Is Internet Computer (ICP) really decentralized?

18 April of 2022

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Overview

Internet Computer (ICP) describes itself as:

The Internet Computer is the fastest and most scalable general-purpose blockchain. It extends the Internet with computation: dapps (smart contracts) can run 100% on the Internet Computer as it can serve web contents directly into browsers.

You can learn more in Dfinity Website.

Is it trully decentralized?

The team behind Dfinity made this nice ICP Explorer that shows the current state of the ICP blockchain, consensus and nodes, among other things.

If we go to the Nodes tab and look at the bottom-right corner we see there are 443 nodes in the network. We can also see this number in ICP website.

For comparison, Bitcoin has 14814 according to coin.dance, Ethereum 4844 according to ethernodes, and Solana 1713 according to Solana Beach. Obviously, these 3 blockchain-based networks work really different, are older and have a bigger community and development.

If we take the smallest network in terms of nodes counts, Solana (1713 nodes), you might think that 443 nodes is not that bad, maybe, but it must also be said that all these nodes are controlled by 53 entities (also called Node providers) according to the ICP explorer.

Of course the other blockhains nodes aren't all independent neither, but by looking at the number of total nodes, it's clear that they are higher decentralized in terms of node distribution. The other blockchains are older and have more development but it's not an excuse if you want to scalate to millions and millions of users.

Where are the nodes running?

There is also this interesting detail, if we hover over one of the blue circles in the map of the ICP explorer, it displays some information about that particular provider, we can see in what Datacenters it's nodes are located. Turns out all of the ICP (according to this map) are running in Datacenters distributed across the world. This doesn't look like the other blockchains where running self-hosted nodes or using another type of cloud provider is more common.

Hovered Datacenter

Can I run my own node?

Compared to other blockchains, you are not allowed to run your own ICP Node without the permission of the ICA (Internet Computer Association). You can verify this yourself by going to ICP Website and click on the menu "Run a Node", that will lead you to this form, you will see this message:

ICA Run Node form

If you are still curious, you can press on "Continue". Now they ask for your email, then your first name and finally your last name. Definitely very strange, other blockchains are more privacy-friendly since they allow you to run your node however you want.

Conclusion

Is a Network where only a centralized authority is allowed to decide who, how, where can run a node? Doesn't look like so to me!

You can also see ICO of Internet Computer.

Wait! What do you think? You can leave a comment if you are reading this from dev.to

The author of this post does not own any ICP.