Internet Computer (ICP) is a blockchain-based decentralized network intended to provide a “limitless” environment for smart contracts and other decentralized applications to run at web speed. Launched by Swiss-based cryptography foundation DFINITY, Internet Computer provides key infrastructure upgrades that may potentially solve the scaling issues of other blockchain networks such as Ethereum.
By using Internet Computer, DFINITY’s site advocates, developers can build everything from mass-market tokenized social media platforms that seamlessly run on-chain, entire DeFi ecosystems, and even extend Ethereum-based dApps– all of which would be done at web speed and at a fraction (a reduction by “a million times or more” of current computing costs.
Part of Internet Computer’s toolbox is the delegation of merchants to nodes, or supernodes, where the system experiences a slight bend of centralization. It removes environment-related limitations for developers such as physical or virtual network configuration requirements alongside firewalls, network topology, and port management– developers don’t even have to worry about database configuration and maintenance.
Internet Computer’s bold mission should rightfully be critically examined by proponents of blockchain, because if it does work at the promised scale, it could change the blockchain industry.
Let’s explore how Internet Computer ticks.
Everything You Need to Know About Internet Computer
Internet Computer is an innovation in blockchain technology that essentially enables it to run web speed with an unbounded capacity. This claim, as of writing, is purely conceptual.
Founded in October 2017 by Dominic Williams, Internet Computer (ICP) quickly rose to prominence and in the market cap rankings. As of writing, it has a market cap of roughly $14 billion, making it the 10th largest cryptocurrency by market cap.
Williams invented Threshold Relay and Probabilistic Slot Consensus and is an active member of Bitcoin and Ethereum technical communities. Prior to ICPO, he worked as the CTO of String Labs and was the Founder and CEO of Fight My Monster, a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game and fun social media network for kids.
ICP is designed to scale smart contract and data computation, run them at web speed, and process and store data safely and efficiently.
It has created software frameworks to make it easier for developers to use as well. Internet Computer aims to revolutionize tokenized Internet services, the underpinning decentralized financial systems, and perhaps even traditional enterprise systems and websites.
However, becoming the world’s computing platform by extending the public internet to blockchain isn’t a simple feat. Internet Computer utilizes several technologies in its attempt:
- Chain Key Technology: Chain Key Technology utilizes multiple cryptographic protocols to orchestrate the nodes that make up the Internet Computer. It has a single public key. CKT allows any device, such as a smartphone or a smartwatch, to verify the authenticity of artifacts from the Internet
- Non-Interactive Distributed Key Generation (NIDKG): this non-interactive, publicly verifiable secret sharing scheme consists of a dealer constructing a Shamir secret sharing of field elements. Then, these dealers confidentially and verifiably distribute shares to multiple receivers. Shamir’s Secret Sharing was formulated by Adi Shamir and is one of the first secret sharing schemes in cryptography based on polynomial interpolation over finite fields.
- Network nervous System (NNS): The tokenized open governance system is responsible for managing the Internet Computer. It stores information about which nodes belong to which subnet, and handles the updating of the information.
- Internet Identity: An online identity that an internet user establishes in online communities and websites.
Chain Key Technology is the engine that drives Internet Computer. It allows new nodes to be added, and to form new subnets that can, in theory, scale the network infinitely. Faulty or crashed nodes can be replaced with new ones, without compromising the system.
Chain Key Technology allows the Internet Computer to run at web speed, where the calls are executed in milliseconds, and update calls take between one to two seconds to finalize.
At Genesis, the Internet Computer has a block rate of 2.5 blocks per second (Bps), and it is anticipated to gradually reach 10.3 bps, with a reach goal of 1,000 bps by the end of 2021.
Each of the old signers needs to broadcast one message to the new signers on the non-interactive key resharing protocol, This is done securely through encrypted forwarding secrecy as well as non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs. Since the resharing protocol is non-interactive, it’s highly adaptable to an asynchronous environment.
The ICP Token
The Internet Computer token, ICP, is responsible for:
- Facilitating Network Governance: ICP tokens are locked to create “neurons” that participate in network governance through voting. Users receive economic rewards for doing so.
