What is a Bitcoin Node? Mining versus Validation

This introduction to Bitcoin Nodes was originally published at Bruno’s Bitfalls website, and is reproduced here with permission.

You’ll often hear the word node thrown around in blockchain and cryptocurrency circles. If you’ve read our intro to blockchain (and we highly recommend you do that), one of the characters in the comic there that’s writing down transactions on a piece of paper is actually a node. That introduction is quite simplified, however — so let’s explain the concept of nodes in a bit more detail now.

Validation Nodes

One node is a computer running specific software. In the case of Bitcoin, one node is a Bitcoin program which connects to other Bitcoin nodes, i.e. other Bitcoin programs on the same machine, or on other machines which can be across the street or on the other side of the planet. There are several types and several versions of Bitcoin software. By picking a specific version of a specific Bitcoin program, a user “votes” for certain changes in the Bitcoin protocol. For example, if a bunch of users suggest the increase of 21 million total BTC to 42 million, the majority of the network is required to vote “yes” by installing the software implementing this change. Code changes are, thus, democratic.

Where this idea falls apart is in the fact that there are very few Bitcoin nodes out there — a mere 10000 currently.

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