One of the panels at the recent 2019 MIT Bitcoin Expo was focused on the future adoption of Bitcoin and the Lightning Network. This panel featured Zap wallet creator Jack Mallers, Buidl Bootcamp Instructor Justin Moon, and Lightning Power Users Founder Pierre Rochard.
At one point during the panel conversation, moderator Marcin Jachymiak of the MIT Bitcoin Club asked the panel for their thoughts on some of the misconceptions around running a full node. Rochard has worked in the area of getting more people to run their own nodes through his Node Launcher project, so he had plenty to share on the matter.
1. The Need for Specialized Hardware
The first misconception Rochard pointed to had to do with the idea that people sometimes mistakenly believe specialized hardware is needed to operate a full node.
“It’s not their fault,” said Rochard. “Frankly, Satoshi — in the white paper he says nodes and he’s talking about miners or visa versa. And so, there’s always been this idea that your node and mining are interrelated when, today, that’s not the case at all.”
Rochard noted that miners usually don’t run their own full nodes these days. Instead they simply connect to their mining pool’s full node. Additionally, those who are running their own full nodes at home usually aren’t mining.
2. Understanding Hardware Requirements
The second misconception Rochard brought up also had to do with hardware, but this time it was more about the computer resources required to operate a full node.
For example, Rochard pointed out that some individuals think they need 250 gigabytes worth of disk space in order to run a full node when, in reality, that amount of disk space is only necessary if someone wants to run a full archival node with a complete history of transactions on the network.
“You can set [the node] to be pruning, and then you only need 10 gigabytes of disk space,” said Rochard.
When Rochard’s Node Launcher software is used, pruning will automatically be activated if a low amount of available disk space is detected.
“There’s little UX tweaks we can do around that to make things easier,” said Rochard.
Bandwidth is another area of worry for potential full node operators. The bandwidth-related issues sometimes found during an initial block download (IBD) are a key part of the argument that Bitcoin’s block weight limit should be lowered.
“From that point of view, we need Neutrino,” said Rochard. “We needed it yesterday, but we’ll probably get it at some point this year.”
3. The Why of Running a Bitcoin Full Node
The final misconception Rochard touched on during this portion of the panel was that some people don’t understand why they need to run a full node in the first place.
“There needs to be more education about why a full node should even be run on your laptop or your desktop at all, and also how to actually use it,” said Rochard.
“It doesn’t matter if you spin up a full node and then don’t use it,” Rochard added. “At the margin, it might help the network a little bit, but it’s really not why one should be spinning up a full node. You should be spinning up a full node because you want to use Bitcoin in a trustless manner, and also, there are privacy advantages, et cetera.”
Whether it makes sense to run a full node simply for the benefit of the greater Bitcoin network was also discussed by a panel at TABConf.
As a final note, Rochard added that many of the misconceptions around running a full node have helped shape the direction of his Node Launcher project.