What is NEO?
NEO, formerly known as Antshares, is an open-source cryptocurrency and blockchain platform that launched from China. The goal of the NEO project is to build a distributed network for the smart economy, by enabling the creation of digital assets, digital identity and smart contracts.
Users of the NEO network will be able to digitize traditional assets via the use of smart contracts. Running on the blockchain, these assets are secured by the decentralized architecture and will additionally be protected with help of digital certificates on the blockchain.
The decentralized infrastructure of the NEO blockchain allows for the creation of digital identities of any form (individuals, companies, things etc.). On NEO, digital identities will be usable via on-top mechanisms like facial recognition, SMS or fingerprints.
Smart Contracts allow for automated execution of computer code in a decentralized system. While other blockchain solutions require developers to learn special languages, NEO’s Universal Lightweight Virtual Machine (NeoVM) enables mainstream programming languages, like C# or JAVA, and combines them with highly scalable infrastructure. Developers are able to build decentralized applications on NEO.
NEO and GAS tokens
Apart from other cryptocurrencies, the NEO network has two native tokens that power the network.
The NEO token is the utility token that allows users to manage the network. This means that NEO is used for purposes like voring for bookkeeping, network parameter changes, and other specifics. A total of 100 million NEO exists and the token cannot be subdivided. Users will be able to buy fractions of a NEO token on exchanges, but will never be able to transfer them to a wallet, as the minimal unit of NEO is 1.
GAS acts as a fuel token for the NEO network. Every transactions in the network costs a small amount of GAS, which makes sure that resources will not be abused. 100 million GAS will ever exist and it can be subdivided (the minimal unit is 0.00000001). The NEO ecosystem started with zero GAS. With each new block in the blockchain, new GAS is generated until in about 22 years the total limit of 100 million GAS will be achieved. NEO token holders receive GAS for holding their tokens.
Distribution of NEO Tokens & Crowdfundings
In October 2015 NEO held a 10-day crowdsale, in which they sold 17.5 million NEO for roughly 2,100 BTC (550,000 USD). In the second crowdsale that started in August 2016, 22.5 million tokens were sold for 6,119 BTC, equal to around 4.5 million USD. Due to the tremendous success of NEO, the council announced the „NEO Sponsor Giveback Plan“ in October 2017, stating that enough funds are secured to maintain the development of the network, and therefore ICO investors will get their initial investment refunded. NEO is the first successful ICO that offers this giveback to their early backers.
The second portion of 50 million NEO were locked for one year after the crowdfunding (until October 17, 2017) and will be used for the long-term support of NEO projects. The following plan is taken over from the NEO whitepaper:
▪ 10 million tokens (10% total) will be used to motivate NEO developers and members of the NEO Council
▪ 10 million tokens (10% total) will be used to motivate developers in the NEO ecosystem
▪ 15 million tokens (15% total) will be used to cross-invest in other block-chain projects, which are owned by the NEO Council and are used only for NEO projects
▪ 15 million (15% total) will be retained as contingency
▪ The annual use of NEO in principle shall NOT exceed 15 million tokens
Rebranding from Antshares to NEO
In June 2017, NEO announced the rebrand from Antshares to NEO. In August 2017 the rebrand was finished and a new website was launched.
NEO uses two different types of network governance: On-chain and off-chain. The on-chain governance is enforced by NEO token holders, as they own and manage the network by voting, transfering and using it.
For off-chain governance, the NEO Council was formed that consists of the founding members of the NEO project. Being a non-profit and open source project, the NEO Council coordinates the management committee, technical committee and the secretariat. Under the guidance of the Council, strategic, technical and implementation-specific decisions are made. The NEO Council is also responsible for the community and the promotion of the ecosystem, under which the management committee, technical committee and the secretariat, respectively, are responsible for strategic decision-making, technical decision-making and specific implementation. The NEO Council is responsible to the NEO community for the promotion and development of NEO ecosystem as its primary objective.
Consensus Mechanism: dBFT
NEO uses a consensus mechanism called Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerant (dBFT). This allows for larga-scale participation in consensus via proxy voting. In comparison to other consensus mechanism like Proof-of-Work (PoW), it allows for a higher scalibility and less energy cost. Users in the network are able to vote in real-time for their trusted bookkeepers (delegates). A selected group of bookkeepers are then able to validate new blocks through the BFT algorithm.
