NEAR Protocol Launches the Next Phase of Sharding
Less than one year after launching Sharding: Phase 0, which marked the beginning of sharding the network on NEAR Protocol, NEAR is now proud to announce the launch of Sharding: Phase One; a major technical milestone that significantly improves the decentralization of the network and its capacity to scale towards mainstream adoption. Sharding: Phase One introduces chunk-only producers — a new type of validator that only validates a small subset of shards, requiring fewer hardware resources to operate.
NEAR Protocol is known for its scalability, fast finality, and low transaction costs. The protocol has been following a four-phased plan to implement Nightshade Sharding, a novel sharding design that lays the bedrock for the foundation for an infinitely scalable blockchain.
“All of us at NEAR are proud of reaching this milestone in the sharding roadmap less than 2 years after launching Mainnet,” states Illia Polosukhin, co-founder of NEAR Protocol. “Chunk-only producers lower the barrier to entry for becoming a validator while increasing decentralization of the network, which are both critically important and not easy to achieve simultaneously. Not only is NEAR’s technology defining the cutting edge in Web3, we’re doing it faster than everyone else.”
With the first official phase of sharding now complete, NEAR dramatically reduces the barrier to entry for becoming a validator. The amount of stake required to become a validator will drop from 150k $NEAR to around 20k $NEAR, and the total number of validators is expected to grow from 100 to 300 validators. Most importantly, for the 200 new validators joining the network, the hardware requirements will roughly be half of what it used to be. This lowers the barrier of entry and lets more newcomers participate in the security of the network while also making NEAR more decentralized overall.
Staying true to its decentralization ethos, NEAR is launching the first phase of its sharding roadmap in a community-driven way. Two months before its launch, Stake Wars — an incentivized testnet program aimed at training new validators and battle-testing the sharding implementation — was organized by NEAR ecosystem members, including Pagoda, Metapool, LiNEAR, Everstake, and Open Shard Alliance. The program attracted more than 1500 participants and, with the funding support from NEAR Foundation, provided sufficient delegation for 200 new validators to join the network soon after the launch.
While Sharding: Phase One is a big milestone for the entire NEAR ecosystem, the actual launch in a technical sense will happen with little fanfare: in the form of a traditional protocol upgrade. Since the Mainnet launch in October 2020, NEAR has completed 20 protocol upgrades with zero downtime. In each protocol upgrade, validators signal their support by running the new version of the chain and make a decision via an on-chain vote whether the new version of the protocol shall be adopted. In any protocol upgrade, there is no effect on developers, application users, or token holders — illustrating NEAR’s focus on usability above all. NEAR will continue evolving through this mechanism to improve scalability, usability, and decentralization over time.
Sharding: Phase One brings NEAR one big step closer to an extremely scalable blockchain capable of supporting millions of active users. The subsequent two phases of sharding will further expand the scalability and capacity of NEAR, and are both expected to finish during 2023. By this time, NEAR will be scalable enough to deliver on its mission of supporting one billion active users, making the promise of Web3 completely ready for mainstream adoption.
About NEAR Protocol
NEAR is a dynamically sharded Proof-of-Stake, carbon-neutral blockchain built for usability and scalability. NEAR combines the power of both PoS and sharding in a technology called Nightshade, making the chain infinitely scalable without compromising security and decentralisation.
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