NEAR Protocol
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NEAR Protocol

NEAR Account Marketplace AMA with Alexander Kouprin

4NTS Guild recently sat down with NEAR’s Alex Kouprin to discuss his new dapp on NEAR — near.bet. As the premier account marketplace on NEAR, users have the unique opportunity to buy and sell NEAR Accounts.

In preparation for the launch of Sputnik V2, and the most innovative on-chain implementation of governance and account collaboration in the crypto-verse, the NEAR Account Marketplace is an emerging hub for purchasing and selling NEAR accounts. Here is why that matters:

How would you say the NEAR Account model differs from other account models in crypto?

In early blockchains, the access key is transformed into a specific address. The address is the account, and this basically means 1) key immutability and non-transferability; 2) the real name of the account is a long string of symbols and digits.

On NEAR, the concepts of keys and accounts are different.

First of all, accounts are not just wrappers onto addresses! They exist independently. This approach has several major useful applications:

1) Account names are human-readable that return us back to normal convenient naming.

2) Keys can be simply added or deleted, so you don’t have to live in fear of losing or misplacing your seed phrase for forever — as a compromise, you may simply renew it or manage your access deliberately.

The next important concept is the difference between keys. Not all keys are the same. Some keys are Full Access keys that allow a user perform any operation with the account. The other kind of keys, Functional Call keys, are built to allow only specific functional calls on smart contracts with limited allowance. And this is a very convenient way to operate with smart contracts you don’t want to trust completely because you don’t have to. At the same time, you don’t have to control each and every transaction manually.

Having an email or messenger account with a human-readable name with the possibility to change passwords or access feels very natural. NEAR brings this “naturalness” to the users. This is also why some early Bitcoin and Ethereum followers who had bad experiences with their wallet are concerned about seed phrases. In NEAR, any seed phrase is just a Full Access key that might be easily removed or replaced by the owner.

Another important thing to mention is that NEAR accounts are not just numbers of how many tokens stored. Each account is the persistent key-value storage that might be used for any purpose on the protocol.

The concept of buying and selling an Account in crypto can be extremely foreign. How would you explain the basic idea to someone from a different crypto community?

Easy!

(source — https://www.theplatemarket.com/blog/toy-number-plate-boss)
  1. The simplest way to explain is this: Having a cool account name is fancy. People love to feel unique and demonstrate it to others. Having a fancy phone number is easier to remember and recognize; the same applies to car plates, email addresses, etc. Same happens with account names. It’s much cooler to have alex.near or even 0x.near instead of alex2020new2.near or 7880836a1dbd95a1723ef599da11812d9c6081e615f142d0efbfa0fe123489fc. It’s easy to say: “send me tokens to alex.near”, right? People claimed recently babe.near, drop.near for more than 30 NEAR. The most expensive one I saw was berry.near, claimed for 115 NEAR! (https://explorer.near.org/transactions/53vxQZtZntD8aALi9XwmwWy8YFHNP8L3qF4opn4HVhBJ)
  2. From a business perspective, it’s reasonable to have account names related to the common brand. For example, look onto domains. Why am I not surprised that McDonald’s is reachable by www.mcdonalds.com? If McDonald’s would open a business on NEAR, it would be reasonable to start with the account name mcdonalds.near. Today you can buy a domain name. The better domain name for business, the more expensive it is. The same logic applies to the NEAR accounts.
NEAR Accounts Marketplace Beta (May 2021)

Where did the idea come from for creating an actual marketplace for NEAR Accounts?

The idea itself isn’t brand new. It comes from buying and selling domain names, but in a decentralized way.

The most amazing thing about NEAR account marketplace — it was impossible on early blockchains. You can transfer funds there but you cannot transfer ownership safely.

“As a NEAR account is not just an amount of tokens but a smart key-value storage, the data stored and smart-contract dependencies may be extremely valuable and cost lots of money. Basically, the NEAR accounts marketplace is a first shy step for buying and selling whole businesses in a trustless, decentralized way.”

As a NEAR account is not just an amount of tokens but a smart key-value storage, the data stored and smart-contract dependencies may be extremely valuable and cost lots of money. Basically, the NEAR accounts marketplace is a first shy step for buying and selling whole businesses in a trustless, decentralized way.

Bids on account names from the NEAR Accounts Marketplace

When it comes to Human Readable ID’s are all of them always denominated in .near? What are the limits of adding sub-accounts to master accounts?

NEAR accounts have human readable IDs, e.g. “royo.near”

Currently, all human readable accounts have “.near” suffix. This is not for forever — one day we will enable a possibility to have other top-level accounts. I guess that day will be a good day for the NEAR accounts marketplace. :)

There are no specific limits for sub-accounts except the “vassal of my vassal” rule: you cannot create sub-sub-account from the account directly. More details in official docs: https://docs.near.org/docs/concepts/account.

