Chris Osborne

CryptoBasics: NEO

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This is my first attempt at a mini guide for a cryptocurrency that’s aimed to be easily digestible for anyone. If you would like to see more of these mini guides, please let me know on Twitter.


NEO is a blockchain platform developed by Da Hongfei and a team of Chinese developers, and it’s rapidly grown in popularity due to its potential as a platform for virtual exchange of real-world assets.

The platform originally launched in 2014 as Antshares, and spent nearly a year in stealth mode before issuing a landmark whitepaper in late 2016, which detailed the group’s vision for a universal, blockchain-powered economy.

Team Members

Da Hongfei and Eric Zhang are the primary visionaries behind the NEO platform. Hongfei is also the CEO of OnChain, an organization that is separate and distinct from NEO (but nonetheless, remains closely intertwined with its community).

Hongfei remains the primary developer on the project, whose development team has now grown to roughly 20 people as of early 2018.

Around the same time as founding Antshares (which eventually was rebranded to NEO), Hongfei founded OnChain, a blockchain technology development firm that provides consulting services to other enterprises looking to leverage blockchain technology to set up decentralized networks.

What is NEO?

At its core, NEO is a blockchain venture aimed at utilizing blockchain technology to digitally track and secure assets, primarily using smart contracts. The team at NEO are focused on realizing a “smart economy” that has a fully distributed network, which is entirely trackable using regulation-compliant smart contracts.

Originally branded as Antshares, Hongfei’s project was rebranded to NEO in June 2017 and has experienced rapid growth since then. The main differentiator between NEO and its primary competitor, Ethereum, is its emphasis on creating a “smart economy”. In NEO’s parlance, a smart economy will be driven by a massive database of digitized physical assets that are tracked on the blockchain in real-time. Their ownership and usage can be tracked and validated through a decentralized public ledger at anytime, while remaining regulation-compliant.

As of February 2018, NEO had a market cap of ~$7.5b, making it the 8th largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization.


The investment vehicle of the NEO platform is the NEO token, also known as Antshares (ANS). Distinct from most cryptocurrencies, NEO is not divisible, and its smallest unit is always 1.

NEO’s protocol has a number of key differentiators which set it apart from platforms like Bitcoin and Ethereum, most notably:

NEO has a lower transaction latency and higher throughput than most crypto platforms, leading to dramatically increased performance overall.

Inherent in the NEO platform is NEOX, which allows collaboration between private and public blockchains. NEOX allows users to swap tokens without performing any physical exchange, and will be key to NEO realizing its vision of a Smart Economy.

NEO offers support for a number of programming languages (including Java, C++, and others). This lowers the barrier to entry for developers and allows nearly anyone that knows how to code, to contribute to the NEO platform.

To achieve consensus, NEO uses delegated proof of stake, rather than mining.

NEO uses digital certificates that are regulation-compliant to verify transactions (and the ownership of physical assets) on the blockchain.

That said, unlike Ethereum, NEO doesn’t presently have a large number of Dapps running on it. The team has recently upgraded the platform to allow smart contracts to work with website interfaces, indicating that this is likely to change in the near future.

In addition to having a robust platform, the NEO team has also forged a number of partnerships with key players in the industry, including Microsoft China and several regional governments in Mainland China (such as the Guiyang city government).

Future Plans

In 2018, Da Hongfei and team plan to continue forging strategic partnerships with relevant parties, including both government and private entities. They’re also working with Microsoft on connecting NEO to their Azure blockchain platform, primarily as an enterprise service.

Additionally, the team will continue to work with a number of Chinese government agencies on leveraging its digital certification system to verify the purchase and transfer of real-world assets within the country.

With NEO presenting at multiple blockchain events and consulting with key government agencies, the firm seems poised to continue being a key player in China’s blockchain industry. By partnering on key initiatives with the Chinese government in particular, NEO (and its close affiliate OnChina) can continue to build out its digital identity platform while inching closer to its goal of realizing a fully distributed, transparent Smart Economy.

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