What is Internet Computer (ICP)? Understanding the decentralized cloud computing protocol

What would happen if technology could transform the public web into a decentralized platform? The Internet Computer (ICP) provides a glimpse at what might be possible, being a cloudless environment that offers another way to deploy decentralized applications (DApps).

With its cutting-edge canister software, ICP offers developers and businesses the opportunity to take advantage of Web3 features in a secure way.


  • The Internet Computer (ICP) offers a decentralized, serverless platform, transforming how we build and use DApps.

  • ICP's canister software provides secure, tamper-proof processes for developers and businesses.

  • ICP's sophisticated mathematical framework and tamper-proof canisters offer robust protection against digital threats.

  • ICP provides significant cost savings in development and maintenance, challenging traditional cloud computing models.

  • With its unique node and subnet structure and innovative smart contracts, ICP is at the forefront of decentralized technology and governance.

What is Internet Computer (ICP)?

ICP is built upon cloud infrastructure and adopts advanced canister technology, which is both extensible and doesn't require servers. This novel technique makes creating numerous applications and services on a decentralized system possible. The result is a dependable alternative to classic cloud computing systems.

The ICP ecosystem relies heavily on tamper-proof and highly secure Canister software. Sophisticated mathematical frameworks protect against common digital threats like ransomware and prevent backdoors from being created. This offers users and developers a degree of trust and reliability.

ICP offers a unique benefit in that it can store permanent logic on the blockchain, either by making canisters unchangeable or by having them managed autonomously. This allows users to access Web3 applications and secure their business networks in a decentralized way, ushering in game-changing, secure, and community-driven digital services.

The ICP network's canister software can save businesses and governments money. This technology allows companies and governments to develop and maintain online systems more efficiently, leading to faster market delivery and reduced expenses.

ICP's tokenization and governing systems offer tokenization models that are essential for the advancement of Web3. The platform enables the formation of Open Internet Services (OISs) that communities manage solely using self-governing structures, transforming how ICP is managed and governed.

How does ICP support security and tamper-proof operations?

ICP represents a transformative step in blockchain technology, offering robust security and tamper-proof operations that set it apart in the digital landscape. The canister software is engineered to be tamper-proof, while the robustness of ICP comes from its foundation on sophisticated mathematical principles. These features help to make sure no hidden vulnerabilities exist in its architecture.

Canister software on ICP can be made unmodifiable, establishing permanent logic on the network. This feature, coupled with the option of placing canisters under autonomous governance, empowers communities and enterprises. It allows Web3 applications and systems to be created and managed with enhanced security and trust.

ICP uses smart contracts that run on blockchain networks. These smart contracts are tamper-proof and unstoppable, optionally autonomous, capable of processing tokens, and easily composed. Canisters, as a high-performance variant of these smart contracts, can be used to build a wide range of applications. They can interact with HTTP, Web2, and external blockchains, making them versatile and scalable.

High scalability allows complex systems such as social networks and enterprise systems to operate directly from the network. This removes the need for most forms of conventional IT infrastructure and increases confidence in digital transactions. ICP stands out by offering decentralized technology, providing an alternative to traditional IT, and allowing for fresh opportunities in digital autonomy and decentralized control.

What are the cost and efficiency benefits of using ICP?

ICP offers cloudless blockchain and decentralized computing options and notable cost and efficiency benefits. Innovative canister software enables the efficient creation and upkeep of online systems.

The deployment of canister applications has led to considerable cost reductions, especially considering the $1.8 trillion spent on global IT staff.

Regarding operational costs, ICP operates on a unique model where canisters are funded with cycles converted from ICP tokens. These cycles are then used for computation, storage, and communication. The efficiency of ICP is further highlighted when comparing its data transfer costs with traditional cloud services like AWS.

An example to illustrate this point is that ICP charges around $82 for transmitting 300 terabytes of data, which is lower than AWS's $21,000 for the same quantity. This massive cost gap further confirms the cost-efficiency of ICP, particularly for projects requiring plenty of data.

It's important to keep in mind that certain activities, like ICP update requests, can be pricier due to the requirement of reaching an agreement on alterations of the state. This is especially important when it comes to apps that need recurrent data adjustments.

A key factor to consider with ICP is the cost of storage. One GB of data stored on ICP for a year is more expensive than AWS. However, the built-in data replication may be worth it due to its added security and durability compared to other cloud storage solutions.

What role does ICP play in Web3 and AI integration?

Many consider ICP to be essential in forming the future of Web3 and AI, creating sophisticated DApps and services.

Web3 integration

  • Web3 on ICP provides communities with exclusive control of their internet services, going beyond the centralized Web2 structure.

  • An open internet service (OIS) operated on ICP preserves all code, user interfaces, compute processing, and information on its blockchain.

  • The service nervous system (SNS), a public governance framework, manages and updates these services openly, providing community security and sovereignty.

  • OpenChat, a revolutionary OIS on ICP, shows how familiar messaging apps such as Slack can be reimagined by incorporating Bitcoin transfers.

  • Web3 on ICP focuses on user control, including tokens, NFTs, and managing services in online platforms, video games, virtual worlds, DeFi, and the sharing economy.

