Full Bitcoin Nodes: Why the Myths Are Turning People off of Owning One
A recent panel of experts at MIT focused their time on the mass adoption of Bitcoin in the future and that of the Lightning Network. The panel was moderated by the president of the MIT Bitcoin club, who at one point during the panel asked the panel members to state their views on owning a full node on the Bitcoin network. He specified that he was interested in their views on what misconceptions were widely held regarding by the public at large. One of the panel members had is the founder of the Node Launcher project, and he had a lot to say about the issue.
Specialized Hardware And The Mining/Node Intertwining
Rochard started off with the issue of hardware misinformation. More specifically that many still believe that specialized hardware was needed to be able to run a full node on the network. He also said that people who held this misconception are not really at fault themselves, per se.
The fact that Satoshi uses nodes and miners interchangeably in his white paper is a big reason for this misconception. The idea that miners have nodes and people who have nodes are miners. A long-held belief even among more knowledgable cryptocurrency users. This isn't the case at all, he countered, as he said that many miners do not even run their own full nodes these days. He goes on to say that those who run their own full nodes at home are not usually mining.
This is where the idea that you need expensive, specialized hardware to be able to run a full node comes from and it highlights the need for better education with regards to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general.
Hardware Requirements Are Another Stumbling Block
Those who knew the difference between mining and owning a full node still had misconceptions around the hardware you need to run your own full node at home. Many think that running a full node has to be resource intensive and are unwilling to do delve further into the ecosystem.
One aspect is the amount of hard drive space you need. Many think that you cannot get away with anything less than 250 gigabytes of hard drive space to hold all the data a full node requires. The truth of the matter is that this isn't necessary at all.
The 250 gigabytes are needed for so-called full archival nodes that contain the entire history of all transactions ever processed by the network. People could simply set their node to the “pruning,” and it would then only require around 10 gigabytes of storage space. Rochard says that when the Node Launcher project software is used, it will automatically be activated to pruning mode when low disk space is detected. He says it's all about the UX and UI tweaks. You have to give users the information in an easy to understand way, a way that they will automatically know what they can do and what is required of them.
One issue that full node operators have, he said, is that of bandwidth. The issues arise, occasionally, during an initial block download. They are a clear issue, and it has long been argued that Bitcoin's block weight limit must be lowered as soon as possible. Rochard says that it is a feature that was needed “yesterday, but we'll probably get it at some point this year” and points to Neutrino as the solution. Neutrino is how simplified-payment-verification can work in Bitcoin.
Understanding The “Why Should I” Is The Most Important Hurdle
Spinning up a full nide, say Rochard, needs to have a purpose and without purpose, it doesn't really help the wider network at all. It might help at the edges of the Bitcoin system if you spin it up passively and never use it, but it does not actually add much to the robustness if you are not personally using it.
People should use a full node because they want to use Bitcoin so that the node sees use and participates in transactions. It's all well and good for an altruistic node to be formed, but that does not add to the ecosystem much. More people sing their nodes to make payments and receive payments is what will drive Bitcoin forward.