In laymen’s terms, a full node refers to a computer that is connected to a specific cryptocurrency blockchain network, which downloads all transactions and blocks available on the blockchain. Nodes are heavily reliant on bandwidth and storage capacity, especially considering that they are responsible for recording all transactions on the blockchain in real-time. The majority of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, dash, ethereum, ripple, and litecoin, have their own underlying blockchain networks, with their respective node networks.
In addition to nodes, blockchain networks also include “lightweight nodes” which differ from their heavier counterparts in that they do not record and download transactions but merely verify them. To date, one of the most inexpensive methods to create a full node is to purchase and set up a Raspberry Pi computer with an additional external hard drive of at least one terabyte. These two items amount to around $100. Several tech manufacturers offer computers that have been tailored exclusively to serving as a node but these can come with a hefty price tag.
At the time of writing, the bitcoin core network boasts 11.703 detectable nodes that communicate within the network. However, the number of nodes at any given time is always fluctuating as participants enter and leave. The analyzing tool, Bitnodes statistics, reports that over the last year, the average node count has increased to 8,643.
Countries who demonstrated the highest number of nodes included Russia, US, UK, Germany, Canada, China, the Netherlands, and France. Surprisingly, countries with reputations for notoriously bad internet connections also seemed to participate, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela, Pakistan, Algeria, Namibia, and Mexico City.
At the moment, there are several alternative forms of the bitcoin software available on the network. The market analyzing tool, Coin Dance, states that 9,002 nodes are actively executing the Core software.
During the summer of 2016, a debate began brewing in the bitcoin community, after nodes started suggesting the Segwit2x fork and the user-activated-soft-fork. To this day, the bitcoin community is still divided on the subject. A notable portion of the bitcoin core community has attempted to discourage the broader community from indulging any more implementations.
Surprisingly, other implementations have become a growing trend in the bitcoin community ever since the successful fork of the bitcoin cash project in August 2017. Ever since the fork, several other implementations have reared their heads such as bitcoin xt or bitcoin unlimited. At the moment, bitcoin cash boasts over 1,024 nodes. Bitcoin cash nodes have also increased significantly ever since the cryptocurrency’s establishment.
It is undeniable that both bitcoin and bitcoin cash have demonstrated significant growth in the last year. At the moment, the bitcoin core network grows every year with an average of 50 GB, while bitcoin cash is even 8,517 blocks bigger than its parent network.