NEARCON '23 Unwrapped: Lisbon Steps into the Open Web in Iconic Fashion – NEAR Protocol

NEARCON ’23 Unwrapped: Lisbon Steps into the Open Web in Iconic Fashion

NEAR Foundation
November 16, 2023

Over the course of three epic days, the NEAR ecosystem showed up and showed out to make NEARCON ‘23 the most iconic edition yet. Groundbreaking partnerships were announced, new bonds forged, and a new vision for AI and the open web was unveiled by some of the brightest minds in the blockchain business.

“The open web is an internet where all people control their own assets, data, and power of governance,” remarked NEAR co-founder and newly minted CEO of NEAR Foundation, Illia Polosukhin, on Day One of NEARCON ‘23. “And that vision extends beyond NEAR to the entire space, with the B.O.S. acting as the single entry point to an open web.” 

Illia’s remarks truly encapsulated the spirit of NEARCON ‘23, as innovative collaborations with the likes of Polygon and EigenLayer highlighted a cross-chain, multi-ecosystem future with NEAR enabling multiple key facets of tomorrow’s truly open web. 

So ICYMI, here’s all the key happenings, hubbub, and highpoints of an iconic NEARCON ‘23.

Partnerships, IRL Hackathon, and NCON make a splash

Things started off with a bang before the doors of the Convento Do Beato in Lisbon even opened, with the debut of the NCON token. The first ever native NEARCON token, attendees could download the NEARCON app and collect NCON tokens by completing tasks, bounties, and viewing sessions throughout the event.

NEARCON-goers could then redeem NCON tokens for swag or a bite from the various food trucks, or even send NCON to other attendees via a slick native wallet on the NEARCON app. All told, over 110,000 NCON tokens were distributed during the event, making it a smash hit amongst attendees.

This year’s NEARCON also took place across three cool and contrasting venues: NEARCON HQ, Hacker HQ, and Community HQ, each providing a unique experience for those of varying interests. HackerHQ was popping in particular due to the three day IRL Hackathon. Held in a stunning seaview venue, the winners will be announced next week, so stay tuned.

Once everyone settled in for Day One, the ecosystem was treated to a few major game-changing partnership announcements. Here’s a roundup of the major collabs that are already making an impact for NEAR builders, developers, and the community at large:

NEAR releases the Data Availability Layer for ETH Rollups and Ethereum developers

By far the biggest news of Day One was NEAR unveiling the NEAR Data Availability Layer (NEAR DA), offering robust, low-cost blockchain data to developers for modular open web development. NEAR DA will help developers reduce costs and enhance the reliability of rollups, while keeping the security of Ethereum. NEAR DA is a key part of tomorrow’s open web development stack, with early users including StarkNet, Caldera, Movement Labs, and others. 

NEAR x EigenLayer streamline Ethereum

NEAR Foundation announced its partnership with EigenLayer, which will speed  up transaction times and slashing costs on the Ethereum blockchain. The collaboration will introduce a fast finality layer to Ethereum rollups, boosting their efficiency and scalability. The fast finality layer showcases the strengths of NEAR’s technology while making the open web more usable.

LayerZero brings interoperability to NEAR

In other big news, LayerZero integrated with NEAR, bringing over 40 blockchain networks into the open web. Layer brings trustless cross-chain messaging into the fold, making NEAR a more versatile ecosystem. The announcement highlighted NEAR’s commitment to seamless communication across various blockchain networks.

Day One highlights: bringing the open web vision to life

While there were a ton of amazing sessions and panels on the first day — from open web gaming and sports to crypto economics — one of the major themes was how Illia would realize his vision for a truly open internet in his new role as CEO of the NEAR Foundation. With a renewed focus on developers in the ecosystem, it only makes sense for him to steer the ship.

Piggybacking on Illia’s “NEAR: The Open Web Vision” keynote, new NEAR COO Chris Donovan made a case for the open web, while also sitting down to discuss Web3 regulatory issues with Coindesk’s Michael Casey. And in other developer tooling news, NEAR Data Availability (DA) was announced, giving developers low-cost access to modular, scalable blockchain data.

Day Two highlights: the AI is NEAR track takes flight

The second day of NEARCON ‘23 was perhaps the boldest to date, with an epic “AI is NEAR” speaker and programming track that was simply mind blowing. Things kicked off with sessions featuring thought leaders from the likes of Pantera Capital and NEAR Tasks, and heated up even more with NEAR co-founder Alex Skidanov’s talk on generative AI and the open web.

Illia returned in the afternoon to discuss “AI on NEAR: The Future of Work and Governance,” painting a picture of how AI will impact the future of governance, work, asset ownership, and beyond. He was then joined by Mike Butcher of TechCrunch, with the two unpacking the intersection of AI, blockchain, and global policy.

“AI has the potential to be a huge driver for productivity,” Illia explained. “AI agents, for example,  are redefining the future of work. They have the unique ability to manage transactions and resources on blockchain platforms, communicate with secure cryptographic verification, and act as autonomous entities on people’s behalf — and directly for their benefit.”

The AI is NEAR track was capped off when Illia then joined Michael Casey for a Coindesk podcast, where the two dove as deep as one can imagine down the AI rabbit hole. In particular, Illia shared his experience, views, and predictions regarding AI, blockchain, and the open web – simply a must listen. (Stay tuned for the release of this Coindesk podcast with Illia and Michael.)

Day Three highlights: governance and hackathon on stage

Governance and current happenings with the NEAR Digital Collective (NDC) were front and center in a spirited Day Three. One of the most unique panels was the NEAR Governance Forum, featuring AVB from the Transparency Committee, Cameron Dennis from Banyan, and Blaze of Cheddar.

All three gave their takes on what’s gone right — and wrong — with the NDC since its inception at last year’s NEARCON. And in a “Round Robin” format, the three fielded a variety of questions from the audience, some of whom were NDC members themselves. Blaze and AVB then joined NEAR’s Yadira Blocker in an afternoon session discussing Decentralized Democracy in 2024.

The final season of NEARCON ‘23 featured presentations from the IRL Hackathon, where builders unveiled their work and ideas. Judges and panelists included Oleg Fomenko, CEO of Sweat Economy, with talented NEAR builders putting their best foot forward. They showcased some truly amazing ideas and tech, so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for the winners.

And what’s Day Three of any NEARCON without a party? This year’s bash was held at the LX Factory, an enormous space where all attendees got their final chance to network, share ideas, and have a blast. The Littles sponsored the party, bringing an added element of excitement by setting up carnival games at the venue along with The Fun Pass to reward anyone who played.

NEARCON ‘23: as iconic as it gets

If you joined us in Lisbon, a huge thanks for making this year’s edition so fun, spectacular, and rewarding. If you weren’t able to attend, we sincerely hope to see you next year. From transformative partnerships to leading the Web3 pack in AI, NEARCON ‘23 showcased the passion, momentum, and ingenuity of the entire NEAR ecosystem.

If you weren’t able to make it to Lisbon for NEARCON, don’t worry — you can still check out all of the talks. Visit NEAR Protocol’s YouTube page for the full livestreams from the Layer 1 and Layer 2 stages, or click the links below. 

Anyone who built furiously at the HackerHQ or clinked a cocktail at the Glass Movers & Shakers Happy Hour will likely tell you something similar: that NEARCON ‘23 showed the importance of a truly open web — and how together we can all achieve it.

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