• What is Near Protocol’s Nightshade Sharding on Mainnet?

  • NEAR Protocol has launched Nightshade Sharding on mainnet in order to begin its transition to a fully-sharded blockchain and provide limitless scalability to the Near blockchain.

    According to a Monday, November 15 announcement, the recent launch of Nightshade Sharding is the first phase of future upgrades that will make the NEAR protocol a fully sharded blockchain, as promised in the initial design announcement.

    As previously stated by Crypto Economy, NEAR was designed from the start to be a sharded blockchain. Instead of running a single blockchain, multiple blockchains known as shards run in parallel.

    However, as sharding is a complex scaling technique, the team changed the plan around the time of launch in 2020 to avoid any unwelcome surprises. According to the most recent announcement:

    “However, as we planned for the launch in early 2020, we realized that there was no need to launch a fully sharded network.”

    Sharding is a very complicated piece of technology, and the network was brand new at the time. It didn’t have to be able to handle hundreds of millions of transactions right away.”

    As a result, the protocol was released without sharding. The team has now decided to upgrade the network because the average number of daily transactions on the network has surpassed 300,000. This figure will rise in the coming months as more projects come to NEAR.

    According to the team:

    “While the network is still only using 13% of its total capacity, we wanted to start the transition to sharding now to avoid any unpleasant surprises and to ensure we can support all NEAR applications.” Today marks the beginning of that transition.”

    The NEAR protocol will use a sharding technique known as Nightshade Sharding. The most recent release is Phase 0, dubbed “Simple Nightshade,” to kickstart the process that, when completed, “will make it super-fast, incredibly secure, and capable of onboarding millions of users into the world of Web3 without missing a beat.”

    The entire procedure will be completed in four stages. The blockchain state, but not the processing, will be sharded in Phase 0. This means that the blockchain will be split into four shards but will still be validated by all validators on the network. Each shard in a fully sharded blockchain has its own set of validators.

    The first phase is scheduled to begin in January 2022. ‘Chunk-only producers’ will be introduced in Phase 1. These will be validators that will only validate one shard. The implementation of Nightshade Sharding will be completed in Phase 2, and both state and processing will be fully sharded. Phase 2 is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2022.

    The Near Protocol will have a fully functional sharded mainnet with a fixed number of shards by the end of Phase 2. The third phase, dubbed Dynamic Resharding, is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022. The announcement reads as follows:

    “In phase 3, we want to build on that by giving the network the ability to dynamically split and merge shards based on resource utilization.” As a result, NEAR will be nearly infinitely scalable and resilient to short-term usage spikes.”

    With the completion of Phase 3, the NEAR network will be able to dynamically adjust the number of shards based on their utilization.

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