5 Top NEAR Protocol Projects 2023: (NEAR dApps to Watch!)
One of the most exciting aspects of being involved with cryptocurrency is that we get to explore cutting-edge technology and innovation happening within the top cryptocurrency networks and investigate topics like the top NEAR protocol projects.
The NEAR ecosystem is a budding and rapidly expanding space, and today we are going to be looking at the Top 5 Near protocol projects and provide some background information. This article will explore the following topics:
- What is NEAR Protocol?
- NEAR Protocol Coin
- The NEAR Protocol Ecosystem
- Top 5 DApps on Near Protocol
- Where to buy NEAR
Before cracking on and exploring the top projects on NEAR, we had better quickly cover some background.
Understanding NEAR Protocol
NEAR Protocol is a layer-one blockchain network, often considered a more advanced Ethereum alternative. The NEAR blockchain is a decentralized, open-source blockchain platform designed to provide a scalable, highly functional, and developer-friendly environment for the deployment of decentralized applications (dApps).
The NEAR Foundation was started by Illia Polosukhin and Alexander Skidanov, with the intention of exploring program synthesis. They tried to achieve their work on the Ethereum network but quickly found out Ethereum was not fit for their needs, so they launched their own protocol, aiming to create a layer one network that doesn’t need to rely on layer 2 scalability.
NEAR is a Public Proof of Stake blockchain that utilizes a radically unique, sharded architecture known as “Nightshade,” which we cover in our NEAR review. Because of this technological innovation, the NEAR blockchain can achieve impressive levels of scalability, high TPS, and low transaction costs.
It isn't all about the technology; we need to remember the human side of blockchain, which NEAR has covered as well. The NEAR platform is quite developer-friendly thanks to the programming languages it uses (Rust and AssemblyScript).
What Makes NEAR Protocol Unique?
The NEAR blockchain introduced a significant advancement in the field of blockchain technology, something that should not be understated. Innovations such as Nightshade Sharding, WebAssembly, and the coding languages used, allow for the NEAR ecosystem to offer promising solutions for the scalability and usability challenges currently faced by existing blockchain platforms.
NEAR Protocol network has over 18M wallets and has seen periods of 400,000 daily transactions with a blistering 2.4-second finality, over 5x faster than Ethereum and for fractions of the cost. Here is a simple look at how Sharding splits validators, enhancing not only the speed and throughput, but security of the network.
Sharding is a popular and powerful scaling technique that works by breaking the blockchain into sections (shards). Each shard then only handles a fraction of the network’s total workload. Thanks to the NEAR sharding solution, the blockchain is theoretically infinitely scalable as validators no longer have to process all incoming transactions, but only those within shards. NEAR makes it possible to have both incredibly low gas fees and fast transaction speeds.
NEAR Protocol Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge is what makes Ethereum to NEAR compatibility possible. This initiative was launched in 2021, and supports ERC-20 tokens, wrapped tokens, stablecoins, and NFTs. These crypto assets can not only be swapped between networks, but this bridge also helps developers as they can manage the benefits of having superior throughput and lower fees across the NEAR protocol.
You can learn more about the technical aspects and workings of the bridge in this What is the Rainbow Bridge article by near.org/bridge. If you are keen to hear Guy's take, feel free to check out his video on NEAR below:
NEAR Protocol and NFTs
NEAR protocol offers many advantages for NFT projects and NFT communities. Thanks to the scalability, lightning-fast transactions, incredibly low fees, and nearly instantaneous transaction settlement, NEAR is one of the best blockchains for NFT enthusiasts.
There are already plenty of budding NFT projects in the NEAR ecosystem, such as the two I will mention further on. Paras is the largest NFT marketplace on NEAR, but did not make the list as I went with NFT projects that offer more than just a marketplace.
Near Protocol Coin
NEAR Protocol Coin is a digital asset that serves as the native currency of the NEAR Protocol blockchain. To make things easy, the ticker for the NEAR coin, is simply NEAR, and it is used to facilitate transactions on decentralized applications (DApps) on the NEAR platform.
Anyone who has transacted on the NEAR protocol will attest to the fast transaction settlement and low transaction costs, made possible thanks to the protocol's advanced technology and Proof of Stake consensus mechanism.
Capable of being highly divisible, allowing for micro-payments and supporting a wide range of use cases without costing an arm and a leg, NEAR outperforms many other blockchain networks that shall remain nameless. NEAR can also be used for staking to earn interest, and the NEAR Coin plays an important role, providing a means for users to take part and benefit from the network's capabilities. NEAR has proven itself to be a fantastic network for the NFT community, Decentralized Finance, Decentralized Applications, and is a generally solid network for crypto and blockchain enthusiasts.
