As ICON builds out blockchain interoperability connections through its groundbreaking Blockchain Transmission Protocol (BTP) technology, it is useful for Iconists to become familiar with compatible blockchains. This article is the fourth part of a ‘BTP series’ in which we take an introductory look at the other blockchain networks that will be joining the ICON community. Be sure to also check out the other articles in the series:

Although development of BTP has not yet been finalized, a “lite” version of the technology called ICON Bridge will soon be launched, finally opening the doors to interoperability between ICON and other BTP-compatible blockchains. In addition to the blockchain projects linked to above, ICON will also be bridging to NEAR Protocol.

Let’s take a look at NEAR Protocol and get to know what it’s all about.

What is NEAR Protocol and Why is it Great for BTP Developers?

NEAR Protocol is a proof-of-stake (PoS) layer-1 blockchain, meaning it is a smart contract-capable base network upon which Dapps can be built, like ICON and Ethereum.

Notably, the project also boasts significant backing, with two nine-digit funding rounds in 2022 alone. Just two days ago, NEAR Protocol announced a considerable fundraise of US$350 million. This news comes only three months after a US$150 million fundraise. Major crypto investment firms participated in both rounds.

NEAR has a number of key features that make it an ideal blockchain for both developers and users.

Perhaps most important to BTP developers is NEAR Protocol’s cross-chain interoperability. NEAR has its own interoperability technology called Rainbow Bridge capable of bridging ERC-20 assets from Ethereum, as well as a layer-2 solution called Aurora. As all Iconist readers know, the future of blockchain will be massively interoperable, so creating bridges between hubs like NEAR and ICON will be extremely important going forward.

Another highly important feature is a unique sharding technology called Nightshade, which makes NEAR Protocol highly scalable. Sharding breaks up the NEAR blockchain into small, easily manageable chunks to ensure the network does not become overburdened as it grows.

NEAR is also built to be friendly and approachable for both developers and users, with a “usability-first” design approach. A great example of its user-friendliness is how all account names are human-readable, as opposed to long cryptographic addresses used with other blockchains. For developers, a “progressive security” model makes it possible to create a user experience similar to how people naturally use the internet, including simplified onboarding, subscriptions and usage styles with predictable pricing.

These features have made NEAR Protocol a very popular blockchain for NFT-based projects. A few of the most popular projects built on NEAR Protocol — both NFT and otherwise — include:

  • Mintbase: A well-known NFT marketplace that switched from Ethereum to NEAR to escape high gas fees
  • Flux: A decentralized open market protocol
  • Reality Chain: A multi-chain metaverse with NFT, gaming and social activities
  • Paras: A digital collectible card marketplace and validator
  • NEAR Lands: A 2D multiplayer sandbox game
  • OP Games: A Web3 gaming platform that enables co-ownership of game projects through ‘fractionalized NFTs’
  • Hash Rush: A science-fiction real time strategy (RTS) game
  • Vorto Network: An online marketplace for NFT in-game items that can be used across multiple titles
  • Feiyu: A social media platform / NFT metaverse
  • Satori: An NFT platform and marketplace designed for high-profile artists and musicians
  • Metaverse AI: DID tool and 3D high-fidelity avatars for virtual celebrity products

Who is Behind NEAR Protocol?

NEAR Protocol was launched in 2020 by the community-run NearCollective as a fully decentralized project right from the very beginning, making it a friendly project to get involved in.

NEAR Protocol also has their own cryptocurrency token, suitably called $NEAR. The NEAR token is used for transaction fees, staking, governance and storage on the NEAR Protocol crypto platform.

For more information about the NEAR token and the NEAR Protocol project, check out their website or follow them on Twitter.