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NEAR Foundation Announces Launch of Phase 2 Sharding: A Leap Forward in Web3 Scalability

In a significant stride for the NEAR Protocol, the NEAR Foundation announced on January 30 that the Protocol Work Group is gearing up to initiate testing for Phase 2 of Sharding this week. This unveiling marks a crucial juncture in NEAR’s roadmap, underlining the commitment to boost scalability and decentralization within the network.

Scalability Boost with Sharding

NEAR’s ambitious vision of chain abstraction, aiming to foster widespread adoption of decentralized applications (DApps), is taking a giant leap forward with Phase 2 Sharding. This upgrade brings fundamental enhancements to NEAR’s core protocol architecture, employing the unique sharding approach to partition the blockchain into parallel “shards.” The result? An impressive up-to-10x improvement in transaction throughput, solidifying NEAR’s position at the forefront of Web3 in terms of both performance and scalability.

Illia Polosukhin, Co-Founder of NEAR Protocol and CEO of NEAR Foundation, emphasized the ongoing progress, stating, “NEAR continues to make strides in bringing scalable Chain Abstraction infrastructure to accommodate a billion users and beyond.”

Revolutionary Stateless Validation

The headline feature of Phase 2 is stateless validation, a revolutionary approach to state change within the blockchain. This game-changing innovation eliminates the need for NEAR validators to locally store the state of a shard. Instead, they can fetch all necessary information to validate state changes from the network. The implementation of stateless validation enables genuine sharding, allowing shards to operate independently at the consensus level. This not only boosts decentralization and throughput but also maintains robust security guarantees.

Bowen Wang, Director of Protocol at Pagoda, expressed excitement about the potential future-proofing with stateless validation, anticipating wider adoption as zero-knowledge technology matures, contributing to more unified security across networks.

Phase 2 is the third major upgrade to NEAR Protocol’s sharding since Mainnet launch in October 2020, showcasing the incredible shipping speed of the protocol engineering team | Source: Near Protocol

Additional Upgrades in Phase 2

Apart from stateless validation, Phase 2 signifies a significant departure from the original Nightshade sharding architecture introduced in 2020. This shift overcomes fundamental roadblocks and brings additional benefits. Notable improvements include an in-memory trie, allowing validator nodes to load the entire state into RAM, optimizing performance and enhancing transaction throughput.

Users can anticipate a smooth transition to Phase 2, with no expected downtime. The launch will coincide with Stake Wars IV: Attack of the Transactions, an incentivized community testing initiative commencing on February 1 and running through March 31. This initiative invites community members to actively test features and generate traffic, ensuring the robustness of the new sharding architecture.

Looking Forward: Launch Date and Beyond

Phase 2 is slated for a Mainnet launch in May 2024, positioning NEAR as one of the few networks in Web3 implementing stateless validation for improved scaling. This launch sets the stage for continuous improvements in network performance and scalability, with a technical paper delving into more details about NEAR’s new sharding design expected later in Q1.

NEAR’s commitment to innovation and scalability shines through its rapid protocol upgrades since the Mainnet launch in 2020, showcasing the agility of the protocol engineering team. In a rapidly evolving Web3 landscape, NEAR stands tall, setting new benchmarks for blockchain scalability and decentralization.

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