The NEAR Protocol Ecosystem
The NEAR Protocol ecosystem is a decentralized network of applications or DApps. Though the NEAR ecosystem is a bit more like the digital wild west, as it is still quite young, it is reaching out to the fringes of blockchain technology and allows anyone to stake their claim and build something new.
Because it's decentralized and open-source, anyone can take the code and build on top of it, creating new and innovative applications. Thanks to its sharded architecture and Nightshade consensus, it can scale to support thousands of DApps and millions of users, creating a platform that can support the next generation of decentralized applications.
We have seen rapid growth and expansion on the NEAR network since its mainnet launch. The NEAR ecosystem experienced impressive growth during the 2021 bull run, seeing faster rates of new wallet addresses and developer activity than many competing networks.
Current NEAR blockchain metrics:
- 700+ projects building
- 125 DAOs
- 550k members
- 4k+ developers
- 865 Nodes
- 20 million wallets
- 250 million in transactions were conducted in 2022
And although 2022 was one of the worst years in crypto history, we see developer activity remained quite constant for the NEAR ecosystem, always a highly positive sign.
So, with all of the above, we can see that NEAR protocol has a thriving and active ecosystem, and what appears to be a bright future. You can find out more about this next-generation blockchain in our NEAR Protocol Review.
Great, now that we are sufficiently up to speed about the protocol, let’s take a look at some of the exciting projects in the NEAR ecosystem, in no particular order.
5 Top NEAR Protocol Projects (DApps)
Now we will dive into NEAR protocol ecosystem projects.
First up we have an NFT project called Mintbase, which is more than your standard marketplace.
What is Mintbase?
Mintbase is a decentralized NFT platform for creating, managing, and trading digital collectables, NFT collections and other assets on the NEAR protocol.
Creators can use Mintbase to mint one-of-a-kind NFTs for games, art, community assets, crypto assets, and more, then trade or sell them on the platform in the Mintbase NFT marketplace. Mintbase is open-source and fully decentralized, which is a huge plus and provides users with an easy and convenient way to manage their digital assets.
Mintbase features something quite unique, though, something referred to as Stores. Users can create their independently owned smart contracts and add other NFT minters to them, and then feature other NFT creators on the Mintbase Launchpad. This feature is quite interesting and helpful as it can give brand-new creators quick exposure to the NFT launchpad.
Users who make a store are given their own virtual metaverse gallery that they can customize and show off their NFT collections. They can even mint the store itself as an NFT, and sell it as a complete art gallery. How awesome is that?
There is also a feature called CreateThing, where users can make their store gated, limiting access to VIPs who can only enter if they have a token or NFT into the space. This NFT DApp is well suited for both experienced and brand-new NFT artists, as there are no technical skills needed to get started. There is also plenty of educational content available to get familiar with the platform.
Types of NFTs Available on Mintbase
Pretty much anything that can be turned into an NFT is available on Mintbase such as:
- Music NFTs
- Event Tickets
- Gaming NFTs and much more.
When shopping on the Mintbase marketplace, filtering enables users to sort listings by Latest Listings, Latest Stores, or Active Auctions. Of course, users can also search by individual NFT or storefronts by username.
NFTs minted will be created using the token standard, NEP-171, which is the token standard for NEAR. NEP-171 is a highly customizable token standard that allows creators to add things like smart contracts for royalty purposes, transfer requirements or limitations, circulating supply, and ownership verification.
Like most NFT marketplaces, there will be fees on Mintbase. Fortunately, as it runs on NEAR, you won't need to take out a second mortgage to cover network fees. Here is the simple Mintbase fee structure:
- Mintbase take a 2.5% cut for every sale
- Royalty fees- Vary significantly as the creator sets them
Satori.art is another NFT project, but not an NFT marketplace like Mintbase. Satori does something a little different and helps to transition current entities into the world of Web3 in the most seamless way possible.
Satori describes itself as a complete NFT toolkit that users can use to create NFTs, manage royalties, airdrops, and more.
What is Satori?
Satori is at the forefront of helping creators, brands, and those stuck in web2 into the world of web3, providing the tools that are needed to claim ownership of their brand, reputation, and community, without having to rely on centralized entities. This is one unique NFT project fulfilling a use case that I have not seen anywhere else. With a simple-to-use web3 toolkit that doesn’t require coding or technical knowledge, creators, companies, and communities can onboard and engage with their users in ways that were never before possible.
