Members of a blockchain network
Blockchains are peer-to-peer networks that are made up of individual computers, also known as nodes. Nodes power the network, maintaining copies of the blockchain and running the software that is necessary to process transactions such as the exchange of data or funds. Nodes can be any electronic device, from computers to smartphones, as long as they have the ability to connect to the internet.
In order to join a blockchain network, a new node must discover at least one existing member of the network. When this contact is made, the new node is able to access a list of the existing member’s other connections, thereby growing its network. As well as sharing lists of their peers, nodes can also compare each other’s copies of the blockchain to find out if they are missing any blocks. If they are, they can ask their peers for updated information. This process ensures that all network members have an accurate and up-to-date record of activity on the blockchain.
In the world of blockchain, all nodes are equal, but some are more equal than others… Nodes of various different types exist to support different functions of the network. At the lowest level, nodes merely satisfy the minimum requirements for network participation: namely, the ability to validate transactions and to connect to other nodes. Full nodes, on the other hand, store complete copies of the blockchain locally and have the ability to verify transactions autonomously. Mining nodes solve cryptographic puzzles to process transactions, thereby earning cryptocurrency rewards. This enhanced node capability is mitigated by the vast amount of processing power required to mine blocks and the hardware needed to store full local copies of the blockchain.