In the echo chamber of the crypto universe, it’s easy to forget that blockchain and crypto don’t yet have widespread, mainstream adoption. While it’s growing, there are still only 50 million wallet users in the world, and State of the Dapps lists just over 3,500 dApps compared to over two million on the Apple App Store alone.
Part of the reason is the number of barriers for end-users. If someone wants to play a simple blockchain-based gaming dApp, they may need to go through several or even dozens of steps.
However, developers and validators find things equally challenging. A blockchain such as Ethereum is a purely infrastructural solution, with hard-to-learn tools and its own programming language, putting further barriers in place for developers.
Finally, becoming a validator on one of the many proof-of-stake blockchains isn’t necessarily as attractive as the initial potential rewards may indicate, depending on how easy it is to receive tokens from the delegating community.
Now, NEAR Protocol has emerged as an open, developer-friendly blockchain platform. It aims to be secure enough to handle valuable assets such as money or identity. Sharding, combined with proof of stake, ensures that the network can perform to a level that makes the platform useful for everyday consumers. However, the standout feature of NEAR is a relentless focus on usability.
This guide looks at the NEAR Protocol in more detail and we also cover where and how to buy the NEAR crypto token.
Where to Near Protocol NEAR
This section is our top picks of where and how to buy the Near Protocol NEAR Crypto token. We chose these based on our experience of using them and considered fees, security, payment options and reputation.
- Binance: Largest Crypto Exchange with Low Fees
- Kucoin: Highly Regarded and Easy to Use for Beginners
- FTX: Great Exchange for Newbies & Advanced Users
- Gate: Solid Platform With Lots of Coins
Binance: Reputable Exchange with High Liquidity
Binance is the largest cryptocurrency trading exchange in daily trade volumes. The exchange offers investors full access to trade over 600 crypto assets.
The renowned platform also features a well-detailed learning curve and advanced trading tools that support well-experienced traders and investors looking to learn how to buy different cryptos. Although Binance features a user-friendly interface that facilitates a great user experience, it is more suited for well-experienced traders.
Read: Our Full Binance Review Here
Binance has a minimum deposit of $10. This enables investors to kickstart their investing journey with low fees. Investors can also initiate deposits through seamless payment methods like wire transfers, credit/debit cards, peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, and other e-wallet solutions.
Binance deposits come with a fee that varies based on the payment method used. For instance, the global exchange charges a standard fee of up to 4.50% for all deposits made with a debit/credit card.
All investors enjoy very low fees when trading on Binance, as it charges a standard trading fee of 0.1%. For investors that buy using Binance token (BNB), a discount of 25% on trading fees will be applied.
In addition, investors can rest assured that their funds and data are well protected whenever they trade on Binance. The broker features top-notch security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA), cold storage to keep most coins, whitelisting, and advanced data encryption to protect funds and data. Binance functions effectively in over 100 countries and has a spin-off regulated platform (Binance.US) that tends to US-based traders and investors.
- Trading fees at 0.01%
- High liquidity
- Wide range of payment methods
- 600+ crypto assets in library
- Interface is suited for advanced traders
- US-based customers cannot trade most coins via its subsidiary
KuCoin: Exchange With Lots of Listings
KuCoin is one of the world’s oldest and most popular crypto exchanges. The Seychelles-based broker is one of the most notable names in the market for traders who desire access to derivatives products to speculate in the market.
Currently, KuCoin provides access to over 600 cryptocurrencies. Besides trading and investing, the exchange allows investors to save, stake crypto, and even participate in Initial Exchange Offerings. With KuCoin, investors have an all-encompassing crypto hub.
Read: Our Full Kucoin Review Here
Like many brokers in its class, KuCoin could appear too overwhelming for beginners. The exchange is more suited for advanced traders who want to speculate and trade sophisticated products. So beginners might have some difficulty making use of it.
Despite this, investors could gain many benefits from trading with KuCoin. The broker has a low minimum balance of $5, with deposits available via major fiat currencies, peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers, and a few credit card options.
As for trading fees, KuCoin users pay 0.1% in fees. But the fees could decrease based on an investor’s 30-day trading volume and ownership of the company’s KCS token.
