On August 3rd, NEO founders Da Hongfei and Erik Zhang participated in an Ask Me Anything session on the NEO subreddit. The AMA was designed as a platform to address some of the community’s primary concerns, and to mark the beginning of improved communication between the NEO Foundation and the wider NEO ecosystem.
NEO’s 2020 Goals
A common line of questioning from the NEO community during the AMA was regarding how the NEO Foundation intended to deliver on their goal of making NEO the #1 public blockchain by 2020. Erik explained that part of this was simply related to improving the technology of the platform, meaning increasing NEO’s transaction throughput, making the platform more stable and opening it up to store large quantities of data for businesses. Da further commented that another priority was making the blockchain more developer friendly, which will be achieved by reducing the barriers to entry in terms of deployment cost.
The community also questioned how NEO Global Development planned to meet their expectations for improvements to the code base with such a small team of core developers. The NEO founders commented that although the in-house development team was originally kept small to allow plenty of room for community contributions, they realize that the current blockchain landscape means a dedicated team is required for core protocol upgrades. As a result, they are moving into a larger office and hiring additional developers. This should provide the NEO ecosystem with consistent, stable core development whilst the community can focus more on new proposals and technical solutions.
As the NEO Foundation controls a large percentage of the overall supply, the community has been urging NEO Global Development and NEO Global Capital to make the use of funds more transparent, and as a result this was a very popular topic during the AMA. Erik Zhang confirmed that the NEO Foundation’s funds are used only to pay core developers, fund technical communities and invest in projects or dApps in the NEO ecosystem. At the time of writing, around 5 million tokens have been spent for these purposes. Erik also noted what happens to the profits made by those investments: “Profits from those investments will return to the NEO Foundation and become a fund for community building.”
In addition to the clarity offered by these comments, Da Hongfei also mentioned that transparency has been made a priority for Q3 and Q4 of 2018. He noted that NEO Global Capital will begin releasing financial reports in Q3, and will continue releasing them in future. Da comments: “I wish NEO’s community will be proud when talking about NEO’s transparency by the end of the year.”
Decentralization was another popular topic, with some community members expressing disdain at the current lack of progress. Erik Zhang surprised a large number of people by mentioning NEO had already become more geographically decentralized, with most consensus nodes being located outside of China. There has been a common assumption since the launch of the MainNet that the NEO nodes were all located in OnChain’s offices, however according to Erik and Malcolm Lerider, this is not actually the case. Currently, the active NEO consensus nodes are spread across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and China, with plans to vote strategic partner nodes onto the MainNet over the coming months.
It should be noted that this does not mean NEO is politically decentralized; this requires a functional voting system with the voting power being sufficiently distributed amongst the community. Discussions for voting systems are still ongoing, and the NEO Foundation intends to continue diluting their token share to allow the community to take control over consensus.
A general lack of marketing has been another common criticism of NEO. Erik and Da have both mentioned in the past that their priority is building the ecosystem, but some investors felt NEO’s marketing had fallen behind in terms of attracting new adoption and investment. Da Hongfei encouraged any marketing talents to reach out and contact email@example.com if they believe they could offer some value to the platform, but he also confirmed that NEO Global Development will be reviewing past marketing work and exploring new avenues in the future.
Relationship between ONT and NEO
Da Hongfei and Erik Zhang also made it very clear that NEO and Ontology are not competitors. Although technically any smart contract platform can perform the same functions as another, the features of each consensus mechanism or other core design choices mean some are better positioned than others in specific areas. Erik comments: “NEO’s vision is to serve the smart economy, while Ontology is positioned as an authentication and trust network. They can complement and cooperate with each other.”
Da also added to this topic, debunking the claim that employees are being transferred from Ontology to NEO. He explained that there is almost zero personnel transfer between OnChain, NEO and Ontology: “I said ‘almost zero’ because the only exception is Johnson Zhao, who used to work for OnChain and transferred to NEO Global Development.”
He also went on to explain that despite holding no title aside from that of founder, he is actively involved in NEO’s management and technological decisions. He mentioned that he has no plans to leave NEO, contrary to some claims, and is working hard to fulfil NEO’s 2020 goal.
The full AMA can be found at this link.