Blocks are usually generated in about 15 to 20 seconds with dBFT and the transaction throughput of the network scales up to 1,000 transactions per second. In theory, NEO technology has the potential to scale up to 10,000 transactions per second, making it suitable for lange-scale commercial applications.
The consensus mechanisms leverages digital identities, as bookkeepers represent real persons oe institutions. This makes it possible to hold them accountable for their actions, i.e. to freeze, revoke, inherit, retrieve, and ownership transfer due to judicial decisons on them. By implementing digital identity in the consensus mechanism, compliant financial assets can be registered on the NEO network in the future.
Smart Contract System: NeoContract
The NEO network allows for smart contracts, whose underlying system consists of three major technological parts.
- The Neo Virtual Machine (NeoVM) is a general-purpose virtual machine, on which computer code is compiled, read and executed. IT is very suitable for small programs like smart contracts, can immediately be ported to non-blockchain and allows for the integration with the IDE. The functionality of the NeoVM can be extended. One example would be the introduction of a JIT (real-time compiler) mechanism that enhances the efficiency of implementation.
- Interoperable Services of NEO are used to load the blockchain ledger, digital assets, digital identity, persistent storage area and other underlying services. These services can be seen as virtual machines that provide services to other virtual machines, leading to enhanced efficiency. Smart contracts are able to access these services, which leads to an even higher functionality.
- The DevPack consists of a high-level language compiler and the DIE plugin. As the architecture of the NeoVM is very similar to JVM and .NET Runtime, Java byte code and .NET MSIL can be directly compiled into NeoVM instructions. There is no need to learn a new programming language (like Solidity), but developers are immediately able to start working on smart contracts.
NeoContract allow for the creation of a smart contract call tree before the actual contract is executed. This is done through static analysis. The deterministic call key enables the expansion of smart contracts. This way, the „jamming effect“ can be overcome. As software development includes at least some minor flaws or bugs most of the time, the NEO network allows for updates – other blockchain systems do not provide this option.
Cross-chain Interoperability (NeoX)
The NeoX protocol implements cross-chain interoperability and can be divided into two parts:
- The Cross-chain assets exchange agreement allows multiple users to exchange assets across different chains, while ensuring that either all transactions succeed or all transations fail together. This is achived via a NeoContract function that creates a contract account for each user. If the respective blockchain are not compatible with NeoContract, they can still be compatible with NeoX – as long as they offer smart contract functionality.
- The Cross-chain distributed transaction protocol enables cross-chain transactions by scattering multipe steps of a transaction across different blockchains to ensure the consistency of the whole transaction. NeoX makes it possible to have smart contracts carry out tasks on different blockchains, while either the full task succeeds or the full task fails. Via the use of NeoX’s interoperability approach, cross-blockchain collaborations can be achived.
Distributed Storage Protocol (NeoFS)
The distributed storage protocol NeoFS utilized Distributed Hash Table technology. Data is indexed though hashes and not through their file path. Larger files are divides into fixed-size blocks of data that are stored across nodes in the distributed network.
NEO plans to find a fitting balance between redundancy and reliability of the distributed storage by using tokens as incentives and backbone nodes as further security. Users are able to choose the needed requirements for a file. While files with low reliability requirements can be stored and accessed for none or very small cost, services for high-reliability data will be provided by the backbone nodes for a comparative higher cost.
NeoFS is one requirement for the interoperability services under the NeoContract system, enabling smart contracts to store large files on the blockchain and set access for those files. The system can be combined with digital identity to make sure that no fraudulent actors are able to access files.
Anti-quantum cryptography (NeoQS)
Quantum computing clearly poses a (future) risk for consensus mechanism, as they are able to scale computing power to another level and solve large number of decomposition problems and elliptic curve logarithms. NeoQS prepares the network for this future challenge by introducing a lattice-based cryptographic mechanism that involves SVP (Shortest Vector Problem) and CVP (Closest Vector Problem), algorithms that are considered to be most reliables for preventing quantum attacks.
City of Zion (CoZ) – Open-source Global NEO Development
City of Zion is an independent group of open source developers, designers and translators formed to support the NEO BlockChain core and ecosystem. Various projects, such as the NEON wallet, Neoscan, or NEOMON have been built or are being built by CoZ. Have a look at their website for more information. Anyone is able to participate or support the movement.
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