Security on KuCoin is also impressive. The system uses bank-level encryption and security infrastructures to protect users’ coins and data. KuCoin also has a specialized risk control department to enforce strict data usage policies.
- Discounts available on trading fees
- Extensive staking functionalities
- Quick P2P trading system
- Anonymous trading available
- Low minimum balance
- No bank deposit option
FTX: A Top Exchange
FTX is one of the very best exchanges to purchase coins & tokens. It is a leading centralized multi-assets exchange that offers derivatives, volatility products, NFTs, and leveraged products. FTX also supports the most commonly traded cryptocurrencies.
Read: Our Full FTX Review Here
FTX’s wide range of tradable assets and user-friendly desktop and mobile trading platforms attracts all types of crypto investors from all levels, including newbies to well-experienced professionals. With support for over 300 cryptocurrencies for spot trading, FTX has one of the strongest bases of coins.
FTX does not have a minimum deposit balance. Maker trades on FTX costs between 0.00% and 0.02%, while taker fees costs between 0.04% and 0.07%. There is also a $75 charge for any withdrawals less than $10,000. Deposit channels vary from bank wire and bank instant deposits to debit/credit card to wire transfer and other methods like silver exchange network (SEN) and signature SIGNET.
FTX implements two-factor authentication (2FA) protocol for security when signing up for a new account. Additional security features include sub-accounts with configurable permissions, withdrawal address and IP whitelisting, and Chain analysis to monitor any suspicious activity. Also, this exceptional broker maintains its own insurance fund. All these security integrations are by standard requirements.
FTX operates in several countries, and US-based traders can use FTX.US — a fully regulated subsidiary that enables seamless trading services to residents of the United States of America.
- Large selection of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets
- Very competitive fees
- Great trading platforms
- Offers crypto derivatives
- FTX.US has limited coins
Gate.io: Solid Platform With Lots of Coins
Gate.io is a cryptocurrency trading site that aims to offer its members an alternative to the exchanges currently dominating the market.
The site has been in operation since 2017 and aims to capture a portion of the cryptocurrency trading market by offering its users hassle free access to a number of hard to find coins and up and coming projects.
The site is also designed to help investors find specific information related to both their preferred coins and overall market trends.
Read: Our Full Gate.io Review Here
Trading mostly takes place on a web-based trading platform that is similar to most cryptocurrency exchanges. The site incorporates a number of functional features such as an order book, trading history, and charting.
- A wide range of currencies
- A low fee structure
- Simple registration process
- Functional platform with a mobile app available
- The team is not very transparent
- No fiat currency transfers
NEAR Protocol Elements & Features
NEAR Protocol offers various features designed to appeal to each of its key user segments – developers, end-users, and validators. In all cases, the platform’s design principles adhere to the pillars of usability, scalability, simplicity, and sustainable decentralization.
Developers can sign and prepay transactions on behalf of their users, significantly reducing the technical know-how required to engage with dApps, making the dApps more attractive to users. NEAR also provides developer toolkits that enable developers to compose applications and smart contracts using a range of existing programming languages. Therefore, the platform has the potential to appeal to a broader range of programmers who don’t want to learn Solidity or other blockchain-specific languages.
Finally, developers who write smart contracts used in multiple applications can earn a percentage of the transaction fees each time the contract is triggered. This mechanism provides an incentive for developers to contribute to the overall infrastructure.
NEAR Protocol deploys a “progressive UX” designed to ensure that any newcomer can use the platform without engaging with wallets or tokens. As the user becomes more proficient with the concepts underlying blockchain, the UX can become progressively more sophisticated.
The overall account setup offers a smoother onboarding experience with fewer steps.
NEAR Protocol consensus is called “Thresholded Proof of Stake” – another variation on delegated proof of stake. Delegators can stake their tokens to a particular validator into a staking pool that’s contract-controlled. Therefore, validators can create diversified offerings of their services, making NEAR attractive to validators.
Elements of NEAR Protocol
The NEAR platform is the infrastructure layer, conceptually similar to many other development platforms, such as Ethereum. Developers deploy dApps, and operational activities on the platform, such as account creation or transaction execution, are managed by the nodes on the network.
The NEAR development suite is a set of tools and reference implementations, including software development kits (SDKs), a wallet, and a blockchain explorer.
