Today’s Internet is very centralized in nature. Almost all popular web programs are frequently closed-source, proprietary, and are hosted in a handful of data centers run by major tech companies. Large portions of the web might also go offline if one crucial data center fails.
The possibility of centralized, corporate web-services providers censoring or de-platforming programs is a big worry (especially for privacy advocates).
Internet Computer (ICP) aims to offer an alternative to centralized systems so that developers can build, host, and serve applications in a more decentralized way, enabling the direct deployment of websites onto the open internet. Additionally, ICP would encourage the creation of open-source and transparent software.
The mission of ICP is to develop a new type of decentralized internet and global computing system, where independent data centers from around the globe could collaborate to develop an alternative to the cloud services like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud that currently power the majority of the internet.
ICP wants the protocol to be active on millions of computers all around the world.
Theoretically, any type of application can be developed and run on an Internet Computer, including social networks like LinkedIn and TikTok, and different types of apps that have not yet been imagined. ICP developers, for instance, have published an open beta for CanCan, a decentralized alternative to TikTok.
What is ICP?
Launched on 10 May 2021, ICP is an original Layer 1 blockchain project that created a ground-breaking public network. It offers an infinite environment for smart contracts that run at web speed, scales well, and considerably reduce compute costs.
The Internet Computer increases the computational capacity of the Internet because dapps (smart contracts) can function entirely on it as a result of its ability to feed web content straight into browsers.
Additionally, end users can interact with dapps on the Internet Computer in a seamless and safe manner. In particular, the Internet Computer’s ground-breaking chain key encryption means that users in general do not require any tokens to utilize a dapp or for anybody to download blockchain state to check the accuracy of transactions.
The Internet Computer’s anonymous blockchain authentication architecture, Internet Identity, enables users to safely log in to dapps.
Why is ICP important?
The Internet Computer makes an effort to present a fundamentally different option so that programmers can create, host, and serve applications in a more decentralized manner, enabling the direct deployment of websites onto the open internet. Additionally, the Internet Computer would encourage the creation of open-source and transparent software.
ICP main features
Integration with Bitcoin
Smart contracts will be added to Bitcoin by an expansion of the Internet Computer protocol. Each canister will receive a unique Bitcoin public key through the use of Chain Key cryptography, directly connecting the Internet Computer blockchain to the Bitcoin network. In particular, Bitcoin can be stored, sent, and received via smart contracts running on the Internet Computer.
Chain Key cryptography
One of the main innovations that allowed the ICP to expand to millions of nodes is Chain Key cryptography. It has a single public key, which allows any device, including smartwatches and mobile phones, to confirm the authenticity of artifacts produced by the ICP.
An international network of independent data centers houses the nodes that power the ICP blockchain. The participating nodes in each of its subnet blockchains must process the identical messages in the same order to guarantee that they arrive at the same state.
ICP is designed to be secure, reliable, and scalable. Subnet blockchains that execute Canister smart contracts on a number of nodes offer scalability. P2P layer technology permits trustworthy and secure communication between nodes occupying the same subnet. It collects and advertises messages from users, as well as from other nodes so that they will eventually be replicated across all nodes in the same subnet blockchain.
Canister smart contracts
Variables may be certified by canister smart contracts. When these variables are set, a Merkle tree certificate signed by the ICP blockchain is automatically generated for them. Anyone can use the public key of the ICP to confirm the legitimacy of this kind of data.
The open algorithmic system in charge of the ICP blockchain is known as the Network Nervous System (NNS). Its most important features have the ability to upgrade ICP protocols and software running on the node machines, include new node providers, add node machines to the blockchain network, add node machines to boost capacity, and create a subnet blockchain to increase capacity.
By staking ICP tokens into one or more neurons, anyone can take part in the NNS. Neurons can make suggestions and then choose whether to accept or reject them. Liquid democracy is implemented via the NNS, where neurons can follow one another and distribute voting authority.
Users can communicate with canister smart contracts and canisters through the ICP blockchain to send messages to each other. The Internet Computer is made up of several subnet blockchains for scalability, and its Network Nervous System can add more subnets as needed. The message routing component ensures that new subnets can be introduced smoothly and directs messages to and from canisters throughout all ICP’s subnet blockchains.
ICP uses ECDSA signatures that are widely used in the blockchain industry. This enables canister smart contracts to have an ECDSA public key and to sign with regard to it. The nodes of the subnet hosting the canister smart contract threshold share the appropriate secret key. This is a requirement for Bitcoin and Ethereum to be directly integrated with the ICP.
Who runs ICP?
ICP is operated by DFINITY Foundation which has research facilities in San Francisco and Zurich, as well as team members who work remotely from locations around North America, Europe, and Asia.
More than 200 eminent scientists and engineers who are experts in fields including cryptography, distributed systems, execution environments, language programming, and others make up the ICP team.
ICP is backed by Andreesen Horowitz, Polychain Capital, Amino Capital, Aspect Ventures, and Eterna Capital. It is planning to release decentralized finance apps as well. Anyone could use cryptocurrencies like ICP with the DeFi apps to replace current and traditional financial processes and transition to the new age of internet computers.
ICP is one of the top 35 blockchain projects today and commands a market capitalization of over $1.8 billion. According to CoinMarketCap.com, as on 28 July 2022, the ICP token is trading at $7.33 with a 24 hours trading volume of over $131 million. The project touched its peak market capitalization of over $45 billion on the day of its launch on 10 May 2021 with ICP tracking over $364.
With the awareness of Web 3 brewing across the globe, ICP’s hard work will soon be tested when more people start moving to a decentralized internet.