- Production of Cycles for the Computer: the ICP token acts as a source store of value that can be converted into “cycles.” Cycles power computation, sort of like fuel. The fuel is burned as used. The NNS converts ICP to “cycles” at a variable rate, which is constantly configured by the NNS in response to external markets.
- Rewarding the Participants: The network mints new ICP to reward and incentivize network participants. Users can participate in several roles in order to get rewarded with ICP, including governance, voting, and operating the node machines that host the network.
In May 2018, DFINITY announced plans to distribute 35 million Swiss Francs worth of DFINITY tokens in an airdrop to promote a “Cloud 3.0” to community members to help them become early users.
DFINITY launched the alpha mainnet on December 18th, 2018.
Internet Computer is currently supported by 48 independent data centers in North America, Europe, and Asia, running a total of 1,300 nodes. The network is estimated to grow exponentially to support the next generation of large-scale dapps.
There is a maximum of 469,213,710 ICP tokens at Genesis, and the circulating supply depends on market dynamics. At the time of Genesis, an estimated 23.86% of the tokens were held by the DFINITY Foundation, 18% by Internet Computer team members, 24.72% by seed donors, 9.5% by early contributors, and the remainder distributed to other tiers of investors, and strategic partnerships.
Where Can I Buy the Internet Computer (ICP)?
If you want to buy, sell or trade Internet Computer (ICP), you can do so on popular exchanges such as:
- Coinbase Exchange
- Huobi Global
Notable Backers and Investors
DFINITY has raised a total of $121 million from investors such as:
- Andreessen Horowitz
- Polychain Capital
- SV Angel
- Aspect Ventures
- Electric Capital
- Scalar Capital
- Multicoin Capital
Company History: The DFINITY Foundation
The DFINITY Foundation is a nonprofit based in Zurich, Switzerland. The Foundation consists of some of the world’s most highly accomplished and regarded cryptographers.
The team includes Timo Hanke as Head of Engineering. Hanke is a renowned mathematician and cryptography professor– he created AsicBoost to increase the efficiency of Bitcoin mining. Mahnush Movahedi joined as a senior researcher from Yale, where she worked on scalable and fault-tolerant distributed algorithms for consensus and secure multi-party computation. Ben Lynn, who previously worked at BLS cryptography which is used in Threshold Relay to generate randomness and achieve security alongside speed and scale in public networks. Andreas Rossberg co-designed the WebAssembly virtual machine that is used at DFINITY.
DFINITY’s members have contributed to over 100,000 academic citations and 200 patents.
With a $61 million raise from Andreesen Horowitz and Polychain Capital in a February 2018 raise, DFINITY jumped onto the radar as one of the most notable projects being built in a cryptocurrency bear market.
The DFINITY Foundation raised another $102 million in August of 2018 from SV Angel, Andreesen Horowitz, Village Global, Aspect Ventures, Amino Capital, and others, bringing its total funding to $166.9 million.
During this time period, DFINITY wanted to create an “internet computer” to cut down the costs of running cloud-based business applications, directly competing with Amazon’s Amazon Web Services. ICP publicly launched on May 10th, 2021.
Many people have dedicated their lives to blockchain technology evolution, and Internet Computer showcases the intersection between academia and reality. From its native innovations and applications, such as Chain Key Technology, Non-Interactive Distributed Key Generation (NIDKG), Network Nervous System (NNS), ICP token, the project has showcased creativity worth noting.
If the DFINITY and Internet Computer team can create a sustainable blockchain capable of solving the current limitations of blockchain, it will be sitting on top of an opportunity to change the world.
Think of an Internet Computer like an open-source software that updates itself using internal governance.
Think of it as open-source software that updates itself using inbuilt governance, and can provide guarantees to the users in the form of smart contracts. These cover how the data could be used, or provide guarantees to startups that want to build functionality without worry about their access being removed from the platform.
Internet Computer will drive a wave of innovation, growth, opportunity, and productive ways of doing things in a new and intriguing way.