NEO is agnostic to programming languages, meaning that developers do not have to learn a unique language (i.e., Solidity with Ethereum) to create smart contracts -- an attractive pull for many developers. NEO deploys a ‘virtual machine’ similar to other smart contracts platforms that enables it to function as a Turing-complete platform for building decentralized applications (dapps), albeit with some slight modifications.
The NEO Foundation oversees the development and off-chain governance of the NEO platform and is a non-profit organization that funds independent projects for building applications and new features on the network.
NEO has consistently remained among the top 30 cryptocurrencies by market cap since its mainnet launch in 2016.
NEO Design and Features
Based on a consensus mechanism called delegated byzantine fault tolerance, NEO deploys two types of nodes in its network:
1. Consensus Nodes
2. Ordinary Nodes
Ordinary nodes vote on which nodes can become consensus nodes and the consensus nodes participate in the network’s consensus and on-chain governance. Ordinary node voting weight is proportional to the total amount of NEO that they hold. NEO’s consensus empowers the network to achieve higher performance with a slight trade-off in the centralization of the consensus nodes.
Similar to Ethereum, NEO requires GAS to mitigate the spamming of the network by making the consumption of resources on the network costly. GAS on NEO is fuel for the resource control of computation across the network and is mined with every block.
NEO separates itself from other smart contract platforms primarily in its steady emphasis on building the open framework for the ‘Smart Economy,’ which it cites as consisting of digital assets, digital identity, smart contracts, and digital certificates. The NEO community is replete with developer resources for building on the network, and NEO maintains one of the largest dapp ecosystems outside of Ethereum concerning smart contracts platforms.
The NEO developer community and NEO Council have also explored some innovative technologies for improving the platform including cross-chain interoperability (NeoX), distributed storage (NeoFS), and quantum resistant cryptography (NeoQS).
NEO’s precedence as a stable smart contracts platforms for two years places it among a small group of major Turing-complete networks that retain large development communities with ongoing research and dapp creation. NEO also released the most recent version of their future roadmap, unveiling some ambitious initiatives.
In particular, the NEO community is emphasizing the further production of an environment that can support large-scale commercial applications. According to their recent blog post:
“The cornerstone of our efforts is NEO 3.0, which will be a robust blockchain implementation with high throughput, enhanced stability and security, an optimized smart contract system, and a feature-packed infrastructure set for diverse business application scenarios.”
Among the most significant optimizations to NEO on the roadmap include adding a recovery mechanism to improve the stability of the network’s consensus mechanism, reducing the deployment and execution costs of smart contracts, and building in an Oracle to enable smart contracts to communicate with Internet resources during their execution.
Additionally, NEO is endeavouring for some ambitious governance projects such as evaluating different models for liquid democracies and futarchy built on the platform -- which they will consult academics and industry experts about.
Sometimes called the ‘Chinese Ethereum,’ NEO is among one of the more established smart contracts platforms in the cryptocurrency domain with some intriguing projects on the horizon.