It took a while for cryptocurrency and the technology behind it to become mainstream. But while it’s been years since Satoshi Nakamoto released the first Bitcoin Whitepaper, people from all over are still trying to wrap their heads around cryptocurrencies and how they actually work.
Granted, you don’t need to know all the ins and outs and technicalities behind the blockchain to benefit from it but a deep understanding will definitely help you navigate through the intricacies of cryptocurrency much easier. And one common concept and term that’s thrown around in the crypto community is a node.
If you know a bit about computer science, then you might have an idea of what a node is. In computer science, a node is simply a smaller component that plays a part in a larger system. And while this is an accurate definition, it gets a bit more complicated when you put things in the context of cryptocurrency.
There’s no denying the fact that crypto is complicated. And for a lot of people, trying to understand every little thing about it can be frustrating and seemingly impossible. But we’re here to make things simpler.
The best way to fully understand cryptocurrency is to take things slowly, one concept at a time. And in this article, we’re going to be discussing nodes in cryptocurrency. We’ll define what they actually are, who can run blockchain nodes, and why you may want to run one yourself. Read on to learn more.
Nodes in cryptocurrency are usually associated with the blockchain. So, before getting into what a blockchain node is, we first need to look at the blockchain as a whole. While many people are already familiar with the rough definition of the blockchain, it won’t hurt to go over it again.
The blockchain is the backbone on which all cryptocurrencies run. In essence, the blockchain is a ledger that contains all the transactions ever made with cryptocurrencies. This is a digital ledger that is immutable, decentralized, and very secure.
Each of the data sets containing each transaction’s information is called a “block”. Whenever a person makes a transaction using cryptocurrency, the data of that transaction is stored as a block on a blockchain.
To store the information as blocks, the blockchain needs to distribute that information to a series of connected devices. Each of these devices is called a node. All of the nodes associated with the blockchain communicate with each other, transferring transaction information and creating new blocks on the blockchain.
The main purpose of a node is to verify each transaction before it’s permanently stored as a block. If the blockchain is the backbone of cryptocurrency, the nodes are the foundation of the blockchain and what allows it to function the way it does. Generally, nodes are classified as full nodes and lightweight nodes. The full nodes are there to secure the network. A full node downloads the entire history of the blockchain, so it can enforce the rules and observe the activity.
A lightweight node, on the other hand, doesn’t do as much work. A lightweight node must connect to a full node to function properly. Since nodes are essential to the blockchain’s functionality, there are many volunteers that run full nodes to help support the ecosystem. That said, there are two other sub-types of nodes that you may want to familiarize yourself with before trying to run one yourself. These are listening nodes (also known as supernodes) and miner nodes.
A listening node is a public full node. These are the public nodes that volunteers run to support the Bitcoin and crypto ecosystem. These nodes will communicate with any other node that establishes a connection with it, verifying transactions and maintaining the security of the blockchain.
At this point, many people understand what Bitcoin mining is. Basically, this is when people use their computers to verify Bitcoin transactions to generate a new block. In return for verifying the transactions, miners are awarded a certain amount of Bitcoin. Miners are also nodes as they are a smaller part of the larger blockchain system. Miner nodes can be solo nodes, in which the miner uses their own device to run the node. However, there are also many mining pools wherein many people share their computing power to help mine Bitcoin and verify transactions.
That said, keep in mind that nodes and miners are completely different. One can run a node without mining. However, you can’t start mining unless you start running a blockchain node yourself. Miners and nodes are thrown around interchangeably in the world of blockchain, but it’s important to know that these two things aren’t exactly the same thing, though they can often go hand-in-hand.
The beauty of cryptocurrency is how the entire technology is decentralized. This means that there is no central figure like a bank or government dictating the rules. That way, the currency is truly democratized, which was the main goal of Satoshi Nakamoto when they originally established and launched the Bitcoin technology.
For example, other monetary services like Visa or PayPal are run by one central entity. This means a lack of transparency.
But with cryptocurrency, everyone can run a node. Since this is a decentralized technology, there aren’t ridiculous barriers of entry that prevent you from running your own node. This is impossible with other services as you will need validation and confirmation from the top of the system before running a node yourself.
