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NEAR Protocol (#NEAR) Stories Around the Web
Near protocol is a **proof-of-stake blockchain** that uses its **nightshade** to leverage competition. Nightshade works by having each node on the blockchain hold only a small subset of the platform's data. This **sharding** solution enhances efficiency, increases transactions conducted per second, and allows saving on gas fees.
## **History of NEAR**
NEAR initially started off as a machine learning project before it evolved into a blockchain development platform. The two founders, Illia Polosukhin, a lead developer for Google’s TensorFlow, and Alexander Skidanov, the directing engineer at the database company MemSQL - started NEAR.ai in early 2017 to explore program synthesis: the field of automated programs from a human specification.
It’s while developing this AI that they discovered the blockchains and **smart contracts** that they thought were intriguing. They began looking into the available blockchains at the time to find one that matched their needs and could not find one. They were convinced that no existing blockchain was at their par.
Illia and Alex went ahead to put together a team of engineers and developers who began the development of the NEAR Protocol in August 2018. The goal of NEAR was to enable developers to build and launch **dApps** with huge usage and system requirements. They thus choose the proof of stake model as opposed to the proof of stake work.
NEAR was able to raise more than $20m in venture capital funding even before the work on the blockchain kicked off. Applications on NEAR must pay storage fees to the NEAR Protocol for any data that they store on the network and for performing computations. This is what gives NEAR value.
## **Biggest Claim to fame**
The promise and general idea of the project is the primary driver of NEAR’s fame. This is evident from how the project was able to secure funding even before production and how they have continually been able to secure funding. They recently announced raising over $150m from different investors including Dragonfly Capital, a16z, Alameda, and Circle Ventures.
The funding announcement lead to the price of NEAR to climb more than 50% to establish a new record high at $20.36 on Jan. 14. The funds raised will go into product development and improvement, extensive marketing of the protocol and its potential, and boosting the adoption of Web3 technologies. They also seek to expand into Latin America in addition to Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The launch of Aurora also accelerated the popularity of NEAR. Aurora is a platform that was developed on NEAR and allows seamless transactions between Ethereum and NEAR. the platform quickly rose to be among the busiest cross-chain platforms. Aurora allows developers to run their high capacity & activity, Ethereum compatible, and scalable apps at relatively low gas fees.
The expansion of the project has been key to its growth as the adoption grows every day. By the end of 2021, NEAR had reported an almost 300% growth on the community. The developer community on the platforms continues to grow every day as new projects are launched on it and others are bridged on it.
## **Biggest Criticism**
Most of the crypto projects and platforms are based on decentralization and community involvement in decision-making. However, the NEAR protocol has come under attack for seemingly being centralized. This is because decisions are made by a few individuals who control the entire ecosystem. This happened after the majority of the initial tokens were allocated to the core team giving them almost all the power to govern everything.
This also brings about an issue with token distribution, with only 73 valid validators on the network. This means that there are only 73 votes cast on governance matters which makes it rather centralized. This has been seen as an issue with the project but it hasn’t greatly affected its image among developers who continue to throng the platform.
## **The Near Protocol Team**
The two founders Illia Polosukhin and Alexander Skidanov are the leaders of the team forming a two-man board. Alexander is the Co-CEO while Illian is a co-founder as well as the chief technology officer.
Marieke Flament is the Chief Executive officer, Erik Trautman the second Co-CEO with Haseeb Qureshi an advisory member of the board. These are the main directors of the project leading the development and other teams within the organization.
The NEAR protocol is a well-thought project solving important issues in the crypto world. As the platform secures more funding for growth and development and more developers sign up or bridge their apps on the platform, the future sure is bright for the platform.
The NEAR token price has been steady and growing, this does look promising as an investment to those interested in the tech. If they would be able to deal with the governance part of the project, and make it more decentralized, it’ll make the project even more appealing.