NEAR is a decentralized development platform built on top of the NEAR Protocol, a public, sharded, developer-friendly, proof-of-stake blockchain. NEAR is like a public community-run cloud platform. That means it is a highly scalable, low-cost platform for developers to create decentralized apps on top of. While it's built on top of the NEAR Protocol blockchain, the NEAR Platform also contains a wide range of tooling from explorers to CLI tools to wallet apps to interoperability components, helping developers build much more quickly and the ecosystem to scale more widely.
Whereas most other "scalable" blockchains use approaches that centralize processing on high-end hardware to provide a temporary boost in throughput, NEAR Protocol's system allows the platform's capacity to scale nearly linearly up to billions of transactions in a fully decentralized way.
NEAR is being built by the NEAR Collective, a global collection of people and organizations who are collaboratively building this massive open-source project. Everyone in this Collective is focused on enabling usability improvements for both developers and their end-users so the next wave of apps can cross the chasm to a more general audience that has thus far been unable to consistently work with blockchain-based apps built on today's platforms.