Neo began in 2014 and was started by the Chinese company OnChain. The network of the blockchain is designed to fulfill three main purposes:
- Digital Identity: the storage and confirmation of identity information of individuals, companies and other subjects. (neo.org, n.d.)
- Digital assets: the storage and transfer of electronic assets such as cryptocurrency tokens.
- Smart contracts: execution of programs to run on a decentralised system when set conditions are fulfilled.
The cryptocurrency has two tokens: NEO (originally known as Antshares) and GAS (originally called Antcoins), both with a total maximum supply of 100 million (Blockgeeks, n.d.). Ownership of NEO tokens allows the owner to vote on decisions taken about the network. GAS has a function similar to Ether in Ethereum, where GAS is used to pay the network to carry out the instructions in smart contracts. Transactions can occur at a rate of up to 10,000 transactions per second (Wikipedia, n.d.), with blocks being created around every 15 seconds. GAS will be issued to NEO holders as well as being formed by every block. The consensus is a newly developed delegated Byzantine Fault tolerance algorithm, a modified Proof-of-Stake system where holders vote on whether to accept the next block, where 2/3 of actors are required to be honest and operating correctly for the network to function properly and that transactions are carried out as the participants intended.
The smart contract system is designed to allow developers to write programs in many environments, such as C#, Java and Python. (neo.org) This is intended to give programmers the flexibility to choose which programming language they write a smart contract in rather than limiting them to a language customised to a particular smart contract system, and thus allows access to many more programmers with the relevant skills.
Neo has an ambitious program of new features. NeoX is an idea to allow different blockchains to operate together, allowing transfers between tokens belonging to different blockchains such as Bitcoin and Litecoin, or allowing smart contracts from one network to run on another. NeoFS is an idea for a decentralised file storage system, with data being stored on NEO nodes, a decentralised version of cloud storage systems which are already widely available. NeoQS addresses the fact that current public/private key ECC-cryptography can be rendered ineffective by algorithms which can be run on quantum computers, by attempting to find cryptographic systems which are invulnerable to quantum computer algorithms. (Medium, October 2017)
Neo Wallets are available to store NEO and GAS tokens, and these tokens can be bought at various cryptocurrency exchanges.