Smart Contracts and Scalability on NEO Blockchain

The NEO blockchain, formerly known as Antshares, is an open source public blockchain project developed by Shanghai-based blockchain R&D company ‘OnChain’ and often referred to as China’s Ethereum. Research on this blockchain started around 2014,when Antshares was founded by Da Hongfei and Erik Zhang. NEO is designed as a distributed network for a ‘smart economy’, with a focus on digital assets, identity and smart contracts.

The NEO ecosystem has two tokens, each 1 million in number: NEO (previously Antshares) and GAS (previously Antcoins). NEO, with indivisible individual tokens, is used by holders to transfer assets and to vote on the various decisions that need to be made within the network. GAS, on the other hand, can be split into sections as small as 0.00000001 of the original and is used as a currency by the network for smart contracts, incentives etc.

When compared to Ethereum, there are a number of differences. One significant aspect for developers is the option to use programming languages such as JAVA, C/C# and GO to write smart contracts, making it easier for a greater number of people to utilise their existing skills to create blockchain apps. NEO’s smart contracts also have significant determinism, scalability and compatibility. In addition, alongside Know your Customer and Anti Money Laundering APIs, NEO has implemented security that is designed to protect the system with the imminent rise of quantum computing, and also prevent incidents like the DAO ‘hack’.

Digital identity on the NEO platform will cater to identity information of individuals, organizations, and other entities that exist digitally. NEO has stated that it will implement a set of X.509 compatible digital identity standards. Utilising the NEO blockchain, users will have the ability to register, trade and circulate various types of assets. The use of a digital identity will provide a method to link physical and digital representations of assets — allowing them to be used in a number of ways, such as in smart contracts.

Having a focus on providing a platform for smart contracts, identity and digital assets to enable a smart economy, NEO has attracted a number of blockchain-based start-ups, such as Bancor, to its platform. Besides the traditional blockchain capabilities, NEO offers extra features such as peer-to-peer networking, cross-chain interoperability and digital certificates. Its NEO Virtual Machine improves efficiency, with technology in place that could, theoretically, achieve infinite scalability.
 
With Ethereum’s scalability recently being called into question as the popular game CryptoKitties caused a backlog in pending transactions to run up and the network to slow, blockchain methods that are potentially infinitely scalable will be coming to the forefront of user and developer interest. Combining this scalability with blockchain that supports smart contracts, NEO stands to be a key player in the blockchain space in the long run.

The NEO blockchain has another advantage in that it is an established blockchain in China. Compliance is something that could be more difficult as Chinese regulators tighten up on blockchain and ICOs. That the developers of NEO blockchain plan adherence to regulation suggests that it may be easier to grow in the future when compared with a new solution that has yet to be approved. Could we see NEO appearing alongside bitcoin and Ethereum in the mainstream media soon?

By Matthew Warner, Blockpass Researcher