A node is the fundamental foundation of blockchain technology. Thanks to these we can create a huge network of interconnected computers that share information in a secure, fast and decentralized way, in addition to allowing us to enjoy all the benefits that blockchain technology can offer us. 

En computing and computing a node is generally a physical or virtual connection point where you can create, send and receive all kinds of data and information. Thus, from the point of view of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, the nodes are constituted by all those computers that are interconnected to the network of a cryptocurrency, executing the software that is in charge of all its operation

These nodes are interconnected to each other through a peer network known as RED peer-to-peer (P2P). Which means that all the nodes operate equally and equivalent to each other. In addition, the nodes can communicate with each other to transmit and share data and information through said network. In this way, the nodes of a blockchain network can orchestrate all the information necessary for its operation. 

But nodes are much more than software that makes the blockchain network work. There are different types, each with its own functionality and purpose. For this reason, in this new article from Bit2Me Academy, we will dedicate ourselves to explaining what these nodes are. With this we will know what functions they fulfill and why they are so important in blockchain technology.

Origin of distributed and interconnected networks 

Bitcoin It was the first cryptocurrency to employ a network of nodes to operate decentralized and autonomously through the blockchain. However, this was not the first to create or introduce the concept of node from a P2P network. We owe this honor to Napster, developed in 1999 by entrepreneurs Sean Parker y Shawn Fanning In the United States, they were the ones who popularized the concept of a massively distributed network among users. 

Napster was a project created with the purpose of allowing the exchange and distribution of music. All your users need was to download your software and join the network. This was largely accepted, reaching over 26 million users. An incredible amount considering that at that time there were only 248 million Internet users. And although Napster operated centrally, since it had a central server to keep subscribers online, Napster users could exchange their music files without any intermediaries. But due to the fact that Napster distributed music without payment of royalties, the platform was eventually shut down. 

Subsequently, the project SETI @ Home He was the second to implement the node structure in the network, in order to conduct research and analyze data from radio telescopes, aimed at searching for life and extraterrestrial intelligence. This project was developed in the same way in 1999, and was directed by the laboratory Space Sciences Laboratory from the University of California, United States. At SETI @ Home, any user who had a computer with an Internet connection, and who was interested in carrying out this type of work, could connect to the project simply by downloading and running the software, which was also free. Unfortunately the SETI @ Home project has stopped working recently

So, the way of operating of this last project is the one that has the greatest similarity and relationship with the current functioning of node networks in Bitcoin blockchains and other cryptocurrencies.

  • Napster one of the first P2P services in the world
  • SETI @ HOME a P2P network dedicated to the analysis of data from radio telescopes

How does a Bitcoin node work?

Anyone who wants to join and contribute to the Bitcoin system network, can do so freely just by downloading and installing the Bitcoin Core on your computer. If you are interested in doing this process, I leave you this article where we explain easily how can you install a Bitcoin node on your computer in a very short time. 

But how does the node work? The operation of the Bitcoin peer network begins with the lifting of the first node. This action was initiated by Satoshi Nakamoto, who was the first to run a Bitcoin node, followed by Hal Finney. Now, at this point with a single node it cannot be called a network. For this it is necessary that more and more nodes join. At this point, the computers or computing equipment running the Bitcoin Core software from the Bitcoin system begin to come together.

From that moment they begin to synchronize among themselves and begin their process of operation and operation. The process continues repeating with each new node added to the network, exchanging information so that they all work in a coordinated manner. Thus the Bitcoin blockchain operates as a decentralized system. This is why the nodes must share and distribute the responsibility of creating, storing and transmitting the information within the network. There are no levels or hierarchies, in the Bitcoin blockchain all nodes operate equally. 

Once connected, the nodes can perform different functions. As for example the retransmission or storage of data or service of sending or receiving operations. As well as a mining service for the creation of new blocks, validation and confirmation of transactions, among others. Although there are several types of nodes that perform different functions from each other. However, all interconnected nodes are governed by the same established consensus protocol rules. In fact, each one will make its own conclusion about the validity of a transaction, regardless of the other nodes. 

Likewise, the nodes in the Bitcoin network and in the network of other cryptocurrencies can be those connection points that relay all the information they receive, or they can be that final communication point that stores all the data. 

Nowadays, for a node to function properly it requires a certain degree of computing power and capacity, in addition to sufficient storage space. For this reason, it is common today for many users to invest in the computing resources they wish to allocate to play the role of nodes.

Types of nodes in the Bitcoin network

As we already mentioned, in Bitcoin there are several types of nodes, and each one of them performs specific and different functions. 

