Origin and concept
The idea of NEM started on the Bitcointalk.org forum where the initial plan was to improve Nxt. The concept of Nxt was more than currency and contains features as assets, smart contracts, a message system and a marketplace. A group of developers decided against forking Nxt in January 2014 and instead wrote a new codebase from scratch. At launch in early 2015, the team of NEM was reportedly large, over 15 developers and almost 30 marketers or translators. The project originally was named “New Economy Movement” but this term however was quickly deprecated (2015) and just NEM in short is used since then. From day one NEM was designed to scale, be secure, fast and easy to build on. The support of a standard API based on open standards simplifies the adoption for developers.
In late 2015, some core NEM developers began working with Tech Bureau Corp on Mijin. Mijin is the first private blockchain project based on NEM technology. In 2016, several Japanese banks ran successful experiments on Mijin, which achieved 1,500 transactions per second with 2.5 million virtual bank accounts.
The NEM code is written entirely in Java in a client-server architecture which allows light clients to operate without running a local full copy of the NEM blockchain. Many of code is open source and can be located on Github here. However, the NEM server based component (NIS) is closed source. Currently the NEM project is working to replace the server based java code with a new C++ rewrite. This project is called “Catapult” and the developers inform that, when finished, it will be released as open-source. There is no formal indication when Catapult will be released further then the statement “it’s done, when it’s done”.
In 2016, somewhere during the Ethereum DAO crisis, several Japanese banks were engaged in the Mijin network testing. The successful results using the NEM blockchain as a new payment infrastructure, probably combined with the increasing interest in altcoins resulted in NEM jumping to the top of the largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. At the moment of writing NEM is the number 4 coin out there and quickly gaining popularity.
Why NEM ?
NEM contains some unique features and the combination of those, is actually what makes NEM such a promising blockchain technology.
NEM introduced a new consensus mechanism called Proof of Importance (PoI). It functions similarly to proof-of-stake, but it includes more variables than one’s NEM account holdings. The mechanism is designed to reward user’s contribution to the NEM community. This is a totally different approach then the more known PoW (proof-of-work) where clients perform mining to handle transactions. No energy craving mining is needed anyway, because all the 8,999,999,999 XEM (the currency of NEM) is premined.
NEM has an easy to use and open standard (JSON and REST) API that work directly with NIS. These can be requested for any transaction on any open node for free. This is a huge advantage since developers don’t have to learn a new specific language.
Support of a domain naming system on NEM called namespaces. Like the Internet namespaces these contain higher level domains and subdomains. This allows one person with one domain to create many different subdomains for their different projects or outside business accounts. It also helps to build and maintain a reputation system for Mosaics (see below).
Support of blockchain-based assets, which are called Mosaics. These mosaics themselves are customizable by amount in either a fixed capped or mutable quantity. They can be designed to be transferable or not, divisible or not, have personalized descriptions, and can be sent alongside encrypted messages in one transaction. Mosaics can be applied with a levy so that any mosaic being sent on the network will have to have a special fee paid above the normal transactions fees. Each mosaic gets a name that is under a unique domain in the Namespace system. New features are planned in the near future.
NEM includes native multisig transactions as part of the platform. While apps for other blockchains do support multisig transactions, the feature is often specific to an app, service, or wallet. NEM’s native functionality provides a standard which is applicable to all services.
NEM implements a node reputation system to help guard against a malicious node attack. Each node maintains a constantly updating trust value in each other node, based largely on how successful its attempts to synchronize have been and how accurate its feedback is about other nodes. The goal is to allow successful synchronization about the blockchain even when a large portion of the node network is colluding.
No one can predict how the future of NEM will look like. We all know there is many speculation about the whole distributed ledger technology in common. But the popularity of NEM seems to be rising within the blockchain community and with the release of Catapult the NEM community expects a huge leap for NEM regarding adoption and market capitalization. So as always, time will tell.