Running a Bitcoin full node has long been considered an altruistic act that should serve a greater purpose – namely, supporting the network. What exactly does it mean to support the Bitcoin network with a full node and why there are also solid egoistic motives for setting up a node.
1. Only full node owners can be sure that they own BTC
Monetary sovereignty also includes validating one’s own BTC holdings. Anyone who trusts third parties such as wallet providers or even exchanges is disregarding the Bitcoin ethos “don’t trust, verify”. Only operators of BTC Full Nodes can rule out the associated uncertainties and be sure of their ownership.
So if you want to become a First Class Bitcoin Citizen, you cannot avoid a Bitcoin Full Node.
2. Verify transactions
Point two follows on seamlessly from point one. Because only those who operate a node can be sure that the payments they receive are actually Bitcoin. Full nodes enforce the BTC network rules and reject all transactions that violate them.
Anyone who owns Bitcoin thereby implicitly gives consent to the associated consensus rules – full nodes enforce this consensus.
3. Network statistics
Setting up a Bitcoin node is also mandatory for analysts. Because those who have direct access to the Blockchain – and that is exactly the core of nodes – get first-hand network data.
Average fees, hash rate, difficulty, size of the mempool – this is only a small selection of the enormous possibilities to scan the Blockchain for relevant data. Those who do not operate a full node are consequently dependent on third parties and have no way of checking launched data for accuracy.
Satoshi Nakamoto primarily wanted to create an apolitical hard money. As such, the limitation to 21 million coins is core to the BTC protocol. The crux: All network participants must be able to verify compliance with the algorithmic monetary policy at any time – and this does not come without compromises.
The most prominent example is losses in Bitcoin’s privacy. After all, if used entirely anonymously, inflation bugs, for example, could go undetected for a long time, threatening Bitcoin’s value proposition at its core.
If Bitcoiners still want to achieve a certain degree of anonymity, they should think about a full node. This is because via centralized wallets like Ledger or Trezor, Bitcoiners disclose all addresses as well as the respective BTC assets held on them. Only those who generate BTC addresses themselves with the help of full nodes can take the first steps toward more private Bitcoin use.
5. Full nodes support the network
And yes, reason #5 is indeed altruistic in nature. Because the more nodes are connected to the Bitcoin network, the more secure it is. Because as long as “honest” nodes can outvote attackers, Bitcoin is safe.
So if you run a BTC node out of the aforementioned selfishness, you incidentally ensure a more robust system.
In short, running a full node is the only way to use Bitcoin without the aid of third parties. If you want monetary sovereignty, you have to set up a node.
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