NEO, formerly Antshares, held a top 10 spot in the cryptocurrency rankings in 2017. A developer platform with a TPS speed of 1,000 against Ethereum’s double digits, the Chinese blockchain was causing quite the stir. In fact, it was even labelled the ‘Ethereum Killer’. So, what happened? Why did the community start to lose interest?
NEO DevCon in Seattle
NEO held its annual NEO DevCon in Seattle last weekend to let the world know all about its latest plans – and that it’s still very much a horse in this race.
As its energetic founder Da Hongfei bounded up on stage, the excitement on his face was contagious. He enthused:
“I’ve been to several blockchain events in the last six months, and nine out of ten events if half of the seats are occupied, that is a good one. So when I walk into this room and I saw this audience, my nervousness turned to excitement, so thank you for being here!”
He then went on to talk about the background of NEO, the Chinese blockchain ecosystem that he and co-founder Erik Zhang were instrumental in building up, and their ambitious plans for NEO 3.0. Here are the top three takeaways.
1) NEO is expanding to Seattle
For those of you who had any doubt over NEO’s ability to weather the crypto winter, Da Hongfei was reassuring. Not only do they still have plenty of reserves left in cash ($2 million from their initial ICO in 2015), but they also have millions of dollars worth of crypto assets in BTC, ETH, and NEO.
The fact that their DevCon was held in the Pacific Northwestern city of Seattle was no coincidence either. Seattle is home to the largest software platform in the world, Microsoft, and the new NEO unit (or NGD as they call it) will be headed up by John DeVadoss, former Microsoft MD and the man responsible for designing Microsoft Digital from the ground up.
“I think Microsoft, probably nobody knows how to win a platform competition better than Microsoft, especially for computer language frameworks and platforms… So we decided to set up an office here.”
2) NEO wants to be the number one blockchain by 2020
Da Hongfei is no stranger to making bold and ambitious claims. That’s probably partly why some of the NEO community seemed to turn against the project towards the middle of last year.
In January 2018, at the height of NEO’s popularity, he stated that NEO would reach a TPS of 100,000 – without sharding.
— NEO News (@NEOnewstoday) January 30, 2018
But as the months roll by, the community has been getting restless. However, Da Hongfei stood by his statement once again. At DevCon in Seattle, he reinforced that NEO’s goal is to be the number one blockchain by 2020.
He didn’t mention specific TPS speeds though, and he did concede to the fact that 2020 is not so far away anymore:
“We only have a year or maybe two years, depends on how you define 2020, by the beginning or the end, but at most it’s two years. Time is ticking.”
3) NEO 3.0 is an ambitious project
The upgrades to NEO 3.0 are so technical that even the developer audience was scratching their heads during Erik Zhang’s presentation (delivered by video).
NEO 3.0 will include features such as native smart contracts that no longer require NEO’s VM to execute, improvements to its dBFT consensus system, and a low-cost data storage network that allows large enterprises to store data.
The main points about NEO 3.0, though, are that it’s designed for optimisation, streamlining, and scaling up the ‘smart economy’.
It’s also incredibly ambitious. NEO 3.0 won’t be an upgrade. It won’t even be a hard fork. It will most likely require a complete overhaul and restart from a Genesis block. And it won’t be any time soon – at least not before the end of 2020.
Returning to Da Hongfei’s point about higher TPS without sharding, NEO believes that blockchain will develop in layers, like the internet. With NEO 3.0, all dApps will be created on layer-two solutions.
This means that they will no longer be built on-chain and there will be a significant migration process of the 100 or so NEO dApps currently residing on its blockchain.
This is no easy feat, to be sure. But if they can pull this off, NEO could become a more popular platform for developers, especially since they don’t have to learn new languages. And with John DeVadoss running the core developer program from the US, the NEO team is definitely working with the best.