Satori Creator Studio
The first product Satori focused on was the Creator Studio. This tool helps users drive web3 adoption with ease of use in mind, from NFT creation to wallet creation.
The Satori Creator Studio breaks down barriers to NFT creation and adoption by removing hurdles and offers the following benefits:
- Removes the technical complexity that exists at all stages of NFT management.
- Activate an audience and bring cost efficiency to creators, while creating an NFT-powered strategy that is attractive for community interaction and growth.
- Simplify and familiarize the entire process so crypto onboarding is so seamless that people don’t even realize they are interacting with web3. We saw how successful this approach was with both Reddit and Ticketmaster.
Just to provide some examples and real-life tested and proven scenarios in which this tool is helpful, here is how Satori has seen this product utilized:
- Events- The NEAR hacker house event created an attendance token
- Social club memberships
- Business card NFTs
- Certificate of participation or completion NFTs
- Token-gated metaverse events
- Art and photography unique digital assets
Where the Satori Creator Studio separates itself further from traditional NFT minting platforms is that it allows the minting party to select a distribution strategy, a wider variety of settings, functions and flexibility. Satori is actively building out new tools and plans on launching a full suite of tools and APIs necessary for NFT mass adoption. You can follow them on Twitter to stay up to date.
3. Sweat Economy (Sweatcoin)
Is it possible to get paid for walking?
You bet, move-to-earn projects are huge, look no further than STEPN and Step App, which saw astronomical price increases and adoption shortly after launch. Those DApps were fine and all, but if I were to create an article on the best move-to-earn projects, regardless of network, Sweatcoin would take my top pick for reasons such as:
- It did not start as a crypto app; it was started way back in 2015 and had over 3 million users before making its crypto debut.
- There are no NFTs you need to get started. Users can use it completely free and earn the SWEAT cryptocurrency and the platform non-crypto token Sweatcoin to purchase items from the app.
- The project raised over $13m in funding.
- The team does not, and will not sell user data to companies without user consent. There are discussions about a feature where users will be able to opt-in and earn a cut of profits for sharing user data.
- There are fantastic giveaways, products to purchase with Sweatcoin, staking, and more, all of which users can benefit from and earn tokens simply from walking.
- Most downloaded health and fitness app in 2022
- Has over 120 million users
- Did I already mention that it's free?
What is Sweatcoin?
Sweatcoin is a walking app that rewards users for their daily steps with two different currencies, one in-app that can be used in the Sweatcoin store, and one Sweatcoin cryptocurrency (SWEAT) on the NEAR protocol that you can stake, spend on pretty nifty products, or donate to charity. It is a mobile app that promotes a healthy lifestyle by using your iOS or Android device's step counter feature to reward you in coins for your efforts.
Founded in 2014 by Oleg Fomenko and Anton Derlyatka, two entrepreneurs based in London, the app was initially launched as a way to reward people for physical activity, but only offered tokens that could be used within the app's marketplace. The app has grown significantly over the years as the team were able to provide better marketplace items and giveaways with features ranging from skin care products to iPhones, earbuds, gift cards, events, and loads more.
The founders have been praised for their dedication to retaining user privacy and innovative approach when designing the app. It was almost as if the owners were living up to the crypto ethos before they made their breakout to blockchain in 2022.
Sweatcoin: How Does It Work?
Once users download the app and sign up for a free account, the app will connect to the step counter functionality of the smartphone. The app then counts the number of steps you take and rewards you with coins within the app. This is the non-crypto token that can be used in the in-app marketplace.
Users will need to "opt-in" if they want to earn the crypto token SWEAT as well. Sweatcoin is a 2-app system if you want to take advantage of the crypto side of things. One app is the non-crypto app that tracks steps and has the marketplace, and gives non-crypto Sweatcoins, the other is the Sweatcoin Wallet app, a crypto wallet to store, stake, grow, and get rewards with your crypto SWEAT tokens.
The two apps can be connected from within the app, and as you walk, your tokens will be credited to the walking app, while the SWEAT crypto will be deposited into your Sweat Wallet app.
The amount of SWEAT you can earn is capped on the free plan, but is still quite generous, allowing you to get paid for up to 5,000 steps per day. If you want to get paid for more, you will need to sign up for the paid subscription plan, which costs $4.99 per month, or $24.99 per year, saving you 58% if you pay annually.
