In the damp and drizzly Pacific northwestern city of Seattle, NEO (remember them?) held their DevCon conference last weekend. It was a chance for the passionate City of Zion developers, dApp developers, NEO enthusiasts, and skeptics alike to come together to find out about the cryptocurrency project’s ambitious plans moving forward – and, of course, to hear from charismatic founder Da Hongfei.
As he leaped on stage, the packed conference room cheered, and he smiled widely, admitting that he had not expected such a large turnout.
NEO, like most other cryptocurrencies, has suffered a brutal year, with the token’s price pretty much dropping off a cliff from its January 2018 high of $161 to just $9 today.
Da Hongfei began to give a background on NEO, formerly called AntShares, founded by himself and Erik Zhang. He also gave some insight into the nature of the Chinese blockchain community they were instrumental in building up.
He also gave an overview of the upgrades to come in NEO 3.0 – and paused for a moment as he reached his slide stating that NEO’s mission is to become the No. 1 blockchain by 2020.
The crypto visionary has made bold statements like this before, a little over a year ago promising TPS speeds of 100,000 without sharding – again in the same time frame.
— NEO News (@NEOnewstoday) January 30, 2018
Yet, this time around, he smiled a little sheepishly, aware of being blamed for overpromising – and also realizing that 2020 is now next year.
“It depends on how you define 2020, by the beginning or the end, but at most it’s two years. Time is ticking, so how can we achieve that? What is the number one blockchain? It’s not the most expensive or biggest, it’s to become the most favorable platform by providing best performance, diversified ecosystem and compliant solutions.”
How Will NEO Become the Number 1 Crypto by 2020?
So how will NEO turn around their well-publicized problems of platform stability, gas price, and criticism of centralization to become the best platform for developers?
1/ NEO thread. I never paid any attention to this project because “it's a Chinese Ethereum!” just sounded so stupid for reasons I didn't even know where to begin to explain. If you, like me, ignored NEO for this reason, here's a quick recap of how hilariously bad this project is:
— Eric Wall (@ercwl) March 4, 2018
The upgrades to the NEO platform are all about allowing the blockchain to enable large scale commercial applications.
Some of the proposed features for NEO 3.0 include native contracts that anyone can execute without the need to use the NEO VM, internet resource access, an improved dBFT consensus mechanism, and a low-cost distributed storage network for large enterprises.
NEO Nabs Former Microsoft Executive
He also explained:
“We are now in Seattle, the hometown of one of the biggest software companies in the world, Microsoft. I think Microsoft, probably nobody knows better how to win a platform competition better than Microsoft, especially for computer language framework and platforms… So we decided to set up an office here… NGD Seattle and led by former Microsoft executives to drive developer adoption.”
He’s talking about ex-Microsoft MD John DeVadoss, NEO Seattle head, who built Microsoft Digital from zero to half a billion dollars of business worldwide and worked with Fortune 100 customers across the world.
Speaking at the conference, DeVadoss said: “I am a platform guy, I like platforms, I enjoy building platforms and evangelizing platforms.”
It should be noted that this “hard fork” that everyone is keenly waiting on isn’t really a hard fork at all. It’s a redesign of the entire blockchain that will most likely start from a Genesis block. And it hasn’t been agreed upon by the community yet.
“The features we mentioned are possible changes… We don’t have the power to decide everything… we will look at the community’s response.”
When Will NEO 3.0 Launch?
One question that a lot of anxious community members have been asking is: “When NEO 3.0?” And they won’t have their answer any time soon.
While Da Hongfei and the NEO team may have set 2020 as a goal, it’s clear they realize that’s decidedly ambitious.
NEO’s founder is certain that the smart economy will be the future. Yet he readily admits that he can’t predict how long that future will take to arrive, or exactly when NEO 3.0 will take wings.
CCN asked Hongfei to explain broadly what these upgrades mean for the crypto project and in what sort of timeline they can be expected.
The premise behind NEO lies in the fact that they believe blockchain will develop as the internet has and will have various layers.
“TCP/IP is at the bottom and HTTP protocol is on top of TCP/IP. If you are building an internet application, you don’t have to worry about TCP/IP anymore, or even HTTP… So blockchain will take a similar road.”
What NEO is basically trying to achieve with an entire overhaul of its platform is to build robust layer 2 solutions. This takes us back to the promise of scaling without sharding, and the fact that NEO sees most dApps being built, not directly on-chain anymore, but on top of layer 2 solutions.
“This is one of the reasons we need to change the architecture and also current new designs.”
What About Regulation in China? How Does NEO Fare in a Country often Hostile to Crypto?
Hongfei insists that China’s hostile crypto stance is not a problem and that Chinese residents have a very good understanding of new technologies.
“I think most of China, including the government and regulators, are open to new ideas as long as it proves the overall well off of the society and country.”
“The current regulation has forbidden two things. One is ICOs, that is to raising money targeting general Chinese retail investors without approval. That is one thing that is forbidden. The other is running a trading facility, an organized OTC service, other than that everything should be fine. I haven’t faced or felt a lot of regulation pressure.”
“As a technology, the Chinese government and regulators are very pro-new technology. If it’s involved with finance, and especially raising money or providing trading facilities, then it’s a trading issue you need a license or you can’t do it.”
He further explains that NEO doesn’t actively work with regulators. However, China recently opened an internet information administration center (he wasn’t sure of the name in English). This entity requires all companies working with blockchain to register with them.
“You need to register with them, tell them who you are and what kind of technology you are using. It’s just a registration, you need to fill out an online form.”
Can NEO Survive the Bitcoin Bear Market?
For anyone in doubt of NEO’s ability to withstand the bitcoin bear market, Hongfei assured his audience that they have plenty of funding left – at least $2 million from their initial ICO and millions of dollars worth of bitcoin, ethereum, and NEO tokens.
But bear market aside, what about the wider global economic slowdown and slowing Chinese growth?
“Yes, definitely we are affected by that, we saw many dApps on top of NEO facing a financial issue, either laying off or some projects just stalled. Yes, it is a problem for us.”
He then goes on to clarify that common sense and good governance will help crypto startups make it through the bear market, and he claims that NEO is more than prepared.
“If you are doing serious business and you are not being too aggressive during the bullish market, most of the teams are fine. They reduce their marketing activities, focus on core development. It’s a tough time but we will get through.”