The blockchain and smart contracts you interact with may be decentralized, but the cloud services often used to access them aren’t. Dfinity’s Internet Computer is stepping up to set that straight.
Proponents of blockchain technology herald decentralization as a key facet of its revolutionary nature.
But the majority of users are still accessing decentralized exchanges, or DEXs, decentralized finance, or DeFi, and decentralized applications, or DApps, through web browsers served by centralized cloud services.
Cointelegraph spoke to Dfinity founder and Chief Scientist, Dominic Williams, about its Internet Computer platform, which allows direct interaction with code held on the blockchain, and completely eliminates third party intermediaries from the equation.
One (decentralized, autonomous) computer to rule them all
Williams got involved in blockchain full-time in 2013. He hooked into the buzz around Ethereum and interacted with its early developers.
“I saw the potential for an Internet Computer which could eventually host everything, from search engines to email and everything in between.”
After all, if all of the world’s internet services were on one single blockchain computer, the networking benefits alone would be enormous. The idea went through several scaled-down iterations, before an oversubscribed fundraiser in 2016 convinced Williams to revert to his original vision.
No easy task ahead
Such an undertaking would not be easy. The science is several giant leaps ahead of that required for a standard blockchain. The first stage was to build the necessary structure for the organisation, which was helped by substantial backing from Andreessen Horowitz.
“Hands down we have the strongest blockchain team in the world, bar none. We have a huge capacity for research and development. You won’t get the top cryptographers for free on GitHub.”
The next issue was scalability. The complexity of standard software is immense, and a large proportion of the $3.9 trillion spent globally on IT annually goes on securing systems. The Internet Computer needed a secure protocol which was tamper-proof and unstoppable.
“Bitcoin rewards electricity burning, and proof of stake blockchains reward staking on a server, but this doesn’t work for scaling on the Internet Computer.”
Instead, the Internet Computer rewards data centres based on the number of computer nodes they run, providing a platform on which to scale. The result is a giant blockchain computer running on the public internet, which provides performance and capacity, but also enhanced security.
Hey, you, get off of my cloud
Code on the Internet Computer is held in canisters which essentially run forever, and can be served directly from the blockchain into a browser as a user experience. This means that the users can be sure that they are interacting directly with the underlying blockchain.
In contrast, smart contracts and DApps which are accessed through websites hosted on proprietary closed cloud services provide no such guarantee. Use of cloud services creates an external point of failure, whether through hacking or other vectors.
There is also the risk that a cloud provider could block the service based on the whims of its management or the authorities. Furthermore, a web services account can only be held by a legal entity, so cannot be autonomous by definition.
“Some of the key requirements of blockchain are to be uncensorable, unstoppable and tamper proof. This is the basis of the Internet Computer.”
Dfinity recently opened up the Internet Computer to third party developers with its “Tungsten” release. The final public release is scheduled for later in the year.