain – will bring web3 to more fashionistas without some of the usual pain points.
“Together with NEAR, we hope to lay out the Web3 infrastructure for the retail industry to onboard the next billion users into web3,” concluded Zhang.
A key roadblock to mass Web3 adoption is onboarding. People want to get into Web3 and crypto, but they don’t know how. Seed phrases, private keys, smart contract transactions, technical knowledge and crypto jargon are massive barriers to Web3 entry.
With Keypom, that’s about to change. Keypom is a new zero friction onboarding protocol with a companion no-code app, built on Near.
Now users, regardless of their background, can experience the value of Near’s blockchain technology whether or not they have a wallet. Envisioned as a community-driven, public good — or a public utility — Keypom’s APIs (the Keypom Protocol) will be completely fee-free. The Keypom App will also allow non-developers to take full advantage of Keypom’s powerful wallet-less onboarding experiences.
How Keypom’s frictionless onboarding works
Debuting at NEARCON 2022, Keypom’s onboarding solution is entirely on-chain and non-custodial. It’s run completely on the Near blockchain via Near smart contracts — not on any centralized databases.
Keypom allows Near and Web3 to function more like Web2, where developers and end-users alike can use applications without Web3’s usually confusing, tedious, time-consuming onboarding. For those looking to explore this technology, Keypom will offer an App, which is currently set to release at ETH Denver 2023. This app will give users and organizations the ability to easily create links to invite users to experience aspects of the Near blockchain without having to set up a wallet first.
On other blockchains, users are commonly onboarded with pre-created, pre-loaded wallets. Keypom operates on the basis of Near’s unique access key model, which allows for much more flexibility in the end user-experience.
With Keypom, users are given a special type of access key that can be used to experience a crypto application and later be turned into a wallet. This key can be embedded within a simple Web2 style link that, once clicked, allows users to enter into a crypto experience, entirely on-chain and non-custodially.
Currently, Keypom experiences include receiving $NEAR, NFTs, Tickets to an event, or even dropping the user into a trial account with Near tokens to spend on a preset selection of apps. Once a user has enjoyed an experience with a Keypom link, they can upgrade to a full account and enjoy the entire Near ecosystem.
For organizations that have experienced Keypom and choose to develop on top of their protocol, the Keypom SDK and Wallet Selector plugin allows for a seamless integration of Keypom’s technology into their own apps. Companies will be able to customize every aspect of the user experience to tailor their needs, all while using carefully designed plug-and-play libraries meant to abstract complicated processes for the developer.
Low-cost, customizable linkdrops
Typically, linkdrops have been used to onboard developers and end-users looking to build on Near. The cost of creating 1,000 accounts via traditional means has been approximately 1,003 $NEAR. With Keypom, the costs for onboarding 1,000 users can fall to about 3.5 $NEAR.
“We imagine a world where decentralized applications use the Keypom Protocol to create truly immersive user experiences and specialize in specific use-cases spanning across the entire ecosystem,” says Keypom’s Ben Kurrek. “Companies can build anything from event ticketing to subscription-based payments and multi-sig tooling. While the Keypom App would still allow for users to experience these use-cases, it would be at a much smaller scope.”
Keypom can be used, for instance, to automatically register users into a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) as part of the onboarding process. Another use case is for events ticketing. With Keypom, users wouldn’t need a wallet to enter an event, and would also be able to receive a POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol) NFT.
Perhaps one of the most powerful use cases is the ability for applications to use the Keypom protocol to give their users a free trial. After choosing an account name, the user is instantly signed in and can begin exploring and experiencing the app. Just like with gift cards and other vouchers, the funds can only be used on that dApp thus preventing the possibility for a rug to occur. Once the trial is over, the user can onboard fully with the added option of a payback condition for the funds that the dApp fronted.
In this new model, Keypom introduces a paradigm shift in Web3 where users experience crypto first and only focus on onboarding once they’ve seen the benefit and gained value.
“We leave it to those building atop the Keypom Protocol to specialize and create applications however they see fit, such as charging custom fees,” says Keypom’s Matt Lockyer. “We’ve created a world where there are no limits and we simply provide the technology that unlocks these experiences.”
For a full explanation on what is possible with Keypom’s customizable linkdrops, check out the Keypom Protocol README. Keypom developer documentation can be found here and Keypom Executive Summary here.
NEAR Foundation is excited to announce a new partnership with Dropt, focused on embedding Web3 technologies into customer loyalty and engagement programs. With ownership and interoperability being critical components in the next generation of the customer experience, Dropt chose to build on NEAR. Its compelling tech stack and powerful tooling offer Dropt the ideal foundation for delivering these features at scale and redefining “frictionless onboarding”.
With Dropt, teams and enterprises can now easily and seamlessly introduce blockchain-powered loyalty and engagement mechanics into their customer journey. These Web3 features will help increase engagement, retention, and lifetime value without customers ever even knowing they are interacting with the blockchain. Customers simply use apps and sites just as they do today, but with new NFT-powered features.
NEAR and Dropt believe this is the key to mass adoption. Users are not interested in what is happening in the background—they simply want a fun experience that is engaging and rewarding.
For one of its first integrations, Dropt will be partnering with a NBA championship team, led by one of the most dominant players in the world.
Blockchain mechanics shift the paradigm for customer engagement
By introducing NFTs to the customer journey, brands immediately integrate an incentive structure into the customer experience that elevates participation and engagement like never before. Branded marketplaces, where customers can interact with tokens, give users the ability to monetize their engagement with a brand.”With Dropt, NFTs can feature different kinds of perks and benefits. In this way, customers are better aligned with the brand’s and naturally become true evangelists.
A changing landscape
In an era where customer expectations are evolving and acquisition costs are rising, Dropt’s highly curated experiences enable brands to exceed these expectations. Let’s face it, loyalty is stale. Consumer expectations are shifting—people want to align themselves with brands that connect with authenticity and make consumers feel like part of a community.
Dropt transforms the loyalty experience into a deeper, more community-based level of engagement, enabling brands to better connect with their communities. This not only modernizes how brands engage in this digital era, but also creates new acquisition channels.
To capitalize on this opportunity, NEAR Foundation and Dropt believe user experience is vital. It’s unrealistic to expect customers to change their behavior, which is why Dropt and NEAR are working alongside cutting-edge authentication and gamification partners to build a web that’s both familiar and brings the best of what Web3 has to offer.
Dropt is confident that in partnering with the Foundation, mass adoption is NEAR.
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!
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.