BOS: The World’s First Blockchain Operating System

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Proximity
NEAR Protocol

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Disclosures: Proximity Labs holds $NEAR and other tokens or investments that may be associated with protocols or projects mentioned in this article. The authors of this article have not purchased or sold any token for which the authors had material non-public information while researching or drafting this report. The statements and content in this article should not be misconstrued as a recommendation to purchase or sell any token, or to use any protocol. This article also contains forward-looking statements about third-party projects that the authors have no control over and, as such, actual future developments may be substantially different from the expectations described in the forward-looking statements for a number of reasons, including those that are not under the control of the authors. The content of this article reflects the opinions of its authors and is presented for informational purposes only. This is not and should not be construed to be investment advice.

Decentralization is a core tenet of Web 3.0 and cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, while many protocols and chains are quite decentralized, most users rely upon centralized interfaces to access and interact with them. To help reduce this reliance, the NEAR Ecosystem introduced BOS — the Blockchain Operating System — a tech stack that enables decentralized full stack applications. In this report we explain what BOS is, the problems that DeFi dApps suffer, and how BOS aims to solve these problems for NEAR and the crypto space.

Introducing BOS: Blockchain Operating System

NEAR Protocol is evolving from a singular/enclosed/self-contained Layer 1 for smart contracts to the BOS: the Blockchain Operating System for all of Web 3.0.

Figure 1. Visualization of the world’s first Blockchain Operation System (BOS)

What is BOS? BOS is a tech stack that allows developers to create, deploy, and store frontends in a secure and decentralized way, for any protocol on any chain. Currently, NEAR and EVM-compatible chains including Ethereum, Arbitrum, and Polygon are supported, with more to come in the future.

With BOS, NEAR can power decentralized frontends for all Web 3.0 applications, and act as a common layer for storing, browsing, and discovering products such as DEXs, money markets, NFT marketplaces, social networks, gaming platforms, and more. This technology enables NEAR to become the discovery layer for crypto users in the same way that Apple’s App Store is the discovery layer for iPhone users.

Figure 2. Scheme of BOS, consisting of discovery apps with components that access smart contract

The Three Pillars of BOS

BOS is based on three pillars: Gateways, Components, and Blockchains.

Gateways

Gateways are access points to Web 3.0 apps that pull frontend code directly from the NEAR blockchain and render it for their users. A gateway consists of a specially designed virtual machine that loads and runs frontends for protocols built on Ethereum, L2s, and other Layer 1s like NEAR. In this way, they make locally-run, decentralized frontends available to the masses.

Anyone can create and run a gateway, and all of them can have different specializations. For example, near.org acts like an app store for dApps; near social offers a more social-oriented experience where users can engage with each other, access their favorite dApps, and even share their findings, interactions, and content; and bos.gg targets EVM dApp developers. For more examples of gateways, check out https://near.org/gateways.

Figure 3. Near.org is set to become the main entry point for decentralized apps and includes social and developer features
Figure 4. Boss.gg is another gateway, specifically designed for developers that want to develop front ends using BOS

Soon, apps like Ref Finance will implement their own gateways, becoming a one-stop shop (aka “Super Apps”) for DeFi on NEAR. Users will be able to trade using AMMs or orderbooks, access different types of perps, money markets, or bridges, all within a single interface (see Figures 5 and 6). Additionally, use case specific apps like Sweatcoin can utilize gateways to expand their functionality, becoming “super apps” that bring DeFi access to millions of Web 2.0 users.

Figure 5. Ref Finance is set to become a one-stop shop for DeFi, not only on NEAR but for crypto in general. Users can access any supported ecosystem apps and directly interact with the frontends. Let’s remember that, although the frontend is on NEAR, you will always interact with the backend smart contracts on the original chain. (Note: The image above is a prototype and should only be used as a reference, not as a representation of the actual product.)
Figure 6. A Ref Finance frontend enabled via a BOS gateway that allows you to trade, swap, lend or borrow, stake, and access many other DeFi functions directly under the same UI by interacting indirectly with different smart contracts. (Note: The image above is a prototype and should only be used as a reference, not as a representation of the actual product.)

Apart from these popular applications, like Ref or Sweatcoin, gateways can assume a variety of forms including wallets or portfolio management tools (e.g. Zerion, Pulsar, Zapper, or Debank). BOS enables them to add extra functionality such as execution, allowing their users to perform trades and interact directly with DeFi from these products.

If protocol teams use BOS and keep their components updated, then gateways can rely on these components for their native integrations (and simply add some CSS/design to them rather than implement themselves). This provides an important solution for the common issue of portfolio management teams having to drop native integrations because they can’t keep up with numerous native protocol changes.

Components

Components are frontends for app-layer protocols (think Lido, Uniswap, Aave), whose source codes is stored entirely on-chain. The code for these apps can be viewed in a gateway, similar to viewing a smart contract on Etherscan. In the Ref Finance gateway example above, the Figure showed various apps — these are all components built using BOS, which are the frontends interacting with the respective protocol’s backend.

Figure 7. A decentralized frontend for Lido Finance, built using BOS, natively stored on NEAR.

One of the main advantages is that developers can fork these apps and deploy their own versions, or even compose different Components together. For example, many components showing prices of swaps across many different chains, could all be displayed side by side in a single comparison interface component. The author of this component need not develop all the underlying swap components, but rather compose them into their “super app” component.

Blockchains

The true power of BOS comes from the fact that it is chain-agnostic. Components can call functions on any blockchain, with BOS currently supporting all EVM chains/L2s and NEAR. The source code for the apps (frontends) is on NEAR, due to its ability to cheaply store HTML/CSS/JS (a few cents).

