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NEAR is a decentralized application platform which is designed to enable the open web of the future and power its economy.  It uses the same core underlying technology that made Bitcoin an unkillable currency and combines it with cutting edge advances in community consensus, database sharding and usability.  On this web, everything from new currencies to new applications to new industries can be created, opening the door to a brand new future.

A brief summary of NEAR

NEAR is a decentralized application platform which runs atop the NEAR Protocol blockchain.  This blockchain, which runs across hundreds of machines around the world, is organized to be permissionless, performant and secure enough to create a strong and decentralized data layer for the new web.

Essentially, NEAR is a platform for running applications which have access to a shared — and secure — pool of money, identity and data which is owned by their users.  More technically, it combines the features of partition-resistant networking, serverless compute and distributed storage into a new kind of platform.

For comparison, Amazon’s Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure operate much of the infrastructure of the web today and are two of the most common “clouds” where applications are deployed.  Each of the individual servers which make up these computing and storage clouds are controlled by a single entity. This means that anything run on or stored within them is completely at the mercy of those companies or the government agencies which require them to do things against their will.  Data can easily be lost, censored, altered, sold or hacked. This is because there is only a single point of failure.

Applications which are deployed to these cloud servers can also be continuously modified by their original developers or whoever holds their credentials.  This makes software updates easy for developers but it also means that any data accessible by an application can be censored, modified or stolen by these same developers, whether at their own direction or because they were hacked or forced by a governmental authority to do so.  Because user data is generally stored in large pooled databases, these developers become juicy targets for exactly those activities.

Together, the vulnerability of the developers and the platforms themselves makes any sensitive data stored on these platforms vulnerable.

When the cloud which hosts these applications is instead run by a global community which anyone can be a part of, the programs and assets stored by it become transparent and essentially “unkillable”, allowing users to store meaningful things like money, identity and digital assets and securely transact them with anyone without requiring someone else’s permission or platform.  There is no single point of failure because there are multiple redundancies around the world and there is security because of the consensus which is programmatically achieved among community members who make up the cloud network.

To eliminate the vulnerability of the developer, applications deployed to this cloud can be programmatically locked so no further updates can modify the state they access. Essentially, once they achieve this state, they become autonomous and can be trusted to continue to perform their functions without fail or interference. This allows the secure storage of high value assets like money, identity and key pieces of data.

Bitcoin can be thought of as the first, very basic, version of this global community-run cloud, though it is primarily used only to store and move the Bitcoin digital currency.  

Ethereum is the second and slightly more sophisticated version, which expanded the basic principles of Bitcoin to create a more general computing and storage platform, though it is a raw technology which hasn’t achieved meaningful mainstream adoption.  

NEAR represents an evolution beyond what has come before it and is the first decentralized application platform to solve all of the three key challenges to gaining mainstream adoption: usability, scalability, and security.