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Internet Computer – Evolution Of The Internet

Everything around us is supposed to be evolved including ourselves and our technology for advancement and betterment. Advanced product is always better than the previous version of themselves. It is more dynamic and acquires better features. Internet Computer is evolved version of the traditional Internet. Internet Computer has brought a new protocol called ICP (Internet Computer Protocol) which is far more advanced if compared with traditional Internet Protocol (TCPIP).

The Internet itself has been evolved over time. In the beginning and early 90s, some tech giants of the time such as American Online often called AOL (Internet Service provider) and CompuServe proposed the idea of charging for the use of the internet hourly or daily basis for their monopolistic and proprietary vision, but when an open Internet Protocol (IP) was developed and deployed for users, it changed the idea of global connectivity and internet. Its openness caused the migration of users, developers, and entrepreneurs from protocols of tech giants to the open and standardized Internet Protocol.

But as time passed new and new tech whales started developing services that would enable them controlling others. In the early 90s, some people such as Bill Gates predicted that the open Internet will eventually come under the influence of big corporations with enormous power, big corporations would somehow own the internet and every transaction of information will be charged; which is not far from the reality of today. New entrepreneurs, innovators, and enterprise IT, etc are being more and more dependent on cloud platforms provided by tech giants of today; which means they are constantly under the threat of platform risk. We will talk about platform risk later in this article.

That is not the only existing problem that needs to be addressed quickly but we have many. Monopolization, hack attacks or tampering, proprietary platforms, unnecessary complexity, complexity in building and maintaining, closed sourced services and closed sourced APIs, complex and uneconomical security system. Internet computer is going to address all these problems and lead the internet back to its root, which is the “Internet of the people and for the people”.

Further, in this article, we will try to understand the goal of Internet Computer with its approach and we will see its necessity. We are not going to jump into the depth of highly technical details since it won’t be helpful for readers with nontech backgrounds. We will keep the flow as fast and easy as possible for readers.

In order to progress further in the article, we will divide it into a few parts:

  • Significance of developing Internet Computer (what problems are we facing in traditional web2 architecture).
  • Explanation about Internet Computer and Dfinity.
  • Advantages of Internet Computer

Significance of developing Internet Computer

You can say that today’s Internet is run by a few big tech companies. Since they have huge capital and infrastructure they are facilitating some services like cloud platforms to other corporations, entrepreneurs, innovators, etc, which has enabled them to control those who depend on them. Most new startup projects are being targeted by those tech giants once they found them competitive.

Let us discuss the existential threat of platform risk. Imagine you have built a beautiful house with all the facilities you needed and everything is just state of the art and best out of best, but you missed the most important thing which is the foundation of that house. Your foundation or the platform on which you have built your beautiful house was not proper. At the end of the day, the house that you built with all your efforts and hard work will collapse.

Similarly, your website or app or any internet service will collapse if the platform over which you are building is neither open/secured nor reliable.

Small scale data transformation or storage does not require huge and complex IT infrastructure, but if you are dealing at the corporate level then you will surely require those servers and data centers for hosting your data. The scale will be so huge that it’s going to be uneconomical as well impractical for you to handle by yourself or your IT department. The most practical approach will be that you hire third-party proprietary cloud service providers to handle your IT work.

Few cloud service providers like Amazon’s AWS, Google’s Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft’s Azure provide the platform of cloud computing for entrepreneurs, corporations, developers. But once they feel competitive capabilities in innovators they will cut out their services by using loopholes since they are purely proprietary platforms with monopolistic nature.

Figure 1: internet controlled by big tech giants

Most of the internet services are built over those proprietary cloud service providers and they are constantly under the threat of platform risk from cloud service providers.

Zynga was a gaming company and was in some ad revenue to deal with Facebook. Zynga was using the APIs of Facebook for their gaming services, but Facebook changed its rules, revoked its APIs, and denied Zynga accessing its APIs; Zynga lost almost 85% of its market cap in a very short amount of time.

The same thing happened with Yelp when Google changed its rules for search results.

It also happened with thousands of new startups who were using APIs from LinkedIn.

What happened with Zynga, Yelp or new thousands of startups could and will happen to others as well. This is how big techs are monopolistically shrinking the space of innovation and creativity. This is what we call platform risk and we require solid solutions.

That’s the reason why Dominic Williams the founder and chief computer scientist of Dfinity Foundation repeatedly quotes in interviews that “if you build on big tech today, you are really building on sand”.

Platform risk is not the only risk here in traditional internet systems. Whenever any internet service is being accessed, your command and data go through many sub-operational systems and servers including those proprietary services of data hosting. It includes databases, data centers, web servers, and the entire IT infrastructure. If by chance any of these devices is malfunctioned or miss configured, or any code is misused by human error there are chances of system hacked since hackers would be able to penetrate the firewall or security software. So hacking is also unavoidable at some level, which is a very serious problem. It may lead to breaching and thieving. These security and maintenance services are costing 3.9Trillion USD a year worldwide.

Another major problem in traditional internet is complexity in the structure itself.

Figure 2: complex proprietary structure

These are the reasons why it was extremely necessary to develop Internet Computer today.

If we didn’t create Internet Computer, somebody else would. It’s a natural evolution of Internet

Dominic Williams, On Bloomberg Market

Explanation about Internet Computer and Dfinity

What is Dfinity?

When I heard the word Dfinity for the first time, I broke it into two!

Dfinity = Decentralized + Infinity, (I could be wrong I don’t know about that)

Their official logo is also a symbol used in physics and mathematics to represent the concept of infinity.

