NEAR is a community-run platform that uses cloud computing to offer a foundation for developers to build dApps on. Imagine Amazon Web Services (AWS) but decentralized — relying on a blockchain network of computers to run the show. The protocol uses a variation of a proof-of-stake model self-titled ‘Doomslug’, while it uses a variation of sharding called ‘Nightshade’. No, we’re not making these names up. Sharding is a process by which certain nodes only need to store certain parts of the blockchain in order to increase transaction speeds and enhance network security.