The Evolution of ICP: DFINITY’s Internet Computer Protocol


In 2021, DFINITY released the long-awaited Internet Computer Protocol, which aims to disintermediate cloud services and replace the old IT stack.

Summary

The DFINITY ecosystem was created to run on the Internet Computer Protocol, which is a serverless cloud computing architecture (ICP).

DFINITY unveiled the ICP on May 7th, 2021, after years of development. DFINITY, like many other blockchain technologies, aims to improve traditional internet architecture’s data security, privacy, application development, network speed, and storage capacity.

The mainnet deployment of the Internet Computer Protocol is a significant step forward in DFINITY’s quest to achieve its objectives.

Contents

What Is ICP?

DFINITY is a blockchain company that is developing the Internet Computer Protocol (ICP), a public blockchain network that aims to disintermediate commercial cloud services by replacing the existing IT stack.

The Internet Computer Protocol, according to DFINITY, will be the first scalable, cloud-like blockchain platform capable of hosting internet services, websites, and financial systems created entirely using smart contracts (and with no external complimentary private systems).

The Internet Computer is made to store data, make application development easier, and allow for network interoperability.

Our introductory page on the Internet Computer Protocol (ICP) is a good place to start for an overview of the protocol’s structure and applications. Here, we’ll take a look at the events leading up to the mainnet launch of the Internet Computer Protocol, dubbed Mercury, in 2021.

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Internet Computer Protocol’s Release History

Between 2019 and 2020, DFINITY launched numerous components of the Internet Computer Protocol before launching its Mercury mainnet in 2021. The following was the timeline:

Copper (Q4 2019): Copper was the first public version of the DFINITY Canister Software Development Kit to be released (SDK). This ground-breaking SDK introduces canisters, a type of smart contract, as well as the Motoko software programming language. Motoko is a programming language based on WebAssembly (WASM). Motoko was created by DFINITY to aid in the development of highly tamper-resistant software and services for the Internet Computer.

Bronze (Q1 2020): The Bronze demo network facilitated the transfer of the ICP crypto protocol from a terminal-based stage to a platform capable of desktop web application creation, allowing canisters to self-store their state, frontend, and backend functionality.

Tungsten (Q2 2020): The ICP was opened to third-party developers with the Tungsten release, allowing them to create apps and enterprise systems based on the protocol. Tungsten also included mobile development capabilities to the Internet Computer, in addition to the previous editions’ desktop web application development capabilities.

Sodium (Q4 2020): The Network Nervous System (NNS), DFINITY’s specialized autonomous master subnetwork responsible for the protocol’s economics as well as the hosting and governance of all subnetworks (subnets) inside the system, was launched with the Sodium release. Sodium also invented the notion of “cycles,” their interconnections with software canisters, and a system of “neurons” to facilitate ICP currency governance and staking.

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ICP’s Mercury Mainnet

DFINITY’s Mercury mainnet went live on May 7, 2021, indicating the network’s complete public availability. The corporation wants the ICP to achieve a long list of objectives, including:

Public network growth: In order for a technology platform to grow exponentially, its utility and the number of people who use it must both increase dramatically due to network effects.

The Internet Computer is designed to facilitate these effects by allowing low-cost interoperability between various codebases and blockchain systems via customized smart contracts (canisters), similar to how traditional software systems integrate functionality from software libraries.

Security and privacy-focused systems: Proprietary and closed cloud computing services, databases, web servers, middleware, and backup solutions are all used in traditional IT.

These systems are frequently used in conjunction with software and frameworks for software stacks.

The Internet Computer aims to address traditional systems’ security and privacy flaws by utilizing immutable cryptography and chain key technology for in-network interactions, allowing the Network Nervous System to interface with in-network subnets.

Reimagined smart contracts: Building and maintaining network systems are two of the most expensive aspects of the Information Technology sector.

DFINITY intends to make it easier to maintain and create information systems by using ICP’s version of smart contracts (software canisters), which are designed to address scalability and complexity difficulties in smart-contract development and use.

Eliminating centralized intermediaries: The majority of blockchain protocols rely on intermediaries to let users engage with systems and services built with Ethereum smart contracts, which are often hosted on huge cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) through websites.

In other words, traditional (and rather centralized) cloud service providers host the majority of web and mobile applications (including many popular blockchain-based applications).

These providers are third-party systems that could be prone to malicious code, security breaches, poor privacy, and other inefficiencies, which could lead to similar problems for the hosted apps.

The Internet Computer aims to solve these issues by hosting smart contracts that serve content directly into end users’ web browsers, allowing developers to build systems and services with an end-to-end security architecture that, in many cases, can significantly reduce the risk of going offline or being censored and corrupted.

Improving usability: The Internet Computer attempts to build on other, earlier crypto services’ user interfaces (UIs) by allowing consumers to engage directly with hosted online services.

In other words, its user interfaces are provided by smart contracts that interact directly with web browsers, eliminating the need for users to store tokens or coins in order to pay transaction fees.

Furthermore, instead of signing up for accounts and completing Know-Your-Customer procedures, WebAuth authentication technology allows users to identify themselves by utilizing an autonomous cryptographic key – in many cases simply by scanning their fingerprint on their laptop or smartphone.

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Criticism of DFINITY and the ICP Crypto Network

Despite the fact that DFINITY sees ICP crypto technology as a force for democratizing blockchain development, disintermediating the internet, demonopolizing cloud service ecosystems, and enabling decentralized governance, some critics argue that the ICP ecosystem is not sufficiently decentralized and that the DFINITY Foundation has too much control.

Skeptics, for example, have objected to ICP coin holders being required to lock their ICP crypto assets inside the protocol in order to participate in governance.

ICP coin holders can lock their coins in for six months to eight years, with the parties who lock their ICP for the longest period of time having the most power.

The majority of these coins are held by the DFINITY Foundation (up to 40 percent of them).

Similarly, detractors have claimed that the NNS, the ICP crypto governance system, might act as a single point of failure since it could cease working, behave maliciously by rejecting data center host applicants, or vote to shut down unwanted apps launched on the platform.

Despite these concerns, DFINITY’s ICP is still an active and popular player in the blockchain-enabled internet and cloud infrastructure ecosystem.

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