Here is a breakdown of the free vs paid subscriptions:
Is Sweatcoin Legit?
You bet! How do I know?
Well, I've been using it myself for over a year and have purchased items like a carbon fibre wallet, have staked SWEAT to grow it, and entered draws for awesome prizes like Ethereum and a signed Jersey from Lionel Messi. Did I win? nope 👎
As mentioned, the project has been around since 2014, has VC funding (not that that means much anymore... Thank you, FTX), and is used by over 100 million people, so it is definitely legit, and I can confidently say that Sweatcoin is not a scam.
Is Sweatcoin Worth it?
Definitely! Even with the free version, I was able to earn enough to purchase physical items, stake for an enticing APR, enter numerous prize draws, and donate to charities that align with my ethos. There is nothing to lose by using the free version, and plenty to gain. And this isn't even mentioning the potential for price appreciation of the SWEAT token over time.
What is the Best Get Paid for Walking App?
I would say it is tough to find a better one than Sweatcoin. The main reason being it is free and you don't need to buy some way overpriced NFT to get started. When I was researching my favourite move-to-earn projects, I couldn't justify the $400 it would cost to buy a shoe NFT on STEPN as that is like a billion times more than I am willing to buy shoes in real life... Pass.
Sweatcoin also has really great products that can be purchased with tokens earned in the app, essentially transforming your steps into actual products in the Sweat store. SMILE is a similar walking app and my second favorite because it is free and pays out in cold, hard Satoshis 😎
This list would not be complete without mentioning something along the lines of Ethereum's virtual machine (EVM) compatibility.
What is Aurora?
Aurora is what makes the NEAR blockchain compatible with Ethereum, but it's not a one-trick pony. Aurora bridge also enables scalability and an industry-first user experience through affordable transactions, cause we all know how much Ethereum fees can suck. Near's low fees are a breath of fresh air for anyone who still has PTSD from ETH fees in the hundreds.
Aurora is a project that promotes the development of the NEAR ecosystem. It aims to bridge the NEAR and Ethereum economies, providing more opportunities for developers and projects to grow and thrive across both communities.
Thanks to Aurora, Ethereum users can work in ways that are familiar to them, accessing their favourite applications, while benefitting from NEAR's efficiency, improved speed and scalability.
Time for a flex. Thanks to the scalability and speed of the NEAR blockchain, Aurora can:
- Provide users with a $0.02 average transaction fee
- settle transaction finality in 2 seconds
- handle 50x transactions per second vs Ethereum's 1
How Aurora Works
Without getting too technical, as I, myself, am about as technically inclined as a potato, the cool part for developers is that, if you are used to developing on Ethereum, getting started with Aurora is as simple as changing or adding the RPC endpoint.
Aurora takes full advantage of the unique features of the protocol, such as NEAR sharding and developer gas fee remuneration. Aurora comprises two core components:
- The Aurora Engine runtime- Allows for seamless deployment of Solidity and Vyper smart contracts.
- Aurora Bridge- Enables the transfer of tokens and data between Ethereum and Aurora in a permissionless fashion.
Aurora offers enhancements for developers in a couple key ways. It overcomes the computational challenges faced by Ethereum, while preserving existing engineering qualities in smart contracts and front-end code, so all the time, energy, and effort spent developing on Ethereum weren't for nothing.
By leveraging Rainbow Bridge technology, tokens can be transferred to Aurora, which becomes the bridge to Ethereum, enabling assets to flow between the two networks.
DeFi on Aurora
The Aurora ecosystem is thriving with DApps, decentralized finance, NFT projects, and more. In just a year after launch, Aurora hit a total value locked (TVL) of an impressive $275 million across hundreds of protocols.
TVL has decreased significantly as we are in the depths of the 2023 bear market, but seeing the rapid growth in use and TVL in 2021 shows that Aurora is unlikely going away anytime soon.
The largest protocol on Aurora is Bastion, which is a lending platform currently holding over 65% market dominance. The Trisolaris DEX is like the Uniswap for Aurora, and is the most popular fully decentralized exchange on the protocol with deep liquidity, while Aurigami is the major liquidity protocol that offers liquidity mining rewards. There is also an algorithmic stablecoin ecosystem that can be found on Polaris.
5. Ref Finance
Last but certainly not least, as it makes up for 73% of TVL dominance on NEAR, is Ref Finance.
What is Ref Finance?