  • The decentralization swap in OIS creation exchanges swaps governance tokens for ICP, encouraging a governance system driven by the community. Tokens can also be given out to those who contribute, stimulating engagement and the production of content.

AI integration

  • ICP includes AI processing capabilities, allowing AI to operate through its network.

  • This integration supports native Web3 integrations, supporting complex and trustless combinations of AI models and data.

By applying the decentralized structure provided by ICP, both Web3 and AI technologies are evolving. ICP provides infrastructure that is secure and can handle an increased level of demand, but also allows for a greater sense of community. This combination of features can help usher in a new era where users have greater control and ownership over internet services and AI programs.

How does ICP's node and subnet structure work?

ICP features a unique node and subnet structure that's integral to its operation and governance.

Node machines and subnet blockchains

  • High-performance node machines form Internet Computer subnet blockchains.

  • Software components are used to enforce the protocol, enabling replication of state and calculation over all the nodes in a subnet blockchain.

Key layers of the replica architecture

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) networking layer: This layer transmits and distributes information from users, other nodes in the same blockchain network, and other blockchain networks. Replicating information to all subnet nodes provides dependability, durability, and stability.

  • Consensus layer: Creating blockchain blocks begins by picking and arranging messages from users and networks. The blocks are then validated and finalized via the Byzantine Fault Tolerant Consensus, forming the growing blockchain.

  • Message routing layer: This layer routes user and system-generated messages between subnets, manages the input and output queues for DApps, and schedules messages for execution.

  • Execution environment: This calculates the deterministic computation involved in executing smart contracts by processing messages from the message routing layer.

Subnet types and features:

  • A subnet is a group of replicas with their own blockchain. Each subnet can talk to other subnets and is controlled by the root subnet. The root subnet uses chain-key cryptography to give authority to subnets. The ICP uses subnets to scale indefinitely, overcoming the single-machine barrier typical in traditional blockchains.

  • Application and system subnets are the two principal types. System subnets, which include the Network Nervous System (NNS) and other essential services, offer specific features. These features include no loops in the accounts, more permissive instruction limits per call, and bigger Wasm module size boundaries in contrast to application subnets.

This framework enables ICP to offer a flexible, distributed computing platform. The subnet architecture not only boosts the efficiency and speed of the network but also plays a key part in its governance and operational adaptability.

What are the features of ICP's canister smart contracts?

ICP's canister smart contracts are a notable innovation, offering several unique features that power complex DApps and services.

Structure and functionality

  • Containers on the ICP are computing units that package code and data together.

  • They expose two types of endpoints: updates (which modify the state) and queries (which don't). This split supports more efficient state management.

Behavior and communication

  • Canisters act like performers in the actor-based concurrency model, with code running totally separate from other canisters. They exchange messages in an asynchronous manner, which facilitates two-way interaction between canisters. This type of communication is essential for DApp capabilities.

Resource management

  • Containers employ resources such as RAM, processing power, and data transfer, with the cost for these services being charged in the form of cycles.

  • A protocol is applied to track memory and computing resources, allowing for maximum efficiency and performance.

Governance and control

  • Controllers are in charge of the operation of canisters, which could be users, other canisters, or decentralized autonomous organizations.

  • The levels of governance vary, from centralized control to none (as is the case with immutable smart contracts), which gives canisters the ability for flexible governance.

The combination of structured functionality, efficient communication, resource management, and flexible governance mechanisms that come with canister smart contracts on ICP demonstrate the platform's pioneering way of creating high-performance, scalable DApps. This makes ICP's technology an effective tool in decentralized computing.

How does ICP support user authentication and Open Internet services?

ICP provides some innovative mechanisms for user authentication and managing Open Internet services:

Internet identity for user authentication

  • ICP's Internet Identity is a shift away from the standard Web2 authentication strategies that can often be insecure and breach user privacy.

  • This authentication system uses public protocols such as WebAuthn and FIDO, coupled with chain key cryptography. People set up secure sessions using biometric authentication such as fingerprint scanners or Face ID on their own gadgets, or with exterior hardware wallets.

  • Internet identity is built with the WebAuthn standard, providing a decentralized, user-friendly, and highly secure authentication process. Cryptographic passkeys are stored on TPM chips of the user's devices, further fortifying security.

  • It deals with worries about confidentiality by using cryptographic aliases for each service communication, blocking user monitoring across distinct applications and services.

Empowering users and communities

  • Internet identity provides a secure way to authenticate on the ICP blockchain, removing the need for traditional credentials like emails or passwords. This protects user data from being monetized by companies and prevents tracking across different DApps.

  • It offers an authorization system for Web3 developers to incorporate into their projects or to construct further specialized identity solutions.

The final word

What would happen if technology could transform the public web into a decentralized platform? The Internet Computer (ICP) is an innovator in cloudless systems that let DApps thrive. Its canister software allows developers and corporations to access Web3 functionalities, making sure their processes are safe and unaltered.

What does the future hold for such a transformative technology? As ICP continues to evolve and integrate more deeply with Web3 and AI, its impact on decentralized governance, digital sovereignty, and online privacy could be profound.

Will ICP redefine our interaction with Web3, leading us into a new era of internet usage where decentralization is the norm? Only time will tell.

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