The Internet Computer is a layer-1 protocol that is developed by the DFINITY Foundation and aims to become ‘a blockchain network that evolves the internet’. This ‘internet computer’ intends to ‘extend the functionality of the public internet so that it can host backend software’ on a smart-contract compatible, distributed network.
To realize this vision, the ICP strives to innovate on the dimensions of block times, confirmation time and scalability of computing and storage power.
The protocol consists of the following major components working in conjunction:
Network Nervous System (NNS): The NNS is the underlying blockchain, which controls the network and allocates computing power provided by the various nodes.
Nodes: Each node is a sub-network with - in functional order - a (i) P2P layer, (iii) consensus layer, (iii) message routing layer and (iv) execution environment.
Consensus: Larger consensus among nodes is generally consensus-mechanism agnostic, but always divided into four layers: a notary layer, blockchain layer, random beacon layer and identity layer.
Neurons: Neurons allow users to stake their ICP utility tokens for voting power on governance proposals. Users earn rewards for voting on proposals. They can also unstake their ICP and convert them into cycles to power computation.
Cycles: Cycles are the computational resource, i.e., the ‘gas’, required to execute actions on the network.
Canisters: Every canister consists of WASM code and memory. Unlike in other chains such as Ethereum, cycles are pre-funded in each smart contract or canister.
Mokoto: A new WebAssembly compiler that is developed by the DFINITY Foundation.
As at May 10th 2021, the total supply of ICP is 469,213,710 and the current circulating supply is 125,067,597 (～26.65%).