NEAR Protocol, a project best known for its sharded blockchain, has recently released its Blockchain Operating System, which promises to simplify the blockchain application developer process greatly and compete with Google, Amazon, and more. Let’s dive into the BOS, its potential, and what it could mean for the NEAR token.
NEAR was founded in 2017 by Illia Polosukhin and Alexander Skidanov and was originally an AI project. According to their website, in 2018, they pivoted to simplifying the developer experience by creating a more flexible blockchain. In 2020, that vision was realized with the launch of the mainnet blockchain, with sharding capabilities added later. However, it did not see massive adoption like similar projects Solana and Avalanche, and activity seemed to dwindle while everything else grew. Fortunately, they raised a $500 funding round in 2022 and have committed it to ecosystem growth, which could propel NEAR to new heights in a future bull market if they succeed.
NEAR introduced its idea for a Blockchain Operating System, or BOS, at EthDenver this past March. Polosukhin described it as a “common layer for browsing and discovering open web experiences, compatible with any blockchain.” Composable apps can build using BOS and be part of a searchable database, almost like an app store, where apps can build atop one another. There is also chat and social media, allowing BOS users to communicate with each other. Applications can be built on numerous blockchains, including Ethereum, Avalanche, and NEAR, and the BOS will handle identity management and transaction routing between chains to simplify the end-user experience while giving developers the flexibility to build using multiple chains.
NEAR put itself in a unique position to have the capability to release a concept this revolutionary. Given their prior focus on creating an easy user experience, they’ve been able to implement wallets with human-readable names, like bitpush.near, and a wallet storage process that uses email instead of private keys. Additionally, since transacting on NEAR is cheap, all the code for the frontend of applications is stored on-chain and publicly viewable, allowing developers to trustlessly audit or build on top of other projects and create a composable ecosystem. This also reduces Web3’s reliance on big tech companies like Amazon and Google for web hosting and essentially acts as a more dynamic InterPlanetary File System or Filecoin. And even though several blockchains are supported on the BOS, developers who build on NEAR receive the added incentive of earning 30% of transaction fees from smart contracts they developed.
In the three months since its release, NEAR’s BOS has seen some adoption, but it is still in its building and development phase, where only the biggest enthusiasts use the technology. NEAR Social, its decentralized developer-focused social media, has 6,000 members working on creating applications, components, and widgets for the BOS. With their $500 million ecosystem fund, incentive programs will likely be released to bring in even more developer talent to flesh out the BOS. Though some may see the lack of applications as a blight on the BOS, others find it an opportunity to build critical infrastructure early and be a part of the early adoption of what could be the base layer of Web3.
One of the biggest questions about the BOS is how it will impact the price of NEAR, the protocol’s native utility token. Since all of the frontends, as well as some of the smart contracts, are hosted on the blockchain, BOS could create a greater demand for NEAR and thus lead to an increase in price. On the other hand, NEAR was one of the cryptocurrencies labeled a security in the SEC’s lawsuits against Binance and Coinbase. If NEAR cannot prove that they are sufficiently decentralized, it could come under greater scrutiny and be restricted by the government. Fortunately, NEAR’s development and flourishment are spread across numerous different foundations and companies, and there are separate DAOs for each initiative, such as marketing, developer governance, and creatives. If it were labeled a security, it would have to be for its 2020 ICO.
NEAR’s BOS is a step in the right direction for the mass adoption of Web3. Acknowledging the need for a pivot and acceptance of smart contract interoperability makes the BOS a humble yet smart and strategic play to bring renewed relevance to NEAR Protocol. Though only time will tell if the Blockchain Operating System sees the mass adoption it is hoping for, it certainly stands a chance to be the operating system powering the future of the internet.
By Lincoln Murr