- June 7, 2018
- Category: Bitcoin
Bitcoin is in a bit of a crisis, but it’s likely one you haven’t heard about. Unlike stock exchange openings and the rocket-like propulsion of the value of a single Bitcoin, the infrastructure to run Bitcoin has not exactly been headline news. The number of people hosting nodes is on the decline — and that is a problem worrying developers.
Bitcoin nodes are part of the machinery that helps the peer-to-peer network exist, and they work in conjunction with miners whose work it is to validate Bitcoin transactions. When a person sends money to someone, they use their public key, and this is converted, using cryptography, into a public key and sent with another piece of computational information — a hash — to miners.
Miners and Nodes
Bitcoin miners operate specialized computers whose job it is to decode the complex mathematical formulas used in the encryption process. It is not enough, however, to simply encrypt data and then have someone authenticate the process — it needs a system across which to broadcast this data. That is where Bitcoin nodes come in.
Bitcoin, as a cryptocurrency, needed to solve the problem of double-spending and of maintaining security while avoiding the use of a centralized system, such as a bank. Bitcoin nodes are distributed randomly all over the world and will send completed transfer info to other nodes, providing the ledger with a new entry that cannot be changed and that is permanent.
Nodes will generally be referred to as either partial or full. A partial node is one that is just used for mining, and a full node is one that can store complete blockchain data and broadcast information to other nodes in the Bitcoin universe. There is a financial incentive for people to mine Bitcoin, as they are rewarded with 12.5 BTC every time they successfully confirm a transaction, but there is no such award for those who run full nodes — and they consume electricity and monetary resources.
Working Toward an Answer
Developers have expressed concerns that more people need to be willing to operate full nodes that are reachable any time of day or night and that have more than 8 connections. It has also been said that large companies dealing in Bitcoin should also host nodes in order to beef up their own security. Bitcoin Core developer, Jonas Schnelli, has said that mobile nodes safeguard the cryptocurrency system that much more is encouraging people to perform this function.
Often, a person will house a Bitcoin node on a laptop computer that is used for other purposes during the day and is switched on to run the blockchain at night. This tendency means that even the full nodes that exist may not be reachable for large portions of the day, slowing down the system. Developers are working on finding a solution that will make more people want to run Bitcoin nodes, such as running contests and creating a mode that will make verifying payments much simpler.