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The Bitcoin network is often touted as one of the most revolutionary forms of decentralized technology the world has ever seen. But for it to be decentralized, it needs a globally distributed network of computers or connected nodes.
It sounds simple enough, but there isn’t one type of node, and each type has a different role to play in helping the blockchain network run smoothly. In this article, we’ll go into detail about the different types of knots and what they do.
Know your knots
In general, a node is computer equipment attached to a network. In the context of the internet and your home, your phone is a node, your laptop is a node, your router is a node and this wireless IP camera, yes, it is also a node.
Knots can come in many shapes, sizes, and shapes. Each plays a different, but vital, role in the functioning of your household.
In the case of the Bitcoin blockchain, there are four main types of nodes: full nodes, super nodes, lightweight nodes, and mining nodes. Full, Super, and Light nodes perform similar functions, while mining nodes perform an entirely different function.
Before we dive into what these nodes are and what they do, it’s best to think that blockchain is basically a ledger or a list of transactions – at least for this case. All node types contribute in one way or another to building or maintaining this list.
There is a lot of writing about what mining is and how it works, but for the sake of this article, think of mining nodes simply as the nodes that produce the blocks for the blockchain.
These are the mining nodes that confirm which blocks are to be placed in this “list”, in a process known as “mining”. When we talk about the Bitcoin network, especially in the context of its energy consumption, we often refer to the network of miners and ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Devices) machines.
Mining nodes are not actually responsible for maintaining the blockchain, they are only responsible for creating blocks to add. Once these blocks are created, they are sent over the network to full nodes which validate them and add them to the blockchain.
Full and super knots
As the name suggests, full nodes are responsible for maintaining and distributing copies of the entire blockchain ledger. As such, they play a vital role in the network as they are the starting point for validating the history of blockchain.
The full node is able to validate transactions up to the genesis block, at the time of publication, the entire blockchain reaches a size of 200 GB. Some estimates that there are over 10,000 full operational nodes on the Bitcoin network.
These nodes then propagate the blockchain to all other nodes in the network to ensure that the most reliable blockchain is maintained. The more nodes there are, the more decentralized the network and the harder it is to hack.
Depending on the number of inbound and outbound connections of a full node, it may also be referred to as a super node or listener nodes.
Super nodes typically operate around the clock to help connect other full nodes to each other and spread the blockchain across the network. They serve as a relay of information or redistribution to ensure that everyone has the right copy of the blockchain.
Light nodes – or light nodes – perform a similar function to full nodes, but rather than containing an entire copy of the blockchain, they only contain a part of it.
Thin nodes only download the block header from previous transactions, to confirm the validity of the blockchain and to pass this information on to other nodes. The block header is a summary of a given block, it includes information about the previous block to which it is hashed, the time it was fetched, and a unique identification number, called a nuncio.
Typically, lightweight nodes connect to a parent node, usually a full node; which keeps a complete copy of the blockchain. As lightweight nodes deal less with the blockchain and don’t help propagate large amounts of data across the network, they don’t need to be as powerful and are much cheaper to own and maintain than full nodes. or great.
That said, if a full node is hacked and holds an incorrect copy of the blockchain, thin nodes can be used to reject that blockchain as bogus and confirm to the full node the correct blockchain it should maintain. Think of a light knot group as a supportive group of friends helping to keep a full knot on the right track.
Using lightweight nodes allows for further decentralization of the blockchain network and spreads the real ledger over a greater distance at a lower cost than full nodes.
Validation is not a consensus
Nodes validate the blockchain by following a number of rules. When the entire network follows these rules, all nodes should help produce the same blockchain. Note that validation actually occurs before a block is checked out; validation is not the same as consensus. Consensus is reached when mining nodes agree on the order of transactions, not valid transactions.
Imagine I have 1BTC and transfer 0.25BTC to my colleague Yessi. She currently has 0.25 BTC in her wallet. To confirm this is valid, the Bitcoin network will “ask” full nodes to confirm that I have enough coins and how many Yessi will have after the transaction. Once validated, the transaction will be picked up by miners to be added to a block and verified by Proof-of-Work – in the case of Bitcoin at least. But how this happens is a whole different kettle of fish – and worth reading.
This is, of course, a very simplified overview of the nodes; the structure of the network can become much more complicated. But now that you have mastered the basics of the nodes that make up the Bitcoin blockchain network, why not educate yourself on how proof-of-work or mining pools work?