What is Dfinity (Internet Computer)?

Jul 15, 2021 - 4 min read

The Internet Computer (originally called Dfinity) is a crowd computing service working to revolutionize the internet by combining the collective computing power of the nodes on its blockchain network to create the ‘Internet Computer’. With its aim to be a fast, secure, and scalable cloud platform, the Internet Computer is planning to ‘extend the functionality of the public internet’, allowing users to deploy apps and install code directly, without the congestion problems that affect other major blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.


Dfinity was founded in 2016 in Palo Alto, California, by Dominic Williams a computer scientist and theoretician. Williams conducted funding rounds for Dfinity until 2018, including an ICO in 2017 which raised around $195 million, before distributing network tokens (known then as DFN) worth around $35 million via an airdrop in 2018. In 2021, Dfinity is overseen by the Dfinity Foundation, a not-for-profit headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, with offices and research teams in the United States, Japan, Germany, and the UK.

Dfinity’s stated mission is to ‘reinvent the internet’ by creating an Internet Computer, hosted entirely on the blockchain and capable of supporting an array of applications collectively powered by the nodes on the network. Aiming to be decentralized, the Internet Computer will in theory offer the same functionality as the public internet and enable backend software. In the future this could mean that developers can develop and deploy websites, applications, and services by uploading their code to the blockchain – with no need for servers or commercial cloud platforms.

The Internet Computer launched publicly on 7 May 2021. Built on the Internet Computer Protocol (ICP), the Internet Computer runs on a network of data centers and facilitates applications via highly scalable smart contracts known as ‘canisters’: computational units that are interoperable and designed for internet-scale services. By deploying online services through canisters, ICP allows developers to build their services into the internet itself.

In decentralizing the internet, Williams aims to place its control back in the hands of users, who can build their services on essentially ‘indestructible and tamperproof’ blockchain infrastructure.

The Internet Computer uses a governance system known as the Network Nervous System (NNS). The NNS manages the remuneration of the data centers that facilitate the internet, ensuring that network tokens are distributed to them efficiently and democratically. Computational processes on the Internet Computer blockchain are verified via a form of proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus, in conjunction with several additional verification layers designed to optimise the speed, scalability, and security of the network.

Internet Computer Token: ICP is the Internet Computer’s native token. and was formerly known as DFN. The token is used as gas for transactions on the blockchain, as a reward for data centres, and to facilitate governance decisions. At launch, there were 469,213,710 tokens in circulation.


The Internet Computer is designed to allow entrepreneurs, developers, and enterprises to build and deploy software on the ‘open internet’. As a fully decentralized network, the Internet Computer plans to eliminate the need for developers to rely on legacy technologies and security platforms when creating and deploying apps – and in doing so fuel the ‘open internet boom’.

A number of developers have already deployed projects on the Internet Computer blockchain, with projects that include:

Dfinity offers resources to help developers create and deploy on their network:

Beacon Fund: A dedicated fund for the development of decentralized applications that leverage the principles of the open internet or that promote tokenized governance and decentralized finance. The Beacon Fund is overseen by the Polychain Capital and the Dfinity Foundation.

The Internet Computer Fellowship: A 12-month program for ‘educators, graduate students, college-level teaching assistant, and computer science education advocates’. The ICP Fellowship offers work experience opportunities with next-generation technologies and software development environments.


In early 2021, the Dfinity Foundation unveiled a 20 year roadmap for the Internet Computer, detailing its growth plans following the launch of its alpha mainnet.

While the roadmap involves aspirational elements, it sets out prospective markets at the 5, 10, and 20-year markers. At the Internet Computer’s launch event of the Internet Computer, Williams stated that the blockchain infrastructure was “100% complete” and that developers could begin building and deploying apps. While the Internet Computer launched with 48 data centres in locations all around the world, and 1,300 nodes, Williams revealed that the network was scheduled to grow to 4,300 nodes by the end of 2021, and would continue to focus on increasing awareness and attracting as many developers as possible. In May 2021, the Dfinity Foundation also announced a $220 million fund with grants to developers who build on the Internet Computer.

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