What to make of NEO? The Chinese blockchain is, on paper, the most successful Asian cryptocurrency project to date. It’s listed on most major exchanges, boasts high trading volume, hosts numerous ICOs and has smart contract functionality. Not everyone is impressed though. Critics have called NEO a centralized, expensive, and unusable disaster. So which interpretation is true?
NEO founder Da Hongfei is a man of few words. Despite having a Twitter following of 40,000, he’s tweeted just 71 times, averaging one message a month. On February 28, the CEO broke his silence to declare his satisfaction at having the first blockchain to be given an A-class rating by Weiss. The ratings agency has previously come in for criticism for awarding no cryptocurrencies an A and bitcoin a C. In a blog post, Mr Weiss himself – Martin D. Weiss PhD – hit back at the haters, writing:
I kind of expect it when we give a disappointing grade to a coin they love. Like Bitcoin’s C+, for example. But it seems the fury can be equally intense when we give a good grade to a coin they hate. In fact, that’s what we just saw happen this weekend with another explosion of buzz on the Internet about the Weiss Cryptocurrency Ratings. This time all about NEO.
Mr. Weiss naturally revels in the controversy – any publicity is good publicity for his company after all. Had Weiss Ratings previously awarded bitcoin and other blockchains an A, its decision to follow suit with NEO would have provoked little attention. But it didn’t. And so it has. Granting NEO an A confirms, in the eyes of critics, that Weiss – a company with no background in cryptocurrency – doesn’t understand the industry it is judging. What sort of skewed ratings system places one of the world’s most centralized cryptocurrencies leagues ahead of one of the most decentralized (bitcoin)?
“A Billion-Dollar Disaster”
Weiss Ratings make for an interesting talking point but they have little basis in reality. For those in the know – analysts with a proper grounding in cryptocurrency – NEO is a project that raises major red flags which no decorative award can mitigate. In general, Chinese cryptocurrency projects are more heavily centralized than those from the west, and NEO appears to be particularly guilty of this. This may change as more nodes are rolled out, but for now at least, NEO holds the keys to the castle.
One of the project’s more vocal critics is Store of Value blog, whose author has described NEO as “A Multi-Billion Dollar Disaster”. In a damning post, they outline their reasons for this pejorative, including the following:
• Blockchain slowdown during popular ICOs, questioning NEO’s claim to be able to support 1,000 tps. A post named The Story Behind the Worst ICO of 2018 outlines the problems that beset The Key’s crowdsale.
• Developer issues with getting smart contracts to work coupled with high deployment costs running into tens of thousands of dollars. Based on the current price of GAS, it would cost $15,000 to create a smart contract.
The other major issue affecting NEO is that its main use, at present, is as a springboard for ICOs. These projects need to prove themselves by adding real value and usability to the NEO ecosystem. If they can achieve that, and foster an interconnected framework of dapps, DEXes, protocols and off-chain solutions, NEO will prosper. If these projects fail to make an impact, however, or are constrained by issues affecting the blockchain, the entire ecosystem is at risk of failure.
Every blockchain has its technical problems to solve, and there is no reason why NEO can’t overcome its teething troubles and alleviate over-centralization concerns given time. Communication is not one of the team’s strong points, however, and while NEO muddles on in silence, the dissenting voices are getting louder.