What is Chain Key Technology?
Chain Key Technology allows the Internet Computer to finalize transactions that update smart contract state in 1–2 seconds. This is an enormous improvement, but still insufficient alone to allow blockchain to provide competitive user experiences, which require that responses be provided to users in milliseconds. The Internet Computer solves this by splitting smart contract function execution into two types, known as “update calls” and “query calls.” Update calls are those we are already familiar with, and take 1–2 seconds to finalize their execution, while query calls work differently because any changes they make to state (in this case, the memory pages of canisters) are discarded after they run. Essentially, this allows query calls to execute in milliseconds.
One of the primary complaints about blockchain technology is its lack of speed, and one of the greatest preconceptions is that it is intentionally slow. The roots of such thinking date back to the first blockchain, Bitcoin, which typically takes roughly 30–60 minutes to finalize transactions. Developed a few years later, Ethereum used an updated form of Proof-of-Work to speed things up, but it is still far from achieving the web speed that’s needed to deliver compelling online user experiences.
The Internet Computer is the third great innovation in blockchain. The first innovation was Bitcoin, which introduced cryptocurrency, and is now playing the role of digital gold. The second innovation was Ethereum, which introduced smart contracts, which are now powering the DeFi revolution. This third major innovation, the Internet Computer, introduces the first true blockchain computer, which will enable the world to reimagine how we build everything — using a blockchain with seamless, infinite capacity. Inside the Internet Computer Protocol, Chain Key Technology makes this all possible — a combination of dozens of computer science breakthroughs such as Random Beacon, Probabilistic Slot Consensus, Advanced Consensus Mechanism, Network Nervous System, subnets, etc., that allows the Internet Computer to be the first blockchain computer that runs at web speed with unbounded capacity.