Ref Finance is a platform which provides services around the NEAR token. This platform is an automated market maker DEX, that allows for the permissionless digital asset exchange through liquidity pools, similar to Uniswap. It also offers users with other DeFi ecosystem products such as loaning and investments through farming liquidity pools and more.
Initially created by Illia Polosukhin, who also co-founded NEAR blockchain, Ref Finance started to scale in operation when Proximity Labs, a NEAR-focused research and development company, received funding from the NEAR Foundation to expand and strengthen the protocol.
Benefits of Ref Finance
Ref Finance enables users to swap crypto assets in a trustless, permissionless and non-custodial manner. They can also stake LP tokens as interest bearing assets while providing liquidity into the system.
One notable benefit over Ethereum's Uniswap, is that Ref Finance's smart contracts contain all pairs of liquidity pools, which comprise reserves of two or three NEP-141 tokens. Ref allows multiple pools to host up to 16 different farms at the same time to ensure maximum token exposure to users. If you want to learn more or find guides on pooling, farming, and staking to earn interest, you can find that in the Ref Finance Whitepaper.
Ref Finance Summary
Ref Finance is a cornerstone of the NEAR network, not just for crypto enthusiasts and traders, but also for projects who want to advertise exposure and attract liquidity for their tokens. Ref Finance is a superb DEX, highly secure thanks to it being built on the NEAR protocol, and transactions can be performed at lightning speeds for fractions of a penny.
Other Top Projects Building on NEAR To Look Out For
As with every "Top projects" article, the content is quite subjective. Some users may consider the top projects being the ones with the highest TVL, while others feel it should be the ones with the highest number of users.
Normally, I would agree, but when constructing these articles, I like to try to find projects that fulfil different use cases. If I simply went by top projects by TVL, all 5 would be DEXes and lending protocols. But it is still good to have a look at the "big dogs", so here is a look at the top 10 projects on NEAR by TVL:
A few more interesting projects to put on your radar:
- CoinPipe- A payment solution that includes crypto POS terminals
- NearPay wallet- bridges the gap between crypto and fiat
- Burrow- DeFi lending and borrowing
- Octopus Network- Cross-chain network that allows developers to launch application-specific blockchains known as appchains, adding multichain functionality.
- Band Protocol- Fully decentralized cross-chain data oracle that aggregates real-world data and smart contracts to the blockchain.
- DAO Records- Web3 tools for music artists and record labels to publish their content and manage their releases on the blockchain.
Where to Buy NEAR
As NEAR is one of the most popular coins, the NEAR Coin is available on most major exchanges. For international users, I recommend Binance or OKX. For US-based users, you can buy NEAR on Kraken and Coinbase. I normally recommend Kraken for US-based users for the lower fees, better customer service, and advanced features. You can learn more and find sign-up bonuses and discount codes in our following reviews:
Top NEAR Protocol Projects: Conclusion
I hope you found this Top Projects on NEAR article helpful in providing insight as to what is thriving in the ecosystem. NEAR is an incredibly advanced, bustling network with plenty of users and developers, and is rapidly growing in size. The NEAR ecosystem supports everything from DeFi to NFT projects, stablecoins to GameFi, and everything in-between, hosting some truly interesting projects in the crypto space.
Many users are highly bullish on the future of the protocol as it has an impressively high throughput and TPS, nearly instant finality, and is theoretically infinitely scalable, an exceptional boast that other layer one blockchains cannot claim.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to awesomenear.com, there are currently 1023 projects across NEAR, AURORA & OCTOPIX ecosystems.
NEAR is an open-source software framework that allows for the use of web3 applications. The network uses a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism and the Nightshade sharding introduction enables security and scalability. The network is capable of hosting an entire DeFi ecosystem with different DApps and cryptocurrencies, fulfilling multiple real-world use cases.
For a software non custodial wallet, I recommend NEAR Wallet, which was created by the Near Foundation, or MyNearWallet is also very popular. Users who want to increase their security will be pleased to learn that the Ledger Hardware wallet supports the Near Coin.
Users can also create a Near wallet on Metamask by simply adding the Near network.
The most common Near blockchain explorer is explorer.near.org
The most popular NFT market for NEAR is Paras. The Paras marketplace has thousands of unique digital assets available for users of varying tastes from digital art cards and collectibles, to GameFi and utility NFT projects.
The term Near token and Near coin are often used synonymously, but consensus among the community in the crypto space is that there is a distinction. A token is an asset minted on a blockchain, while a coin is the network's native token, often used to cover gas fees. So it should be Near Coin and not Near token.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.