A bitcoin node is a computer, which is participating in the global bitcoin network by speaking the bitcoin peer-to-peer network protocol. This protocol allows the nodes of the network to communicate and propagate transactions and blocks to each other.
A full node stores the full history with all transactions, which were written into the blockchain. They serve a fundamental purpose, as they act as an authoritative verifier of every single transaction and block. When a new block is propagated, your full node doesn’t trust this new information. Instead, it authoritatively reconciles with its own copy of the ledger to determine whether the funds have been double spend or are available in the first place.
By running a full node, the operator gets fully independent since he or she does not have to rely on any third party such as block explorers or wallet providers. Trust is good; verification is better. To achieve independence and transaction certainty companies and individuals with significant holdings are advised to run full nodes.
Nodes used by mobile wallets
Almost all mobile wallets rely on servers of 3rd parties to send and verify transactions. Since these smartphone wallets don’t download the 200+ GB blockchain data, they are also referred to as light-weight wallets.
There is a mechanism which enables less powerful clients to verify bitcoin transactions without running a full node. It’s called simplified payment verification or SPV. A bitcoin SPV-wallet only needs a copy of the block headers of the longest chain, which are available by querying network nodes until it is apparent that the longest chain has been obtained. Then, wallets using the SPV client get the Merkle branch linking the transaction to its block. Linking the transaction to a place in the active chain demonstrates that a network node has accepted it, and blocks added after it further establishes the confirmation.
Then why go for a full node when simple payment verification is enough to verify transactions?
The light-weight nodes running the SPV client would not be able to connect to the cryptocurrency network, without full nodes in the first place. But there is a more substantial reason, which is that SPV nodes are effectively placing their trust in full nodes in ensuring that blocks and transactions are being correctly validated against consensus rules. Hence, every single full node is contributing to the strength of the whole network. Additionally, SVP is only available for the Bitcoin protocol.
The perks of running a full node
Running a full node grants the operator complete control of their money. Since the soft-, hardware and transaction-data are under control of the user. The whole purpose of bitcoin was and still is that an individual participating in the network is not required to trust any third party. That’s why we also call it a trustless system.
Additionally, there are also significant benefits for the network. Operating a full
node adds further decentralization to it, consequently improving the resilience against attacks. Pre-configured full-nodes like the HTC EXODUS are a convenient way to start and gradually learn the expertise to upgrade and configure the software differently. It provides the user with a convenient learning journey to steadily gain more control and sovereignty.
Further decentralization of full nodes in regards to its ownership, geography, and implementations will protect the core values of these decentralized protocols.
The bigger picture
Products based on permissionless blockchains, which are open, public, borderless, neutral and censorship-resistant are the best way to counter anti-democratic business practices of surveillance capitalists and instead empower the individual user.
We have the opportunity to write the next chapter for the story of money. Choose between an open and public network and one, which is permissioned and controlled by surveillance capitalists. If you want to get active and be a part of a genuinely disruptive network instead of asking for permission, the choice is easy.
Own your keys