If you sell a master account does that by default transfer ownership of the sub-accounts as well?

No. In general, each account has its own list of access keys. Having access to “alice.near” doesn’t imply having access to “test.alice.near”. BTW, all human readable accounts are created by the “near” account — but this doesn’t mean that the “near” account has access to all its sub-accounts, otherwise there would be an armageddon.

For all non-created sub-accounts, the account has a possibility to create them. If there was no “test.alice.near”, then “alice.near” is able to create and set any Full Access keys to it.

When people reference buying and selling accounts, they mention how the data held by a specific account could be seen as valuable over time.

What exactly does this mean? Why would someone want to sell an account?

Quick example. Let’s say, there is a business on NEAR — trading cards, NFTs, drawing pixels, mechanical turk, or anything else. Let’s choose the NEAR accounts marketplace without loss of generality. Basically, the NEAR account marketplace project has the account with contract (c.nearbet.near), DAO account (dao.nearbet.near) and the owner account (nearbet.near). Relationships between those accounts are written at the smart contract. For example, only the owner account can change the DAO account.

Having access to the owner account allows me to sell the whole NEAR accounts marketplace as a business on the NEAR account marketplace :) The next business owner will receive the access to the owner account in a decentralized way and will be able to choose his own account to collect DAO rewards instead of me. The beauty of the scheme is that the data stored in the contract (c.nearbet.near) will not be affected in any way. The ordinary users wouldn’t even feel any disturbance.

And this leads us to a new mental paradigm of the Open Web. Not the source code of the contract is the value, but the data stored in the contract.

And this leads us to a new mental paradigm of the Open Web. The source code of the contract is not the value, but rather the data stored in the contract. That’s why all source code of NEAR accounts marketplace is fully available at GitHub since its first day. (https://github.com/kouprin/accounts-marketplace)

I expect to hear the proper question from safety-concerned people: “But how can I trust the contract that is deployed? What stopped you from putting exploits into c.nearbet.near?”. Right. Currently, it can be resolved manually — you can compile the source code and compare contract hash with the hash of the deployed contract. We’re working on the NEAR contracts registry to make it easy to obtain the contract safety level.

How do you see the NEAR account marketplace developing into the future? What can the community do to help accelerate this development?

The main purpose of the NEAR accounts marketplace is to demonstrate use cases which weren’t possible before. Combining it with NEAR speed and low commissions, it would be great to inspire developers and founders to build on NEAR.

Another awesome thing is to help people to get used to dealing with smart contracts. The NEAR account marketplace brings new kinds of relationships that differ from standard “seller” or “buyer” roles. That’s why I expect to see the project as a good starting point for developers and blockchain users. It would be great to see how new powerful ideas are growing from the seed of the NEAR accounts marketplace.

In terms of further features released, I’m planning to introduce a simple escrow service. It’s a pain to see how people get deceived by scammers trying to obtain accounts with locked tokens. Scammers simply keep their Full Access key to cheat. This is terrible. We’re starting to live in the world of the new level of independence enabled by smart contracts and owning personal data — and still suffer from lack of safety tools and low culture of handling personal data.

“I’d love to take a chance to encourage the community to increase their expertise in crypto overall rather than thinking in terms of gaining short-term profit. Try more opportunities, risk less funds. Play around, buy and sell NFTs. Tell your friends about your experience.”

I’d love to take a chance to encourage the community to increase their expertise in crypto overall rather than thinking in terms of gaining short-term profit. Try more opportunities, risk less funds. Play around, buy and sell NFTs. Tell your friends about your experience.

At this point we need fundamental mental changes more than anything else.

The dark side of banks is they actually own your money, not you. It’s the same thing as you transferring your tokens to someone, with the belief that you can obtain them on demand.

The dark side of governments is that they decide how your money is valuated. It’s the same thing as the central bank being able to mint bitcoins infinitely, bypassing the mining procedure.

The dark side of the IT giants is that they can block your account with no particular reason — for forever — and drop your data that you collected for decades “by mistake” or share it with anyone of their choice.

We are initiating new kinds of relationships based on real ownership of digital values. Ten years ago it was impossible, and we used legacy procedures and technologies because there were no alternatives. Today is different. A new world is being built.

Alexander Kouprin

2 Time ICPC Finalist, and 2014 Bronze Medalist- NEAR Core Developer. For more information on NEAR.Bet, see the following links below:

The link to the project: https://near.bet

Rules: https://near.bet/#/rules

Source code: https://github.com/Kouprin/accounts-marketplace

Account where contract is deployed: https://explorer.near.org/accounts/c.nearbet.near

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