The Internet Computer

The Internet Computer (IC) is a decentralized global computing platform which uses ground-breaking blockchain technology to achieve consensus within subnets. It is globally distributed in numerous independent data centres, is tamper-proof and unstoppable.

It can serve applications fully on-chain without needing any centralized frontend layer. It is extremely efficient and is several orders of magnitude cheaper to run and store data than most other blockchains. It uses a reverse-gas model so computation and storage costs are paid by the app/service providers rather than users.

Canister smart-contracts

Applications on the Internet Computer (IC) framework are built using canister smart contracts, which are systematically organised into subnets. A single subnet is capable of hosting upwards of hundreds of thousands of canisters. This setup includes typically 13 node machines per subnet, with each node operating in a distinct, independent data centre across the world. This arrangement ensures that the nodes within each subnet are spread out as widely as possible, both geographically and jurisdictionally. Furthermore, canisters can securely communicate with canisters situated on other subnets, facilitating the IC's ability to scale horizontally.

A canister operates on a virtual machine environment, as WebAssembly (WASM), and is designed to be replicated across this network. It utilizes the actor model for its operations, functioning in a single-threaded manner. This setup allows it to process incoming messages sequentially from a queue, with the option to dispatch messages to additional canisters and queue up responses for outgoing communication.

Clients or other canisters can interact with it via queries or updates. Queries, which can be executed instantly by any node, do not alter the canister's state. In contrast, updates do modify the state and require a consensus process among the nodes to ensure uniformity in the outcome before a response is relayed back to the initiator. The consensus mechanism is a critical component, often associated with blockchain technology, but is beyond the scope of this document.

One of the standout features of canisters is their use of orthogonal persistence. This means that data objects written to memory by developers are automatically saved by the system, eliminating the need for external databases. This characteristic significantly simplifies the development and operation of applications on the Internet Computer (IC), making it more streamlined than traditional information technology frameworks.

Network Nervous System (NNS)

A key feature of the Internet Computer blockchain is the Network Nervous System (NNS), an open algorithmic governance system that oversees the network and the token economics.

Owners of the Internet Computer's ICP utility tokens have the opportunity to engage in the governance process by staking their tokens in neurons. This engagement allows them to play a pivotal role in making decisions, such as whether to integrate a new subnet into the network. Through active participation in this governance process, stakeholders are rewarded, with these rewards being convertible into ICP tokens. These tokens can then be utilized to power the computational needs of their canisters.

For more information on the NNS, read here.

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