The DFINITY Foundation's new Internet Computer is not just an innovative blockchain technology. Quite possibly, it's an advancement in computing comparable to Vinton Cerf's and Bob Kahn's 1973 creation of TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol). Their milestone achievement became the cornerstone of both Web1.0 and Web2.0.
Following in the footsteps of TCP/IP, the Internet Computer aims to serve as the supporting backbone for emerging Web3.0 applications. Instead of running on commercial cloud and web service providers, its technology stack runs on approved, independent data centers, called nodes, spread across the globe in a decentralized manner.
These nodes are connected via a new internet protocol called ICP (Internet Computer Protocol). ICP's name is, of course, an obvious homage to IP. And, based on the Internet Computer's rapidly expanding showcase of applications, it's living up to the hype encouraged by the DFINITY Foundation's charismatic spokesperson, Dominic Williams.
Indeed, the Internet Computer marks an advancement in the development of decentralized computing that's so significant, some people are referring to it as a blockchain singularity. What they mean is that prior ways of evaluating, building, and thinking about how to use blockchain technology are now incomplete and increasingly obsolete, thanks to the Internet Computer's astonishing capabilities.
Here are five reasons why the Internet Computer matters:
1. The Internet Computer is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Today's Internet, often called Web 2.0, is a jumble of proprietary networks and services overseen by Big Tech. In fact, corporations like Amazon, Google, Meta, and Microsoft control most application ecosystems and own and maintain a significant proportion of the physical infrastructure of the World Wide Web.
Imagine the economic and social upheaval if Google or Meta went out of business! These companies have made themselves too big to fail without dire consequences, which means it's very difficult to hold them truly accountable for their actions.
Needless to say, because of Big Tech's excessive centralization of power and ownership, the potential for corruption, censorship, and failure in global communication systems is vast. Even worse, Big Tech may be inadvertently contributing to stalled technological innovation.
Meaningful competition is necessary to spark such innovation — and often, meaningful competition isn't practical or profitable in the controlled environment of proprietary application ecosystems.
Anyone developing or hosting software on Big Tech's technology stacks is ultimately at the mercy of Big Tech's whims. Innovators simply cannot stray beyond the narrow specifications of privately owned application programming interfaces, over which they have no direct control.
Rather than being overseen by private interests motivated by profit, the Internet Computer is a public blockchain network that expands the utility of the existing World Wide Web with enhanced smart contract technology. It also runs independently of commercial cloud services, which means it's not beholden to the priorities or taboos of Big Tech.
Instead, the DFINITY Foundation, which develops the Internet Computer, is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, with satellite locations in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Tokyo.
To help rekindle much-needed innovation that has unfortunately stagnated during the era of Big Tech, the Internet Computer Association (ICA), a Geneva-based independent members organization, will advocate for the Internet Computer and coordinate ecosystem participants without concern for corporate revenue. Your needs and your values will drive the Internet Computer, not Big Tech's bottom line.
2. The Internet Computer secures your digital identity and activity against advertisers, hackers, and other malicious agents.
The Internet Computer does away with the need for passwords (and associated hacking risks) using what's called an Internet Identity to connect your online activity with your physical tech gear, such as a smartphone or laptop. This anonymous blockchain authentication framework ensures that:
- you own your data;
- your data is backed up by the blockchain; and
- your access to your data is even more secure than with two-step verification.
In case any of your physical devices get compromised, you can quickly recover your Internet Identity using a seed phrase that you've stored in a secure location. That's a lot easier than keeping track of dozens of different login credentials for a multitude of disparate Web services!
You also won't have to worry about data leaks from centralized server hacks or pesky pop-up ads. Nobody can access your account or any information about you unless you willingly volunteer it or grant access to a registered physical device.
3. The Internet Computer reimagines smart contracts and software in general.
It's valid to ask whether common cryptocurrency concepts like smart contracts can sufficiently explain the mechanics of the Internet Computer. Canisters are, in fact, a remarkable evolution beyond smart contracts, and they are what empower the Internet Computer. These interoperable compute units are protected against external tampering and work across platforms and programming languages.
