The Internet Computer is formed by an advanced blockchain protocol called ICP (Internet Computer Protocol) that independent data centers around the world run to combine the power of individual computers into an unstoppable, seamless universe where internet native software is hosted and run with the same security guarantees as Canister smart contracts. It is integrated with Internet standards such as DNS, and can server user experiences directly to web browsers and smartphones.
To participate in the open network that creates the Internet Computer, a data center must first get a DCID (Data Center Identity). This is obtained through an algorithmic governance system that is part of the Internet Computer itself, called the Network Nervous System, which plays a roughly analogous role to ICANN (a not-for-profit organization that helps govern the Internet) but has broader functionality and drives many aspects of network management. Once a data center has obtained a DCID, it can make node machines, which are essentially server computers with a standardized specification, available to the network. When the Internet Computer needs more capacity, the Network Nervous System inducts these machines, forming them into “subnetworks” that can host software canisters. Special software running on node machines interacts with other nodes using ICP and applies advanced computer science to allow their compute capacity to be securely added to the Internet Computer.
Data centers receive remuneration in the form of tokens, which are also used by Canisters smart contracts to create cycles that powers computation and storage, in moderated amounts such that approximately constant returns are received per node over time. Participation in the Network Nervous System algorithmic governance system is possible by locking tokens to create “neurons,” which provides those voting with voting rewards and enable automatic voting in the form of liquid democracy style scheme. ICP has been designed so that the Internet Computer is managed in an open way and can grow without bound so that it may eventually incorporate millions of node machines.