Other elements of the NEAR Protocol include the NEAR token (see below) and tokens or assets issued on the NEAR platform. Ultimately, it will also be possible for assets created on other blockchains to bridge into the NEAR Protocol. Recently, the NEAR team has developed the “Rainbow Bridge,” which connects the NEAR and Ethereum platforms.
How It Works
The NEAR Protocol white paper is extensive, underscoring that the technology under the hood is complex. However, it can be summarized into four main components: sharding, consensus, staking selection and game theory, and randomness.
NEAR Protocol uses a horizontal sharding design called Nightshade. Similarly to Ethereum 2.0, there’s a Beacon chain with connected shard chains. In Nightshade, it’s assumed that transactions from all shards combine to form a block. Therefore, each shard submits its own segment of each block, called a “chunk.”
A validator is assigned the responsibility to assemble each block from the chunks provided by the shards. Each shard assigns its own validator to produce its own chunk. Validators are selected using a secure randomized process.
The consensus model is called Thresholded Proof of Stake. The “threshold” part refers to an algorithm, set to allow as many validating nodes as possible to participate in a given half-day period, called an epoch.
The model operates a slashing mechanism whereby validators lose part of their stake if they’re found to be incorrectly validating transactions. The slashing protocol is progressive to offset the risk of accidental slashing. There are also “hidden validators” who are randomly assigned to shards to detect malicious network activity.
The randomness approach used by NEAR, combined with the systemic deterrents to bad actors, can tolerate up to two-thirds of malicious actors before any negative influence on the output. Therefore, NEAR is built to be highly secure and resilient against network attacks.
The NEAR Token
NEAR is also the name and ticker of the native token for the NEAR Protocol. It’s comparable to how ETH will be used in Ethereum 2.0, in that NEAR pays for transaction processing and is the staking currency for validating nodes.
However, NEAR can also be used by token holders who want to delegate to validators, and it also confers some other governance rights. For example, the decision to put the final version of the mainnet live in 2020 is subject to a community vote.
One billion NEAR tokens were issued at genesis. The tokenomic model allows for minting a maximum of 5% new tokens per annum. The precise number of tokens minted is based on the overall size of rewards for running a validating node.
Validators are eligible to receive 4.5% of new token issuance, while the remaining 0.5% is allocated to a dedicated Treasury for the future development of the NEAR Protocol.
Validators aren’t eligible to receive any share of transaction fees. Instead, 30% of fees are rewarded to the developer of the smart contract used in the transaction. 70% of transaction fees are burned.
NEAR Protocol was founded by Alexander Skidanov and Illia Polosukhin. The two initially started working together with a shared vision of making life easier for developers. In July 2018, they devised the concept of NEAR as a decentralized platform that would allow developers and entrepreneurs to build software and bring it to new markets more easily.
Skidanov started out at Microsoft in 2009, going on to become the first engineer at MemSQL. He’s a two-time medalist in the prestigious International Collegiate Programming Competition, the oldest and largest of its kind in the world.
Polosukhin is also an ICPC finalist who has over ten years of development experience, including three years at Google.
The two co-founders have assembled a stellar team of programmers, including previous colleagues at Google and MemSQL. The NEAR team now works under the banner of the NEAR collective, a decentralized group of teams combining expertise in programming, business, finance, UX, marketing, and more.
History and Roadmap
The first big milestone for NEAR Protocol came in July 2019 when the project successfully secured $12.1 million in funding from several big-name investors, including Electric Capital and Pantera Capital.
Following the first iteration of the mainnet launch in April 2020, another funding round, led by Andreessen Horowitz’s blockchain fund A16Z, raised a further $21.6 million.
In August 2020, the NEAR public token sale was a runaway success, selling out in two hours.
Other notable successes in 2020 include a partnership with Chainlink and the soft launch of the interoperable “Rainbow Bridge” allowing NEAR to interact with Ethereum.
NEAR will roll out a full version of the mainnet before the end of 2020, subject to a community vote. After that, the team plans to continue developing the mainnet with features that were taken out of scope for the first version. These include upgradeability without hard forking, safe locks for operations with assets spanning contracts and shards, and more.
