The Internet Computer nodes are dedicated hardware machines that perform smart contract computations and store data.
The Network Nervous System combines node machines to create the Internet Computer
The Internet Computer can scale without bounds just by incorporating more node machines. These are specialized hardware devices that perform computation by acting like a replicated machine hosting subnets.
The Canister software running on the Internet Computer is tamper-proof because it is run on secure smart contracts. However, there is a lot of concern regarding the decentralization of the Internet Computer. Since the node machines of Internet Computer are expensive and currently require verification by the Internet Computer Association, this makes true decentralization difficult.
The node machines on the Internet Computer are managed by the Network Nervous System, governed via the community. The NNS adds node machines operated by node operators who become verified by an unbiased third party after fulfilling the requirements. The NNS can also remove malicious or faulty nodes. For their services to the network, the nodes are rewarded with ICP by the NNS through Node Reward proposals.
Internet Computer nodes compared to Ethereum nodes
Internet Computer nodes are essentially hardware machines that can perform computations and store data. Unlike Ethereum, the Internet Computer has dedicated hardware machines with standard specifications across other nodes and doesn’t run on centralized clouds. Ethereum nodes run on centralized corporate clouds like AWS.
Did you know that three mining pools make up more than 51% of the Ethereum Network? And around 61% of the nodes run on centralized Web cloud services such as Amazon
These dedicated hardware machines cost around 10,000 USD and are hosted on independent data centers by independent node providers. This price range is not within the budget of many people. However, with better hardware comes better processing power and security.
The Internet Computer is not just another cryptocurrency, it wants to become the open internet by letting people build and host their services on the Internet Computer which essentially acts as a cloud platform of smart contracts, thereby posing a threat to the centralized traditional IT stack. Therefore, you can compare Internet Computer nodes to cloud server machines - a blockchain that acts as a server.
The Internet Computer is hosted in form of subnets (a chain itself) on the nodes. Whereas Ethereum stores the entire state of the chain on each node.
Currently, the nodes are not anonymous
The nodes on the Internet Computer are not entirely anonymous. Although the identity of node providers is known, when nodes behave in bad faith, they can be held accountable by the community through the NNS even if we don't know their identity. However, Dfinity is aware of this and wants to increase anonymity and security by shuffling nodes and subnets randomly and periodically.
NNS combines the nodes hosted on independent data centers, which are still at negligible risk of getting corrupted. Blockchain may be resistant to hacking, but people aren't entirely immune to social engineering. The data centers have to and do maintain good faith for their business. Still, extra layers of security are needed for the Node machines.
The NNS can remove malicious nodes whenever it wants to. The Internet Identity of the Internet Computer is, however, completely decentralized, and to use Internet Computer services, you will not need an external wallet like Metamask, which also runs on corporate clouds. One can log in to the NNS app and vote on proposals along with the community to maintain the integrity of the Internet Computer.
Ethereum is also decentralized to an extent like the Internet Computer, but costs a million times more and is less scalable. Even layer two solutions that try to solve scaling issues of Ethereum run on corporate clouds.
To start achieving maximum decentralization and censorship resistance on the Internet Computer, DFINITY introduced The Badlands proposal.
FAQ for Node Providers by the Internet Computer Association has pretty much all the information for prospective node providers.
Replication enables nodes on the Internet Computer blockchain to resume and catch up to the latest state of the protocol.
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