Internet Computer Reinvents Compute With Serverless Smart Contract Cloud Solution

Internet Computer Offers A Limitless Smart Contract Cloud Solution

TL; DR: Like the internet did before it, the blockchain industry seeks to usher in a new era and economy with it. This new era is called Web3, where decentralization reigns and the users run the internet. The Internet Computer (ICP) is helping pave the way by providing users with blockchain resources to build their Web3 applications and systems. We spoke with Jan Camenisch, CTO and Cryptographer at The DFINITY Foundation, on how the Internet Computer leverages smart contracts to power its decentralized cloud network and the unique benefits of using blockchain technology for web development.

Blockchain technology has existed since as early as the 1990s but didn’t make its official mainstream debut till 2009 — when Bitcoin arrived alongside it. Bitcoin’s rise may be surprising to many, as its unconventional setup didn’t look like it would last in the early aughts. But those who worked in the cryptography field saw it coming.

“Bitcoin showed you can build a secure system just from a protocol. You don’t need anything else. You don’t need any firewalls. A pure protocol sufficiently running over many computers can give you a secure system, and that’s revolutionary,” said Jan Camenisch, CTO and Cryptographer at The DFINITY Foundation.

DFINITY is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organization that contributes to the funding and development of the Internet Computer blockchain. It has the largest research and development team in the blockchain and cryptography industry — with more than 100,000 citations and 1,600-plus employee publications.

Internet Computer Logo
The Internet Computer reinvents computing with blockchain technology.

The Internet Computer allows users to leverage the power of blockchain and smart contracts to host and build almost anything on the web, from social media apps to gaming infrastructure. The Internet Computer takes the power of serverless cloud computing and gives users the freedom and control to build true Web3 applications.

“Every smart contract has a URL on ICP. So you just fire up your browser and enter the URL of the smart contract. Then you’re interacting with the blockchain, all the computations are done on the blockchain, all the content is hosted there,” said Jan.

Blockchain Offers the Privilege of Autonomy

Web3 refers to the next iteration of the internet — one that is decentralized and controlled by the users. And that’s exactly what the Internet Computer project is powering. Jan told us the Internet Computer’s mission is to reinvent computing, and that includes replacing traditional IT infrastructure with its general-purpose blockchain network.

“The Internet Computer is much more like the original internet, which was an open environment. Everybody could contribute. So now everybody can put their smart contracts on the Internet Computer and interact with other smart contracts. Just like the internet, anybody can use it,” said Jan.

The Bitcoin bubble helped pave the way. It showed the blockchain industry that there are enough resources to build a stable blockchain-based computing network. Today, the Internet Computer helps users create decentralized Web3 applications and allows them to control and own their internet services with its smart contracts.

The Internet Computer homepage
The Internet Computer offers limitless and decentralized cloud computing.

“If there’s a smart contract that you want to interact with but say it runs out of cycles (i.e. gas)or its developer team no longer exists, you can just take over and maintain it yourself. So it’s an intelligent open system functionality that is much more powerful,” said Jan.

Since everything runs from the blockchain, users don’t have to worry about traditional IT duties. Instead, the Internet Computer essentially functions as a serverless cloud service. Users can leverage that autonomy to build almost any Web3 system or application with speed and simplicity.

“It’s an easier programming model in the sense that you don’t have to worry about how you store your files. Data is kept in memory, and the system takes care of the rest,” said Jan.

Build Tamperproof, Scalable, and Secure Applications

The Internet Computer uses tamper-proof canister software, the Internet Computer’s version of smart contracts, to power its network. That means users can host their projects without outside risks. Its blockchain architecture and modern cryptography design don’t need firewalls and are impenetrable to ransomware. There are also no back doors.

“A computer with smart contracts is like a normal computer. Instead of hosting things elsewhere, you host them directly and securely on the network. So you benefit from that sort of security,” said Jan.

The Internet Computer is an attractive platform for building because it’s not only secure but also sustainable and scalable. Its protocol has stable APIs so users don’t have to navigate and adapt to recurrent patches and updates. The Internet Computer eliminates many hurdles of traditional hosting, making it easier for developers to build projects faster.

“Because of all the protocol properties provided, you can develop much faster. You don’t have to think about security, how to store your data, and so on. It’s a great piece of software — cheap to build and maintain — because it’s stable,” said Jan.

Another highlight of the Internet Computer’s architecture is its auto-scaling, which is why it’s so easy to maintain. Its protocol combines node machines into highly efficient subnet blockchains, which can immediately add nodes to their capacity. Smart contracts also play a role in its ease of scalability.

“Smart contracts can talk to each other, no matter where they’re located, which helps facilitate the auto-scaling. It also means if you build your application correctly, it will auto-scale. So you don’t have to worry about running out of memory or compute capacity,” said Jan.

Integrating with Bitcoin and Other Platforms

In 2023, the Internet Computer integrated with Bitcoin, a novel achievement as it enabled smart contracts to directly interact with the Bitcoin network without using bridges or intermediaries. This means that smart contracts on ICP can hold, send, and receive Bitcoin natively, as well as read and write Bitcoin transactions while also leveraging Bitcoin’s security, liquidity, and network effects.

“The ICP network directly integrates with the Bitcoin network: each ICP replica of a dedicated subnet also runs a Bitcoin light client, pulling the latest Bitcoin blocks, and passes them through consensus on the ICP subnet. An ICP smart contract on that subnet (“the Bitcoin canister”) receives these Bitcoin blocks, and then updates the Bitcoin UTXO set accordingly. That UTXO set can then be accessed from any ICP smart contract (or anyone else for that matter). Thus they can read Bitcoin transactions in a trustless manner and, using ICP’s http outcalls, also submit transactions to the Bitcoin network,” said Jan.

The team is also working on adding support for other cryptocurrencies and seeking to provide encryption for smart contracts. Other than that, the Internet Computer is on the up and up, which Jan said he is excited about.

“We have shown that we can take the principle of a protocol providing a secure, unhackable way of computing that works. And we have now taken it to the next level. We’re entering a new area, and I can’t wait to see all that is happening. It’s going to be exciting,” said Jan.