A First Internet Computer Update and Progress Report

A review from the DFINITY Foundation shows that the network is operating well.

Dominic Williams
The Internet Computer Review
11 min readMay 22, 2021

For those interested in the Internet Computer blockchain:

As I write this, we are only 11 days into a new era of blockchain, yet so much has happened already.

Naturally, with a network as complex as the Internet Computer, it was inevitable there would be some early glitches. Yet, with war rooms staffed by 10–20 people working around the clock 24–7, and determined efforts, these have been resolved without any network outages. Technical reports are being written up, and I will not ruin the stories that will be told by pre-telling them, but there have been exciting times for engineers and researchers working on the network, including a glitch with the Network Nervous System, which stopped processing proposals for a while.

I am very proud to say, that the complex Network Nervous System issue, and several others, were successfully resolved by teams showing incredible levels of professionalism that are nothing short of extraordinary at this early stage. The NNS was returned to processing proposals, and the world’s first fully adaptive, self directed, and autonomous blockchain, then continued its steady progress, evolving its structure to add capacity. Furthermore, design work is already in the pipeline, being readied as a proposal, that will change how the NNS works, so that if it detects an issue, it will remain willing to process proposals to upgrade its own logic. I am pleased to tell you that this project moves fast, as does the network.

Thus far, our early experiences have clearly demonstrated that the NNS, while complex, is a pivotal and defining invention for blockchain. We have come a very long way since an early vision of the concept was first shared in early 2017. Since network Genesis, it has already processed hundreds of proposals (for those that don’t like the command line, they can be viewed via the easy-to-use dapp at https://nns.ic0.app/). Once the initial hurdles were overcome, it continued orchestrating the Internet Computer’s march to massive scale. As I write, it is now processing 12 blocks every second, and only 11 days in, has achieved a block height just behind that of Ethereum, which has been running for 6 years. This will accelerate. We are now all looking forward to reaching 100 blocks per second, which will be a truly remarkable milestone.

The Internet Computer has already changed blockchain forever. We almost immediately saw the emergence of social media blended with DeFi. For example, Open Chat launched in alpha mode just a few hours ago, and gained hundreds of users in the first few minutes. It seems extraordinary that such a thing could run entirely from a blockchain, end-to-end, with web speed smart contracts serving content and data directly into web browsers using advanced cryptography and processing text messages. In a simple early demonstration of how DeFi can be blended with social media, Open Chat also enables users to send cycles based payments with messages (note the cycles will not be real until it moves into beta) and soon send tips to the “speaker” in group chats.

That’s not all — DSCVR will go down in history as the world’s first decentralized social media service running entirely from a blockchain. It launched less than two days ago, but already has thousands of users. To make the migration to the Internet Computer easier, Fleek has just launched a developer framework, and plans to migrate more than ten thousand websites to the network, many of which provide the user experiences for Ethereum dapps, which were being served from the Amazon Web Services cloud (this usage of cloud is antithetical to the principles of blockchain, since it makes it difficult for users of Ethereum dapps to know whether they are really interacting with the blockchain at all, since they must trust the website operator, AWS and that the operator’s account hasn’t been hacked).

Today, however, I feel confident that the future is bright and fully decentralized. As I speak, the Distrikt social network project has around twenty team members somewhere in Europe, beavering away, getting closer and closer to launch. These services, running on the Internet Computer, will quickly increase blockchain’s direct daily active users by orders of magnitude. It will be a great success for us all.

Soon, Network Nervous System and ICP Ledger technology will be repurposed by developers creating truly open autonomous internet services with tokenized governance, which those involved in the described services wish to create. This will create a new paradigm, where services are transparent, where users participate within the service as part of the team in tasks like moderation, and where users, developers, and investors can all participate in governance through ownership of the relevant tokens. I cannot wait to fully abandon old centralized systems run by Big Tech monopolies and move permanently to open services like these described, which run from public blockchain, on a sovereign physical layer, and nothing else: this is true cyberspace, or perhaps, “cypherspace”.

All of the systems described can be accessed now via the new Internet Identity system, which allows users to authenticate using their devices — which is as easy as pressing the fingerprint sensor on a laptop. That system passed more than 100,000 accounts earlier today (you can create any number of IIs, pronounced “eye eyes”, but please remember to add multiple devices to each identity, for redundancy).

