The existing internet landscape is largely dominated by big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and a few others who host the majority of online activities. However, while this has been going on for years, a new blockchain initiative called Internet Computer Protocol (ICP) is set to change the narrative.
ICP, just like other blockchain protocols such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, wants people to build decentralised applications (dApps) as well as publish content on the internet by leveraging its open-source software development kit (SDK).
In addition, the protocol wants users to access the internet without interfering with conventional off-chain services like Amazon, Google, or Facebook.
Brief history of internet computer protocol
The Internet Computer Protocol (ICP) is a product of the Dfinity Foundation, a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2016 by Dominic Williams. As a seasoned developer, Dominic and his team members were dedicated to researching and developing the Internet Computer protocol which officially launched about five years later, in May 2021.
The foundation boasts at least 188 employees spread across the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany, with on-site personnel working in three of the network’s different research centres located in California, Zurich, and San Francisco.
So far, the project has been backed by several well-regarded investors with prominent ones among them including Andreessen Horowitz, Amino Capital, Polychain Capital, Aspect Ventures, Eterna Capital, and many more.
What is Internet Computer?
Internet computer in itself is a type of cryptocurrency that is powered by its own novel blockchain protocol known as Internet Computer Protocol (ICP), which, as we described earlier, allows users to build and host software applications using an open-source SDK.
By leveraging the interconnectivity of independent data centres around the world, ICP is able to offer a decentralised alternative cloud service to the current centralised internet service providers including the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook.
To achieve this, ICP requires as many computers as possible to run the proprietary protocol – hence forming a wide network acting as independent cloud storage for data storage. In comparison, the ICP network has greater advantages for diverse users over the conventional centralised cloud services.
Notably, the ICP network functions via open standards and is able to avoid the conflicts of interest that can arise when a major cloud-computing provider hosts products that compete with its own services.
By leveraging on blockchain advancement, the start-up, according to Williams, aims to “recreate the Internet as a computer that hosts secure software with superpowers”. Put differently, ICP wants to create a more open and decentralised internet that lets more people build and run new, different versions of applications.
How does internet computer work?
Let’s start with the biggest difference in its architectural framework. Unlike the majority of the blockchain networks that run on the cloud, ICP relies on dedicated computers operated by independent parties spread across the world.
As for how it works, rather than use a single server – as in the case of Google Cloud or Amazon cloud service – Internet Computer depends on several computers to transmit data from one user to another. This way, it doesn’t rely on a single cloud infrastructure to function, further implying that the interconnected computers could be located anywhere in the world.
On the other hand, data centres, similar to validation nodes in other blockchain projects, will be paid a fee – in crypto tokens – by app developers for running their code. However, this set of contributors will not have access to user data, making such thin things as targeted advertisements or other forms of privacy infringement a lot more difficult to achieve as it will be difficult to track users’ activities online.
Internet computer native asset – ICP
Internet Computer Protocol tokens (ICP tokens) are the network’s native utility token with a value determined on the open market. Just like with other decentralised protocols, ICP tokens play a key role in both the governance and the economics of the Internet Computer.
The ICP token is also used in the network’s reward system as it is awarded to members who participate in the governance of the protocol or those who contribute as a node provider.
Internet computer governance
The internet computer protocol, like most decentralised blockchains, has its own governing body.
The ICP governing body, known as the Network Nervous System or NNS, is in charge of overseeing several aspects of the protocol, including deciding which data centres participate in the network.
NNS is also in charge of selecting the number, location, and ownership of nodes accepted from a data centre provider, as well as assigning nodes to subnet blockchains.
Finally, if an upgrade to canister smart contracts or a new protocol version is required, the NNS council is responsible for deciding whether or not to proceed.
Similar to other decentralised networks, members of the NNS are qualified to participate in the network’s governance or decision-making processes only if they have converted part of their ICP tokens to neurons – another form of staking, for example.
These neurons, according to the ICP whitepaper, represent a number of ICP tokens that cannot be exchanged for a minimum period of time (the lock-up period).
Whether ICP has what it takes to disrupt the current internet infrastructure is still a debatable topic. However, it has shown great potential in its apparent short time of arrival in the market.