BOS: Benefits & Use Cases

BOS aims to tackle several critical challenges around building frontends for Web 3.0 apps, including access, security, composability, and time to market.

Decentralization and Security

With BOS, the code for Components is always on-chain, making it auditable, versioned, and viewable in explorers. All component code is stored on the NEAR blockchain. This enhances security and robustness, while providing strong uptime and access guarantees.

Back in August, the popular dApp Curve suffered a frontend hack that allowed hackers to steal ~$570,000. Hackers compromised the Curve website and domain name to redirect unwitting users (or their transactions) to a malicious destination. BOS would have stopped this from happening, and any attempt of malicious interaction would have been spotted on-chain. Examples like these prove the need for a secure and decentralized frontend stored natively on-chain.

Since the source code for BOS components can be verified both on-chain and in-browser, this attack is more likely to have been spotted. And if the user was running their gateway locally, it would have been impossible.

Figure 8. The Curve frontend was compromised and hackers were able to steal around 570,000 USD

Censorship Resistance

Frontends stored in centralized servers such as AWS or GCP are a centralized point of failure that run counter to decentralization and the promise of crypto in general. BOS solves this problem by decentralizing the frontends and thus making them as censorship resistant as the underlying NEAR protocol itself.

Open source and Composability

Building frontends with BOS means that frontend code is public and more compatible with open source principles by default. In the same way that developers could access the code of a certain DeFi app and fork it to create a new one (with different branding and maybe added features), now developers can also access frontends and fork them to be used in several applications via BOS. Let’s further understand this with Lido as an example.

As you can see in Figure 7, Lido’s backend smart contracts can now be accessed through a decentralized frontend deployed using BOS. This opens the door to customization and enhanced UIs for users: for example, devs would be able to create new components to improve the UI of other dApps (e.g. include charts and analytics in the Lido UI). It is much easier and quicker as they can leverage built-ins such as profiles, payments, and notifications as well as searching, without the need to host anything themselves.

Users might decide to use this frontend instead of the official one. And anyone can create one as long as the smart contract code is open source. That also allows users to keep using the application even if the official, non-decentralized frontend is compromised or down due to AWS problems, improving robustness, security, as well as user empowerment.

Furthermore, BOS fosters composability by enabling developers to reuse and remix Components, and improve the UI of DeFi apps thanks to the decentralized and open source nature. Composability is one of the things that DeFi has leveraged the most: token swaps, flash loans, LP positions as collateral, etc. Thanks to BOS, composability is also coming to frontends. For example, devs can integrate components that were created for Uniswap into Lido, or components that were created for Aave into dYdX, if they decide to enable any money market feature. Components can be reassembled, modified, duplicated, or integrated in any way into other Components or frontends, opening the door to more sophisticated applications catering to different needs and experiences.

“The composable decentralized frontends as a framework can work with any Web 2.0 or Web 3.0 backend and any wallet. In the future we will be offering [use of] wallets from one chain to interact with another via seamless bridging.” — Illia Polosukhin, co-founder of NEAR Protocol. [Source: Coindesk]

Seamless Onboarding

For DeFi to achieve mass adoption, UI/UX for DeFi applications need to be improved. The current landscape, characterized by numerous blockchains, applications, infrastructure, and wallets, along with fragmented liquidity, can be daunting for newcomers to DeFi. BOS seeks to establish itself as a unifying layer for discovering Web 3.0 offerings. We foresee the development of all-in-one applications (aka “Super Apps”) on BOS that integrate popular dAcurvecurpps such as DEXs, money markets, NFT marketplaces, and liquidity staking protocols, across various blockchains. By also enabling users to sign up without a seed phrase, using only their device through Fast Auth (just announced at Consensus!), BOS aims to substantially reduce entry barriers and make Web 3.0 more accessible.

Developer Experience

BOS offers a nimble approach to prototyping and constructing frontend applications. This enables developers to concentrate on coding while avoiding the hassle of establishing infrastructure and managing servers. Additionally, BOS facilitates a unified platform for collaboration and code-sharing among developers, enabling the option to relinquish ownership and create immutable components. With its utilization of JavaScript and ReactJS, developers can easily get started with a minimal learning curve. For example, the Lido component on BOS was completed in two hours.

Roadmap

With the main BOS gateway (near.org), meta-transactions, and zero-balance accounts live, and FastAuth announced at Consensus2023, BOS is well on its path to mass adoption.

In the near future, you can look forward to further features such as the compliance engine, private data, on-chain and encrypted chat service, account extensions and remote accounts. Stay tuned also for upcoming partnership announcements and the unique product experiences they will beget.

Figure 9. BOS roadmap leading upto May 8th. An updated roadmap will be published by Pagoda soon.

For those interested in learning more, check out near.org or near.social to explore different components and the gateway experience. For other gateways, you can explore the BOS Viewer Directory.

For developers, check out the BOS docs on docs.bos.gg, as well as the Component examples on bos.gg. For inquiries or feedback, join the BOS Development Telegram chat.

Finally, if you are interested in building BOS gateways or components for DeFi (on NEAR and beyond) and are seeking technical or financial support, contact us through our website.

About Proximity

Proximity is a research and development firm supporting the NEAR DeFi ecosystem through investments, developer support, open-source software, and advisory services. The Proximity team consists of former members of the NEAR Foundation, Binance, Consensys, Facebook, and more. It has advised numerous DeFi projects contributing to both NEAR and Aurora’s recent success.

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Proximity
NEAR Protocol

Proximity is a R&D firm supporting projects building DeFi applications on NEAR and Aurora through grants, advisory services, and developer support