How to Buy NEAR on Binance
After exploring where to buy and the coin’s use cases, the next thing is to explore how to buy it for your portfolio. Binance is our recommended exchange, so we’ll explore how to purchase the asset using Binance.
Step 1: Sign Up
Go to the Binance home page and click on “Register”.
Binance allows investors to register using their mobile phone, email address, or Google account. Most users choose the first two options and provide their phone numbers, emails, and desired passwords. A link will be sent to their registration channel of choice, and investors can click on it to authenticate their accounts.
Step 2: Verify Your Identity
Like many other regulated brokers, Binance requires that investors verify their identity before commencing their purchase.
To complete the process, visit the “Identification” tab. Investors will have to share personal information, their proof of residence, and a government-verified means of identification. This process should take no more than a few minutes to complete.
Step 3: Deposit Your Funds
Next, investors will have to deposit into their Binance wallets. The exchange makes deposits possible using payment processors, wire transfers, bank deposits, and direct crypto transfers. And its required minimum deposit is $10.
To make a deposit, go to the “Payment” section and click “Add a new payment method” to enter payment details. Alternatively, investors can click the “Buy Crypto” button to select a payment method and complete their transfer.
Step 4: Buy
With a funded wallet, investors are ready to make a your purchase. Head to the “Buy Crypto” section and enter the desired amount. Click on “Continue” after reviewing the terms, and the wallet should be updated immediately.
Hot wallets, also called software wallets, are one of the most popular cryptocurrency storage options. They are always online, hence the affiliation with the ‘hot’ tag. Investors can easily get a hot wallet once they open an account with a crypto exchange. This allows them to store and manage their private keys, which prove their ownership of their assets to the blockchain network. Hot wallets are usually more convenient for everyday crypto transactions and can be custodial or non-custodial.
A custody wallet is responsible for storing assets to an exchange or a third-party platform. The user only places an order for a transfer or receipt, and the exchange signs off on the transaction, much like the traditional banking system. Meanwhile, a non-custodial or self-custody wallet gives the full responsibility to the end-user.
Hot wallets are usually free, but they are largely considered less secure due to their constant internet connectivity. An instance of a hot wallet is the Binance Wallet.
A Hardware wallet is a device which has been created to provide an extra layer of security when interacting with your various cryptocurrency wallets.
Normally you would use your private key to move funds, the problem is though, if your computer has been compromised with malware or a virus, it is possible for your private keys to be captured and used to steal your funds.
With a hardware wallet, the private keys are stored on the device and never exposed to your computer, which means even if you are infected with such a program your private keys will remain safe. These options are safest way to store your crypto if you have more than a small amount.
Popular examples of cold storage offerings are the Ledger and Trezor line of hardware wallet solutions, read our reviews:
A mobile wallet is essentially a hot wallet on a smartphone device. They offer users an even more convenient way to use their coins for daily activities. Mobile wallets store and manage users’ private keys while enabling them to pay for things they love with their digital assets.
These wallets are usually free and always online for transactions to be processed. Popular mobile wallets are eToro Money Wallet and Coinbase Wallet.
A desktop wallet is a PC version of a hot wallet. It is essentially software that an investor downloads into their personal computer or laptop for easy interaction with their digital coins. They also offer a browser extension which allows users to interact using an extension instead of downloading the entire software. Desktop wallets are also hack-prone due to their online nature. A popular example is the Exodus Wallet.
The paper wallet is arguably the oldest form of crypto wallet. They are no longer common in the modern crypto industry. It contains users’ public and private keys. The paper wallet is the least secure type of wallet as it can easily be lost, stolen, or torched.
NEAR Protocol is one of the more promising blockchain projects to emerge in quite some time. It’s solving similar infrastructural problems to Ethereum 2.0 and Polkadot, such as maintaining the security of decentralization while increasing throughput via sharding.
However, the NEAR Protocol aims to keep all this under the hood, with a clear focus on ensuring the platform is usable for its developers, validators, and end-users. In that respect, it emerges as a solid competitor to the current hotly discussed project.
With some serious financial backing behind it, NEAR Protocol only needs to ensure that the project markets itself sufficiently well to gain adoption over the well-established competition. If it can do that, it stands a good chance of pulling ahead of other platforms.