According to the official website, The Dfinity Foundation is a not-for-profit organization based in Zurich, Switzerland. They have research centers in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Zurich. Dominic Williams is the founder and chief scientist of the organization. They are working on computer science as well science behind the Information Technology to make it more secured, user friendly, and open.

Their mission is to develop the technology that supports the next generation of internet powered by public blockchain networks and ecosystems.

What is an Internet Computer?

Internet Computer is an extension of the traditional Internet. Internet Computer extends the functionality and operation of the existing Internet systems. Internet computers will solve the problems that exist on traditional internet systems as we discussed earlier. So in the short, it’s an evolved version of the internet. It provides a new way of building and hosting applications or webs over the internet.

The traditional Internet is a combination of many independent networks as we all know. All these small networks that make up the internet follow the Internet Protocol (or TCPIP). When a developer is building over the internet via TCPIP protocol then it has to go through problems that we have discussed already.

But unlike it, an Internet Computer is made up of thousands of independent data centers. These data centers are distributed and form a global network via protocols called ICP. These data centers run on the ICP protocol. These data centers serve the same functionality those proprietary cloud platforms were providing. Those cloud platforms were making the internet sort of centralized but here independent data centers are distributed and not centralized. They run and form the cloud which is cryptographically secured and run with a secured public ledger called a blockchain.

So instead of hosting and storing your data over the proprietary cloud service platforms, you can host your data or codes or the software (canister model) directly over the Internet Computer. So now you are not building your internet service on sand anymore. Everything here is developed using advanced cryptography and blockchain to keep the transactions hackproof and valid (transactions don’t mean only the value of any asset but it stands for information transformation in general).

This is how you will not require those proprietary services anymore if you build on Internet Computer.

Figure 3: replacement of the traditional structure

To put it in simple words, the Internet Computer itself is a large and imaginary distributed cloud (or provides cloud-like functionality) of numbers of independent data centers.

ICP is a protocol via which these data centers communicate or run over the network, Where ICP stands for Internet Computer Protocol.

What is Canister Modeling or Canister?

Canisters are just an upgraded version of smart contracts. In an Internet Computer, the way of hosting smart contracts is changed dramatically. Software canisters contain the web assembly codes and memory on which they will run. This canister pack is then uploaded directly over the Internet Computer’s virtual cloud without the need for web servers, application servers, or other proprietary services.

Canisters are uploaded onto the internet computer by developers and nodes are directed to run those canisters on IC. Users can connect with canisters and two canisters on the network can be connected to each other in order to execute the commands and instructions programmed by the developer.

Figure 4 upload canisters filled with WA codes and instructions

Two simples steps to follow for building on Internet Computer:

  1. Write codes in any programming language like RUST,MOTOKO or any other that compiles to web assembly canisters
  2. Upload those canisters to Internet Computer via ICP, directly over the internet itself.

That’s how easy it is to build on Internet Computer.  

Important features of Canisters are:

  • They are interoperable – which means if two different programming languages are used (let’s say Rust and Motoko) while coding then any function from one language (RUST) can be called up to another programming language (MOTOKO).
  • They are tamperproof and unstoppable.
  • They are scalable as well paralizable.
  • They run at web speed.

Canister model of developing and uploading makes the building on Internet Computer super easy.

We can build anything on Internet Computer:

  • Websites
  • Applications
  • Open Internet services
  • Pan Industry platforms
  • Defi Platforms
  • Enterprise systems

What is the Network Nervous System?

Whenever any system is developed, you will need to control or govern that system. Generally, control or governance is carried out by centralized authority, but here we don’t want that to happen. We don’t want any including the Dfinity Foundation itself to control or govern the main network of Internet Computer. For that reason, Network Nervous System is developed.

NNS is designed to govern the Internet Computer. An NNS is an autonomous and tokenized governance system. It is an open governance system, unlike other corporations. All the nodes that form the network will come under the direct control of the NNS.

NNS is formed by neurons networks. Neurons will be created by stacking the main utility tokens of Internet Computers called ICP tokens. These neurons will provide voting powers to the stackers. All the proposals would be executed democratically by the votes.

NNS will respond to the proposals such as adding new nodes to the network, adding new subnets, number of nodes, and other administrating decisions. These decisions will be taken democratically hence internet will eventually return back to its root.

Key Points in Internet Protocol

Chain Key Cryptography:

This is considered a breakthrough in cryptography. Unlike other blockchains, the key difference in the Internet Protocol Chain is about Chain Key Cryptography, a technique that an expert team of Dfinity has discovered. Nodes sign the result message jointly by using their private key. It replicates the execution and ensures the robustness and correctness of the transaction. We can’t go into technicalities, since won’t be fair for non-tech readers and this introductory article will turn to a technical lecture.

Autonomous software:

Open Internet Services:

ICP allows us to build Open Internet Services which never been seen before. Open Internet Services are self-governing, ownerless, and automated services.

 Advantages of Internet Computer:

  • Secured and hack proof environment
  • Ease of building
  • No complexity of IT infrastructure (no databases, no servers, no firewalls, no DNS)
  • No use of proprietary services
  • No Platform risk
  • Open Internet services are built (permanent APIs for access)
  • Open Internet
  • Availability
  • Public computing cloud
  • No centralized authority to control the internet
  • Economical operation

Conclusion:

Everything around us is supposed to be evolved in order to survive. Change is nature. Evolution has always brought advancement and advancement is always great for everyone and everything. Without evolution, everything remains in the same state of backwardness. Internet Computer is an unavoidable change in the internet. Without the Internet Computer Internet will be backward. We are going to see the transition on a big scale from traditional Internet to the Internet Computer when it goes mainstream, that would be a new era of working on Internet (or I should say “Internet Computer”).

This article is written by Aadil.

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