The first time I heard about blockchain and cryptocurrency. My reaction was the same as many; I was both intrigued and fascinated. but when it came to exploring my first purchase, the main things I felt were confusion and intimidation. downloading your first wallet may seem like a daunting task but if you know and understand your options, getting a wallet or running the blockchain’s software becomes possible for any user.
First, let’s go over a simple definition. You may have heard the term “node” before. All it means is a computer running that blockchain’s software.
The main difference actually lies in the construction of a public chain. The whole idea behind a blockchain is that each computer running the software, or node, has a complete record of all previous transactions. In order get to a point where the node is functional, it first has to catch up with the data history of the blockchain. And those are a lot of transactions to sync. And this is not a quick process. The first time I tried to run a full node, it took me just over two days to sync the chain with my node.
There Must be a Quicker Way!
This was insanely frustrating, but there was another solution that I had yet to hear about, and that solution is light clients.
Light clients allow you to use the blockchain, but do not require you download the entire transaction history, Instead, these light clients only reference part of the transactions, which is a fraction of the data required to download compared to a full node. So there is not a long syncing process with light clients. I use light clients for my hot wallet, or “ready to spend” wallet, or when I simply don’t want to wait to download an entire chain.
It is important to note that a light client is referencing a trusted full node’s copy of the blockchain. The effect is that users are allowed to transact on the blockchain without downloading an entire copy of the blockchain. And this is no small file. The entire history of the blockchain has to be downloaded, and for Bitcoin, is about 200GB.
Obviously, if you have a device that doesn’t have that kind of memory or processing power, a full node isn’t really an option for you. Instead, you’re probably going to use a light client. Most mobile wallets are lite clients, as most cell phones don’t have the memory to run a full node. Downloadable light clients are also available for computers.
You may be thinking that light clients are the best way to interact with the blockchain, but there are some benefits from running a full node. Full nodes help process or validate transactions, they are the supervisors of the network, so if you’re interested in mining, you most likely have to be using a full node. These nodes also ensure security. If more people run full nodes, the network becomes more resilient and tougher to successfully attack. Full nodes contribute to the functionality of a network, by running a full node you’re helping support the network.
More Hashing Power = More Mining Rewards
There is an important sub-type of a full node, and that is a mining node. While running a node helps secure the network if you’re looking to mine cryptocurrency, well then you’re going to need to run a mining node. Like I said, this is a type of full node, but in a proof-of-work consensus, a mining node requires a lot more processing power than a simple full node and can eat up your power supply easily. Since each mining node is rushing to solve the same equation, miners often are competing, and the way to get an edge on the competition is to increase your hashing power. More hashing power equals more mining rewards.
The last distinction we’ll make is pretty network specific. Some networks use “supervisory” nodes that validate and process transactions. For example, Dash has masternodes. In order to run one of these nodes, you have to stake 1000 dash. Your node then has the responsibility of making sure every transaction processed is valid. In return, masternodes are given a designated part of each block reward.
So there’s our breakdown of each type of node. Hopefully we’ve helped you figure out which node is the right one for you!