Full nodes 

They are those computer equipment or computers that implement the Bitcoin client, being the most common Bitcoin Coreand store an exact, complete and up-to-date copy of the Bitcoin blockchain. The complete nodes are those that enforce all the rules of the Bitcoin protocol, and therefore, are the ones that truly provide robustness, security and stability to the network. 

Full nodes transmit their own transactions, while also transmitting the transactions of other users. In addition, they update the blockchain every time a new block is generated, previously confirming that it complies with all the consensus rules established in the system. For example, that the amount of bitcoins generated as a reward is correct, that the block size does not exceed the 1 MB limit, that the signatures of the added transactions are valid, that there are no double-spending problems, among others. If any of these or any other protocol rule is violated, the complete nodes will immediately reject the generated block, guaranteeing maximum network security and integrity.

Bitcoin Core is the software for complete Bitcoin nodes

Supernodes

Supernodes, also known as listening nodes, are all those complete nodes that operate in the Bitcoin network publicly and openly. It is currently estimated that there are around 10.000 known and distributed public nodes worldwide. 

These nodes operate as a point of communication and interconnection with other nodes in the network. Any node that wants to connect to a supernode can do it openly. Since they generally operate continuously and uninterruptedly to transmit data and information to various points on the network.  

Mining nodes

The nodes of mining is., As the name implies, are those complete nodes that, in addition to storing a complete copy of the blockchain, also run mining software. For example, BTCMiner or another with the purpose of mining bitcoins and generating new blocks within the blockchain. In addition, the mining nodes will also be in charge of receiving and transmitting the transactions carried out in the network. 

However, although in 2009 bitcoins could be mined with a simple CPU, today, and due to the enormous difficulty network, it takes specialized teams to engage in this activity. Although there are also new modalities such as mining pool that allow to unite the computational power of a group of miners, where only the administrator of the mining group will execute the complete node.

Farm miners all of them running mining software that makes them a mining node in the Bitcoin network

Light Nodes

Light nodes, also known as broadcast nodes are those who depend on a third party to perform validations of transactions on the network. These nodes do not require storing a full copy of the blockchain, but instead receive the blockchain information from the supernodes. 

By not downloading a full copy of the blockchain, the lightweight nodes are executable on mobile devices like phones and tablets. And they are used to run the services of wallets and purses to verify if some of the transactions made are included or not within the blockchain. 

How much do you know, cryptonuta?

Do the nodes turn out to be fundamental for the functioning of blockchain technology?

TRUE!

Since blockchain networks are P2P networks, each node that is part of the network is a vital extension of it. It doesn't matter if it is a full or light node, being a node in a blockchain network adds security, resilience and decentralizes the network even more. Having said this, we can say with total certainty that nodes are essential for the proper functioning of a blockchain network, and the more they exist, the better for said network.

Security and protection of the Bitcoin network

Full nodes or supernodes that are in constant connection with the Bitcoin network, continuously receive, store and transmit all blockchain updates. Every time a valid block is generated, these nodes update and store the new information. This provides robustness and security to the network against attacks by malicious actors or system failures. Because if a power outage or hack attempt occurs on one of the nodes, all other remaining nodes have current information backed up. Something that would be impossible if we were talking about a central server. 

Thus, even if a large part of the node network suffers a failure or hacking, with just one node that is intact, the Bitcoin network can be kept operational. Since this would allow to recover all the blockchain and the information stored in it. So the more number of full nodes there are in the Bitcoin network, the more secure and reliable it will be.

Nodes in other blockchain networks

Other blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Dash o PivX they employ masternode o master nodes, that in addition to being able to execute the functions of the nodes that we have already mentioned, they can also have participation in other types of functions and services within a blockchain. Generally, for the execution of this type of nodes, the possession of a certain amount of cryptocurrencies is required. This in order to guarantee the correct participation of the node within the blockchain.  

The functions that a masternode they depend on and are linked to the type of blockchain where they are going to be executed. Thus, they will be able to participate in voting events, execute protocol operations and comply with all the rules established within a blockchain. They can also offer other functions such as validating or transmitting transactions. Likewise, this type of node must remain operational continuously and uninterruptedly. And they must also have good processing capacity and storage space. 

There are also data storage nodes like the ones we can see on blockchain like Sia. The function of these nodes is to build a giant data cloud-style data storage network. But entirely controlled by the Sia blockchain smart contracts. As a result, Sia users can rent storage space on these storage nodes. And from there upload the data they want in a secure and completely decentralized way. 

As you can see, the purpose and usefulness of the nodes is varied. And everything depends on the infrastructure and development of the network of which they are part.