Governance of the Internet Computer

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The Internet Computer blockchain is governed by the Network Nervous System (NNS) [1]. The NNS is an algorithmic governance system that oversees the network and the token economics that make it possible to build DeFi dapps, open internet services and enterprise systems.

Holders of the Internet Computer’s ICP utility tokens can lock their tokens in neurons to participate in governance and contribute to decision-making, such as voting to determine whether or not a new collection of nodes (also called a subnet) should be added to the network.

Why the Internet Computer needs a Network Nervous System[2]

The Internet Computer is a distributed protocol run by a network of node machines, which are hosted in different data centers. The nodes communicate with one another over the internet to achieve a consensus on what the Internet Computer’s state should be. A collection of nodes engaging in consensus is called a subnet. On top of this underlying communication and consensus protocol, the Internet Computer hosts Canister Smart Contracts called canisters, which are stateful programs that can also communicate with each other. The state of all of the canisters has to be replicated across all of the nodes. Therefore, to allow the Internet Computer to scale indefinitely, the network is made up of not just one subnet, but multiple subnets.

Different subnets can communicate with one another, enabling Canister Smart Contracts that are hosted on different subnets to also communicate with each other. For the Internet Computer to scale on-demand, the network must be able to add new subnets over time to increase compute capacity. Moreover, the robustness of the subnets can be improved by adding new nodes to them over time. Eventually, the Internet Computer will run millions of nodes at scale. This means that there needs to be a mechanism by which the nodes and subnets are organized, tracked, and managed. For example, decisions must be made about when subnets and nodes should be added or removed. In addition, the Internet Computer was launched with an initial feature set, which evolves over time. Therefore, the Internet Computer needs to be able to make decisions on how to evolve the protocol in a distributed manner.

See Also