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Is the Internet Computer a blockchain?

The Internet Computer is not a blockchain, although it might fairly be considered an evolution of blockchain technology, and was inspired years ago by the “blockchain computer” concept pioneered by Ethereum. A similarity is that the platform is formed by a highly fault tolerant decentralized network protocol that uses tokens and gas to mediate participation and control, although in the case of the Internet Computer, these aspects are mostly hidden from users and developers.

The platform hosts software systems and services with the same kinds of strong availability and security guarantees that smart contracts receive. However, whereas blockchains have terrible performance, fixed or very expensive capacity, and often require augmentation with websites running on untrusted platforms such as Amazon Web Services to be useful, the Internet Computer is fast, can increase its compute and storage capacity without bound as demand increases, is relatively inexpensive to build on, and supports completely self-contained systems that can securely serve user experiences directly to web browsers such that secure end-to-end systems can be created without problematic dependencies.

The Internet Computer leans more towards the internet model, and incorporates computing power provided by independent conventional data centers rather than traditional cryptocurrency miners, although participation by amateurs and small operations is also possible. Data center participation is permissioned by an onboard open algorithmic governance system called the Network Nervous System, that runs as part of the Internet Computer, in an algorithmic alternative to ICAAN and IANA, which for example provide internet ASN numbers for usage with BGP routers, say. Data centers are remunerated for providing compute power using tokens in amounts that provide approximately constant returns per compute unit lent relative to their local currency, such as the Swiss franc.

Development of the decentralized protocol, initial software implementations and support of the public network is pursued by the not-for-profit DFINITY Foundation, based in Zurich, Switzerland, and its various research centers around the world, and partner organizations. The Internet Computer depends on advanced cryptography, distributed computing, a deterministic virtual machine based on WebAssembly, aspects of computer hardware, and many other technologies.

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