Meanwhile, a growing army of developers is following these first pioneering projects, in areas from pure DeFi, through tokenized social media to business systems and pan-industry platforms (such as Origyn, see http://origyn.ch/). Finally, the floodgates are open, and talented developers are taking up arms, aided by Internet Computer Association and DFINITY Foundation grants.

Smart contracts will rule the world, and everything will eventually be rebuilt, and most importantly, reimagined, using them. Our new ecosystem will be more open, more transparent, more collaborative, more dynamic and innovative, and richer than what we have today. Moreover, it will emerge faster than anyone can imagine, because it democratizes access to the tech economy, which will bring legion new talent and creativity to bear. In 5 years, the walled gardens of today will be very dull places compared to the vibrant open internet that will be running entirely from blockchain.

Anyway, to finish, I will share with you an email I sent to the DFINTY Foundation team and closely related community members last week, when we were just 77 hours in. It will give you a taste of the human story behind this project, which now involves hundreds of people working on the technology and network, and some of the early travails we encountered, and the triumphs over challenges achieved by a relentless determination to realize our shared blockchain goals.

Subject: Internet Computer Update at 77 Amazing Hours In!


We have launched the Internet Computer, witnessed an extraordinary market response, and so far very successfully managed technical difficulties that have arisen in the nascent network.

Some time ago, we distributed champagne to everyone. We already have an enormous amount to celebrate, but if anybody is wondering, we will wait a while longer before drinking it until we are less busy — but keep it handy!

This is just the beginning. There are big things coming, some of which I cannot share at this moment. Meanwhile, we need to keep evolving the network, increasing its capacity, and we need to support those deploying flagship dapps and services, because it is through these that people will know the incredible capabilities of this internet-scale blockchain that we have brought to life.

In recent days, I have been playing with Internet Identity (II) and the NNS front-end dapp, which provides a user-friendly way to interact with the ICP Ledger and Network Nervous System. These things are extraordinary in subtle and not so subtle ways. You can have any number of Internet Identities, or IIs (now pronounced “eye eyes”). You can configure your IIs so that they can be activated from any number of devices, such as your laptop, phone and YubiKey, and you can maintain secret IIs, in case you fear being held against a wall. The mixture of convenience and security is brilliant, and there is more to come. The world doesn’t know it yet, but Internet Identity *is* the future of online identity. It was created here, at the DFINITY Foundation.

People have been using the NNS dapp for self custody of ICP and are reporting how well it works. Now we need to help get dapps like Open Chat into the hands of the wider world, and developer frameworks like Fleek fully enabled. Once they are fully functional, dapps like Open Chat will quickly drive the number of active Internet Computer users far beyond those of all other blockchains. This will, of course, be very well received by the wider world, and is an important next step.

I want to say something about the relentless hard work that many team members have been performing to make this dream real for us and the world, and also what recent events prove about the ecosystem and our team, which makes me believe the future is very bright.

Firstly, of course, we struggled relentlessly towards an ambitious deadline, pushing to launch a network that is intrinsically far more complex than any existing blockchain. The complexity involves not just the protocol, its complex cryptography and execution environment, but many other ancillary parts of the project.

In record time, for example, we built on new cryptographic building blocks provided by the network, such as “certified variables”, which are made possible by its Chain Key cryptography, to create the new Internet Identity system, and layer 2 ledger systems for ICP so that the wider world that is used to traditional blockchains, including financial exchanges, can interact using their existing frameworks. Complexity also derives from the Internet Computer network not running in the cloud, like so many “token database” blockchains in production today, but on its own sovereign physical layer, which is composed of nodes from node providers, installed in independent data centers around the world, which had to be bootstrapped. Late on, we decided to introduce the concept of network boundary nodes, which has proven very much the right thing to do. We have had to provide a software development kit that continues to work (DFX) while the network it interfaces with changes, created our own hugely powerful smart contract language (Motoko), and then there were tasks such as making provisions to assist ECT and Seed participants with claiming their ICP allocations via neurons. There is simply too much to list.