With the blockchain, all you have to do is download its software on your computer to run a node yourself. That way, you can start mining Bitcoin by yourself from the comfort of your own home. That said, keep in mind that mining Bitcoin is a complicated process that requires a lot of power, so it will still take some work to effectively run a blockchain node yourself.
One of the best parts of the blockchain is how everyone can participate in it. Of course, as the technology progresses and becomes more popular, establishing a node yourself will become harder. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that just about anyone can start running a Blockchain node without having to worry about getting permission to do so.
So, now you know what a node is in crypto and that you can run one yourself with your personal computer. But the question still remains: why would you want to do this in the first place? Well, there are quite a few benefits to running a Blockchain node yourself. To start, this allows you to start mining Bitcoin yourself. Of course, it can be hard to mine Bitcoin nowadays due to the competitive market, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
However, we already discussed that mining and running a node are not the same thing. And for many people, running a node without trying to mine Bitcoin seems pointless. But that’s far from the case.
There are tons of benefits that extend further than just mining Bitcoin. And in this section, we’re looking at some of the key reasons you might want to start running a Blockchain node yourself.
To start, running a node doesn’t require a lot of gear or a large monetary investment upfront. If you plan to run a node to mine Bitcoin, you might need a powerful rig. However, when it comes to running a node to help sustain the cryptocurrency ecosystem, you can do it with any standard computer. All you really need is a computer with at least 2GB of RAM, a 350GB hard drive, and an unmetered internet connection. Nowadays, most people have access to a computer like this. And even if you don’t, these are some of the most affordable specs available, so it’s a very small investment anyway.
As we mentioned earlier, it doesn’t take much to set up a crypto node. With your personal computer, all you have to do is download the Blockchain software, and you can set up the node. From there, the blockchain uses your personal node to verify and update your balance instead of using another person’s node.
That said, most personal nodes aren’t full nodes. So, that still means that you will have to connect to a full node to be able to run the node and communicate with the network.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are not a central network. The entire point of Bitcoin was to establish a decentralized currency that everyone could access as needed. So, whenever there are changes made to Bitcoin and its infrastructure, the majority needs to agree to the change, or else it won’t push through.
That said, to access this system, you need to have a node. The Bitcoin infrastructure can only change when there is a majority vote from the nodes. So, if you have a node, you can actively participate in governance and give yourself a voice in the large crypto community.
For example, if Bitcoin proposes a new network update, the nodes have to send a vote on whether or not they support the update. If the majority votes yes, then the change will go through. But if the majority doesn’t support the update, it won’t happen.
There can be occurrences when the network undergoes a division or split due to disagreements within the community. If you have a full node running during a split, you even get to choose which side you continue with, giving you more autonomy when navigating through the crypto world. On top of that, you get more autonomy with a node. The whole point of Bitcoin is to eliminate the need for a middleman for monetary transactions. But if you don’t have your own node, you still have to go through a third party to access the network.
A node allows you to fully participate in the crypto ecosystem and community. This includes allowing you to vote on changes and updates as well as giving you direct access to the blockchain.
The biggest reason you might want to establish your own Bitcoin node is to make the entire network more secure. Remember, since Bitcoin is decentralized, it requires the active participation of the community to survive and maintain its security. Nodes are very important to Bitcoin’s security, and running one yourself directly makes the network safer and more secure.
This can entice more people to participate in the community, which can then lead to Bitcoin really entering the mainstream and being adopted by the general populace. On top of that, running a node also ensures that miners and other nodes on the network abide by all the rules in place to keep the system sustainable.
If you run your own node, you get to access the full security of using Bitcoin. The downside to not having a node is that you still have to go through a third party to access the network. Running a node eliminates the need for a third party, allowing one to truly participate in the blockchain community.
With a node, your Bitcoin wallet is stored directly on your system. Without a node, the wallet is stored on a third-party service. So, having a node gives you privacy, and full autonomy over your finances like Bitcoin originally promised.
The world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is both complicated and pretty dense. This can make it hard for people who want to get into the crypto community as it creates an unnecessary barrier to entry. However, this complicated system is the reason Bitcoin and cryptocurrency can work in the first place, so it is very beneficial to understand how this system works and why it’s important.