World Computer

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Ethereum was the first blockchain that could host Turing complete smart contracts, which are secure units of code that process and store data on the blockchain itself. Back in 2014, the dramatic realization that a blockchain could play the role of a computer, led to someone proposing the concept of a "World Computer."

The original idea was that Ethereum would become a "World Computer", but over time the concept faded into obscurity within the Ethereum community. Clearly, a true World Computer blockchain would have to be capable of hosting most of the world's computation and data to live up to its name, whereas the design trajectory of Ethereum meant this was truly out of reach.

During these early years, Ethereum follower and supporter Dominic Williams was working on applied cryptography and distributed computing math with the aim of speeding up blockchains, and allowing them to scale infinitely. He was deeply struck by the concept of a World Computer, and pivoted his work towards the idea.

During 2015, he researched techniques that might be used to create a World Computer, even tentatively producing an unfinished website to share his ideas in the Fall. He has described hoping his work would have been used to create Ethereum 2.0, but eventually realizing the Ethereum project's path was incompatible with creating a World Computer.

Dominic then founded the Dfinity Foundation in Switzerland in late 2016, to develop a "World Computer" blockchain having received support from a Palo Alto incubator, String Labs, during the summer. The project raised initial funds by selling its token February 24, 2017.

Creating a "World Computer" was an enormously complex endeavor, and the Dfinity Foundation had to build-out the largest R&D operation in blockchain, which currently employs more cryptographers than any other organization in tech. The Internet Computer blockchain — the first true realization of the World Computer vision — finally underwent network genesis, May 10th 2021.

The Internet Computer has a different architecture to traditional blockchains, which is enabled by novel cryptography. It has numerous unique capabilities, which allows it to play the role of a World Computer. For example, the canister smart contracts it hosts can process HTTP requests to serve interactive web experiences directly to users.

The purpose of the Internet Computer is to provide a World Computer that will eventually replace traditional IT, and host all of humanity's systems and services, as well as enabling Web3 that is fully on-chain.