We must remember the efforts of those involved in non-technical pursuits too, who are helping maintain our organization, interacting with the community and onboarding developers, and helping communicate what the Internet Computer network is about to the outside world. For example, we had an explainer video that received more than 175M views ( https://twitter.com/dominic_w/status/1377788213738172416), and the quality of our Genesis event set new standards, and was broadcasted first in english, and then in another version in China.

Now, and this particular point gives me so much optimism, we have addressed the inevitable initial technical difficulties the network has encountered in a wholly applaudable way. The issues involved relate to a network composed almost entirely from new technology and science that supports an entirely novel blockchain architecture and design. I want to talk about what has been achieved here.

We bootstrapped a “war room” that has been staffed 24–7. That we would experience some early technical issues was always inevitable, and some were detected, with perhaps the most important arising within the Network Nervous System, as it played its role as a truly decentralized open governance system for the network. This issue led to the NNS automatically refusing to process more proposals, as a safety measure. The necessary response teams were spun up, engineers and researchers were immediately engaged, and solutions to the problems found such that, at least so far, there has been no downtime, which is a miraculous achievement out of the gate.

I want everybody to know about the incredible efforts of those involved with keeping this show so firmly on the road, by people who have been working under enormous pressure, on top of sleep deprivation and the fatigue that comes when you work 7 days a week.

We should be under no illusions that the long term value of the network, and the confidence that the outside world has in it, derives not just from the revolutionary nature of the technology and its capabilities, but in the ability of the community to ensure that it continues operating correctly and evolving. Here, at this early stage, the DFINITY Foundation and the nascent Internet Computer Association (which now has a website at internetcomputer.org), play central roles, although I want to mention how community members such as the engineers working on Open Chat have been hugely helpful with internal efforts, for example working with the NNS dapp, which is now used to manage vast amounts of value, and is an important first point of contact with the Internet Computer for many people.

So what happened when issues with the Network Nervous System were detected in the war room?.. people were immediately roused around the world, sometimes at awkward times, and teams sprung into action. Complex problems were analyzed and understood, solutions were devised and reviewed, and processes were put in place to execute the solutions safely.

Since the fully autonomous Network Nervous System had decided not to process new proposals as a safety measure, a new proposal could not be submitted to update its logic to resolve the issue. A means was therefore found to upgrade the nodes of the subnet blockchain hosting the NNS in a process involving the community of node providers and the physical layer, which involved complex procedures being applied to node machines by many people in data centers all over the world. The solution was a highly challenging one to devise, various hurdles had to be overcome, yet now, we are marching towards a complete resolution on Friday, whereupon the NNS will again continue rapidly evolving and adapting the network — and again, we had no downtime.

For the purposes of transparency, and in our mission to create yet more Internet Computer experts in the wider community, a full in-depth technical report will be provided soon. For now you can track progress at a high level from here https://status.internetcomputer.org/

You might ask, why should we gain so much optimism and confidence from encountering some initial technical difficulties? The answer is that only a team of ‘A players’ could have handled this so well. We have proven that our team is that, and that despite the complexity of the network, challenging technical problems can be handled efficiently and professionally. Not only have these problems been resolved without any downtime, at least so far, they are being resolved far more quickly than problems with blockchains have been resolved in the past.

We could not have done better out of the gates. I invite everyone to applaud those involved in keeping the network running as they have. I am truly humbled by what has been achieved this far, and what we have proven we are, as a team, and a wider community.

Very soon, the Network Nervous System will begin processing proposals again, and the network will continue evolving, configuring itself in real time, and adding more subnet blockchains to increase capacity, perhaps pushing our block rate deep into double digits by month end, and much more. In the coming weeks, dapps and services will launch that demonstrate the full power of this network, and we will announce big things.

Remember, this is just the beginning, and the sky is now the limit. Smart contracts will rule the world, and websites, enterprise systems, internet services and financial systems will all eventually be rebuilt, and most importantly, completely reimagined, using this vastly superior and profoundly different new form of software. This must happen on the internet-scale Internet Computer blockchain network, that runs smart contracts at web speed, empowers smart contracts to serve web experiences to users with end-to-end security, can scale to unbounded capacity, is adaptive, efficient, low cost, and is environmentally friendly.

This show has only just got started, so please stay focused, these are critical times.

My deepest personal thanks and congratulations go out to all those involved.




Dominic Williams
The Internet Computer Review

President/Chief Scientist DFINITY