DFINITY President Reveals How The Internet Computer Project Was Conceptualized
Dominic Williams, the President and Chief Scientist at DFINITY, a project focused on developing an open, smart contract-enabled blockchain network with superior “performance, capacity, and governance,” has published a blog post in which he explains how DFINITY is different from Ethereum (ETH), the world’s largest platform for deploying decentralized applications (dApps).
When first introducing the project, in January 2017, Williams had said that DFINITY “aims to create a scalable, ‘decentralized cloud.’” Developers would be able to build applications with the “same security guarantees” that major smart contract platforms currently provide, Williams had noted (at that time).
“Competitively” Host “Open Versions” Of Mainstream Internet Services
According to Williams, the DFINITY platform will provide the tools required to develop “a new breed of open internet services.” Recalling that he had first articulated his vision for the DFINITY project in 2015, Williams had mentioned that DFINITY would “competitively” host “open versions” of mainstream internet services and legacy software systems through its decentralized cloud platform.
One of the main goals of the DFINITY project is to “extend” the existing internet infrastructure by adding functionality which would closely resemble an operating system. However, DFINITY’s team plans to use a “serverless cloud” to build and deploy what’s being referred to as the “World Computer” or the “Internet Computer.”
As explained by Williams, the DFINITY platform is being developed in a manner which would allow it to host the “next generation of software, services, and data.” Clarifying that the DFINITY project entails a lot more than simply providing a decentralized cloud computing network, Williams wrote:
“This [initiative] involves far more than creating a decentralized cloud, and is reimagining the very nature of software.”
Building A Globally Accessible, Decentralized Supercomputer
Williams, a computer science graduate from King’s College London, has mentioned in his LinkedIn profile that DFINITY’s Internet Computer will be a globally accessible supercomputer based on an “open governance” model.
Backed by investments from giant venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Polychain Capital, DFINITY project’s pre-sale investment round had a genesis token cap of $2 billion. Notably, this makes the Zug, Switzerland-based Internet Computer project one of the largest startup initiatives, having so far received $166.9 million in funding.
Some of the major problems found in today’s software have led to damaging hacks, large-scale security breaches, and system outages, Williams noted. Moreover, he pointed out that significant resources are required to create and modify existing IT systems, in order to recover from system failures and from hacks that exploit security vulnerabilities. Before sharing more details about his vision for the Internet Computer, Williams noted in his blog post that Ethereum is:
“ultimately an evolution of cryptocurrency technology where coins can be processed using smart contracts.”
He also mentioned that “work on future designs for Ethereum” such as experimenting with specialized hardware to implement VDFs, and studying and improving decentralized network consensus protocols may have important use cases.
However, Williams believes that these design goals pose “serious challenges” for those who aim to to extend the existing internet with “unbounded capacity for hosting software and data.”
Writing First Computer Program At 10 Years Of Age
Williams revealed in his blog post that he wrote his first few pieces of code at the 10 years of age, in order to create a very basic space invaders game. He also worked full-time as a software engineer during his early 20s.
While working as an application developer, Williams created what he describes as his “first truly complex system.” Williams’ software solution, developed during the Dot Com era, used a “novel differential compression technique” to provide “mass market storage functionality.”
Learning About bMoney, Diffie-Hellman Private Key Exchange
The DFINITY project founder also began applying modern cryptography techniques while implementing secure network streams. He noted in his blog that he created secure network design schemes by using the Diffie-Hellman private key exchange and Wei Dai’s crypto++ library.
It was during this time that the DFINITY project Chief Scientist learned about the bMoney proposal, which he has referred to as “a philosophical forerunner of Bitcoin.”
Williams further noted that he recently developed an MMO computer game which now has 2 million users. He also created:
“horizontally scalable virtual game server technology, and constructed what [he] believes was the first complex production infrastructure backed by the Cassandra database.”
Although Williams acknowledged that this software solution was still in its beta stages and it “corrupted itself at around 800,000 users,” it may have been a great learning experience.
Going on to explain what Cassandra is, and how it works, Williams wrote that it’s a decentralized database management system, “rather than a decentralized protocol.” He added that Cassandra “applies decentralization” in order to enhance performance and scalability, while featuring support for mainstream applications including Reddit, Netflix, and Github.
On top of Cassandra’s platform, Williams implemented sophisticated algorithms for “distributed locking” and various other solutions. He revealed:
“This was my technical bread and butter that informed my perspective … I had [also] been developing [different types of] software [including] operating system code to Web pages — and for many years have mused on the fundamental challenges involved with developing software systems today … I’m also frustrated with the way the internet ecosystem has become too monopolistic.”
“Blockchain Computers” Is Where “The Future Lies”
After reviewing the Bitcoin whitepaper for the first time in March 2013, Williams said he realized the “technical beauty” of implementing what he now refers to as the Internet Computer.
This idea, Williams noted, is based on an open-source, peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol which aims to provide a public service that can manage its own state without depending on centralized servers.
Williams also mentioned that studying the Ethereum project and its decentralized network “made it clear” to him that “blockchain computers” were “where the future lies.” In early 2015, the DFINITY founder began to increasingly focus on developing an open decentralized network as he believes this will become “the world’s future cloud.” As noted by Williams:
“In contrast to traditional cryptocurrency mining, the Internet Computer will be produced by independent data centers combining computing power via the open DFINITY protocol.”
Data Centers Will Be Allocated Special Identities
He explained that this process will be somewhat similar to how independent ISPs and other organizations connect through the TCP/IP protocol and other open communication protocols to establish “the internet’s connectivity.”
Data centers will be allocated “special identities” through DFINITY platform’s serverless virtual cloud. This will “ensure the decentralization of data and software execution across data centers,” Williams noted. However, Williams pointed out that this particular design
“sacrifices the cypherpunk objective of keeping those supporting the network anonymous.”