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A new non-profit project encouraging bitcoiners to “adopt a node” has launched.

Bitcoin nodes store a copy of the block chain, a public history of all transactions that have ever occurred, and also serve to verify and relay these transactions across the network.

A healthy number of 'full' bitcoin nodes (those running the bitcoin core client on a machine instance with the complete block chain) are required to maintain and secure bitcoin's distributed network.

However, the total number of full nodes has declined in recent months and encouraging an uptake in node provisioning has proven difficult.

Enter Fullnode, a project aiming to make it simpler for bitcoiners willing to tackle this growing problem.

For the greater good

In conversation with CoinDesk, Fullnode’s developer Or Weinberger explained how he rushed to put his automatic server provisioning experience to use when he learned of bitcoin's diminishing full node supply:

“I thought it would be cool if people who wanted to help the bitcoin network, but didn't know how, could simply send some BTC to an address and have a full node deployed for them.”

The number of active nodes continues to sit around the 8,000 mark, despite renewed concern about the stagnant supply. This is partially due to the fact that downloading the bitcoin daemon to provision a node is notoriously cumbersome and unlike mining, there's no reward for doing so.

Adopt a node

Fullnode offers a user-friendly way to contribute precious resources to the block chain, without draining the benefactor's bandwidth or disk space.

Each $10 donation fuels one node for a month. From the donor's end, the setup process is near-effortless: just minutes after they send their bitcoin to Fullnode (via Coinbase) the automatic server deployment agent will launch their node.

Additionally, from this weekend onwards users will also be able to name their server. For example, users could claim the name 'Satoshi' for satoshi.fullnode.co. Donors can choose to continuously refund, or 'top-up' their node it they wish.

The project wants to integrate a variety of provider pools to permit a more geographically distributed network. Linode and DigitalOcean have locations in North America, Singapore, the Netherlands, Japan and the United Kingdom. Weinberger has plans to integrate Google Compute Engine, which would add a few more locations to the list.

Users can verify that the nodes exist, and check out the rest of the global distribution, via a quick IP search on Bitnodes.

Nodes provide redundancy

Nodes broadcast transaction messages across the network before miners validate the transaction.

It is difficult to say exactly how many are necessary, but having a diverse pool of nodes to choose from could increase network security as the redundancy reduces the likelihood of double spending. Developers Jeff Garzik and Mike Hearn have both expressed concerns about the recent drop in node numbers.

Garzik even announced a partnership with Deep Space Industries, Inc. to send bitcoin nodes into space. The satellites, named 'Bitsats', could act as backup in the case of terrestrial failure.

The open-sourced Fullnode project offers an easy way for anyone to provision the network.

Today, there's no incentive to devote time and resources to the issue, unlike bitcoin mining, but perhaps the altruism of adopt-a-node could topple barriers to participation.  

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

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