Say goodbye to database servers, web servers, DNS services, and firewalls! None of these traditional features are needed or relevant due to the novel functionality of canisters. Someday soon, you'll be able to do everything (and more!) on the Internet Computer that you can on the World Wide Web. Imagine a future where delays in train or plane arrivals are automatically communicated to your calendar and ride-sharing arrangements.
Thanks to the near zero-cost of NFT (non-fungible token) transactions on the Internet Computer, collective and individual ownership of intellectual property will be easy and tamperproof to track and verify. For example, if someone steals a copyrighted image and reposts it, the fraud will be spotted immediately. Only the Internet Identity that owns the image, or has rights to use it, will be associated with that image's NFT. This can be checked instantly!
4. The Internet Computer's governance token, ICP, presents an exciting new theoretical model of value that will complement Bitcoin.
Bitcoin alone can't beat fiat currencies because it digitally replicates an outmoded arbitrary, non-utility value model. Like gold, Bitcoin only has value right now by popular consensus because it's scarce and difficult to mine. ICP goes beyond Bitcoin to embrace the advantage of directly tokenizing utility without the disadvantage of fiat currencies' centralized administration.
Owning ICP allows participation in network governance using Network Nervous system (NNS) and can power cycles to run decentralized applications that do not depend on the whims of governments or major private entities like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
The Internet Computer promises to enhance Bitcoin and increase its value by associating it with utility. A recent vote to integrate the Internet Computer with Bitcoin will allow smart contracts to directly operate on Bitcoin balances for the very first time.
Rather than being an Ethereum Killer or Bitcoin Killer, the Internet Computer is poised to enter into a symbiotic relationship with existing cryptocurrency and Web3.0 structures to connect and empower them.
One could argue the Internet Computer is an Ethereum Savior. Indeed, the Internet Computer has positioned itself to become the decentralized Internet of the future, with the goal of creating a new open Internet within ten years. Therefore, the Internet Computer has the potential to create entirely new modes of value.
5. The Internet Computer is environmentally friendly.
At the time of writing, Fortune Magazine reports that each Bitcoin transaction consumes 1,173-kilowatt hours of electricity, which translates to about $176 in energy costs alone. Carbon emissions from Bitcoin mining and transactions grew by 40 million tons from 2018 to 2020, equal to that of 8.9 million cars; this carbon footprint is roughly comparable to that of whole nations, including Greece.
According to Statista, this electricity usage is equivalent to 100,000 VISA transactions. Meanwhile, NFT exchanges built on Ethereum are so costly, some artists have denounced them as an "ecological nightmare pyramid scheme."
Due to the intensive processing demands of cryptographic mining operations, transacting an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain produces the same carbon footprint generated in a month by an average resident of the European Union. Blockchains like Ethereum and Bitcoin may be unsustainable long-term without new infrastructure and more efficient transaction processes.
In contrast to Ethereum, Bitcoin, and many other blockchains, Internet Computer subnets do not use proof-of-stake or proof-of-work consensus mechanisms that simply require sprawling digital mining operations to process transactions. Instead, Internet Computer subnets interact via chain key technology.
Smart contract transactions are finalized in about 1 second at a total cost of approximately 0.0001 ICP, which works out to about 0.6 USD. Sending or receiving ICP, NFTs, or other data on the Internet Computer is comparable in electricity usage to sending an email. Moreover, in case of rising ICP prices, transaction costs can be dynamically changed via new proposals on the Internet Computer's NNS.
The above five reasons are far from comprehensive. In a nutshell, the Internet Computer matters because it can scale to unbounded capacity, reimagines Web services in creative ways, offers a more streamlined and open technology stack than proprietary application programming interfaces, is adaptive, is efficient, is low cost, and is environmentally friendly. If the future of the Internet matters to you, then so should the Internet Computer, because simply put, it is the future.
- Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original author and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Dfinity Community staff and/or any/all contributors to this site.