Stake Wars is Over, but We’re Just Getting Started

October 9, 2020

Almost one year from its first announcement, we are closing one of the most important chapters in the history of NEAR Protocol: The Stake Wars.

Born as a competition on top of our incentivized testnet, it quickly became everything but war, it was the birth of our Validator community. Over the course of the year, professional validators and skilled node operators helped each other to complete challenges and learn more about what it takes to be a great Validator for the NEAR community. Stake Wars participants spent hours on community chats and Github repositories to build the robust and secure infrastructure that today is running NEAR MainNet.

As a reward, a relatively small number of them, out of more than 200 active members, were selected to be the first Validators to produce blocks for MainNet Phase I. It was hard to pick the best, as every participant deserved this privilege for their commitment, passion, and participation.

Their names are (in order of staking transactions from here):

Staked, DSRV Labs, Dokia Capital, Cryptium Labs, Buildlinks, Sparkpool, Hashquark, Jazza, Erm, Bison Trails, ZKValidator, Certus One, Zavodil, Inotel, Masternode24, Lunanova, Fresh, Figment, Bazilik, 01node, Stakefish, Moonlet, Open Shards, Stakin, OkEx Pool, Chorus One, Nodeasy, Astro Stakers. 

With the end of Stake Wars, all grants related to the program are ending: no more tokens will be provided to contributors, and the NEAR Foundation will not be staking to Validators for completing the challenges.

Furthermore, BetaNet (the network we used for the Stake Wars) will be repurposed for deeply testing weekly releases, so we expect to hard fork within a few days, reset the accounts, and onboard only a small number of selected Validators from the community for testing.

When One Chapter Ends, a New One Begins

While the Stake Wars competition is over, we’re excited to announce three new opportunities to join NEAR as Validators, offering even more opportunities for rewards and community building than the Stake Wars alone:

  1. NEAR Foundation Delegation
  2. BetaNet Analysis Group
  3. Open Shards Alliance

1) NEAR Foundation Delegation

The NEAR Foundation, which isn’t running validating nodes of its own, will offer delegation to new validators who apply and meet a set of ongoing criteria in supporting the network.

This initiative has three objectives:

  • Supporting High-quality Validators. Organizations that are geographically diverse, invest in building their own infrastructure, and are responsive to outages, but rarely have them because their uptime is close to 100%.
  • Fostering Ecosystem Growth. Identifying Validators committed to NEAR Community growth. Hosting local events, creating educational NEAR content, and developing tools and user interfaces for the community.
  • Guiding Fair Operations. Funds will be rotated between Validators as needed to balance the ecosystem and will take into consideration fees associated with every delegation. It’s important for Validators to be transparent about their operations and communicate openly with the community.

If interested in learning more or providing feedback about this initiative, please reach out via this form.

2) BetaNet Analysis Group

If during the Stake Wars you loved the thrill of catching bugs, chatting with NEAR developers in the middle of the night, sending detailed bug reports, and submitting pull-requests, this is for you. 

We are assembling a group of 5 skilled node operators to run a BetaNet node in a production-grade environment to test future releases of NEAR. This program will offer a monthly grant of $1000 (paid in NEAR) to partially cover the costs of servers, technical calls and submitting bug reports. Also, new Validators joining this program will be mentioned in the community updates, a valuable perk to attract stake from the community of delegators.

Apply from this link (the same as the above), specifying in the notes that you want to join the BetaNet Analysis Group. The NEAR Core team will evaluate your application based on geography, type of infrastructure, previous validator experience, Stake Wars participation and community participation.

If selected, you can be in the group for up to six months at a time before applying again if you wish to continue in the program. Every six months we will rotate members of the group to encourage participation from the wider community.

3) The Open Shards Alliance

During the Stake Wars, a group of Validators decided to deploy and launch their own NEAR network, with different parameters and rules – including sharding, which is not yet enabled on NEAR MainNet.

This community-driven initiative started from our Guild Program, and is not related to the NEAR Core team. The Open Shards Alliance is an excellent opportunity to become proficient in running NEAR nodes and learn the internals of the protocol. 

Thanks to a grant from NEAR Foundation, the Open Shards Alliance is now offering tokens to all contributors who help run their network, ‘GuildNet’, visible on the explorer, at this address.

You can learn more and join the Open Shards Alliance today, on Discord.

Wrapping up

The Stake Wars, NEAR’s incentivized testnet program, is now over, but there are even more new and exciting ways to stay engaged and receive support to become a Validator on NEAR:

  1. The NEAR Foundation Delegation initiative is an application-based process to onboard more high quality validators from the community
  2. The BetaNet Analysis Group is for technical teams who want to help NEAR build future releases of nearcore.
  3. The Open Shards Alliance is a community initiative under the Guild Program that will provide small NEAR token contributions, and will offer a great opportunity to learn NEAR Protocol internals

Questions? Join the conversation on Discord, and connect to our community calendar to never miss any NEAR event.

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