Like anything else in the world the Bitcoin network is not totally immune to either attack or misuse. If everything is running properly, in balance, the system works fine. But if it becomes overloaded due to misuse problems and security weaknesses, problems begin to develop. Basically the problem comes down to proper allocation of resources. The last several months however have seen the rise in power of what has become known as cryptocurrency “pool” mining. The practice is already beginning to cause a strain on the system and one company, FullNode, is trying to stem the tide by providing a tactic that might possibly be quite effective if enough people are involved.
But first we need to explain why pool mining is incredibly dangerous to the future integrity of the blockchain. Every transaction that is made using Bitcoin sends a statement to the network. This statement contains your private key. Once the statement is made, it is open for miners to scoop up, after which it is added to the blockchain. This means that the blockchain is being maintained by the miners, who generally download the entire blockchain into their computers. This decentralized nature is one of the reasons that tampering with the blockchain is so difficult. If you illegally access someone’s computer and make changes to the blockchain, those changes will not be registered in the official blockchain that the majority of miners have stored.
Unfortunately this is not the case with pool mining. People join mining pools simply because it is hardly resource intensive. When you are in a pool, there is no need to store a complete log of the blockchain. Instead of running on a full node, pool miners run on “partial” nodes while the mining client runs a full node. Along with a copy of the full node, the client also maintains a copy of all of the partial nodes and when proof-of-work problems are solved, which they do in isolation, the client collects them and determines which miners get which rewards. While there has been a huge outcry and promises from some companies to reform, some companies are still resisting.
A full node is resource intensive in that it takes up a great deal of space on a hard drive. This makes pool mining very attractive. In fact, the number of full Bitcoin nodes has declined by more than 20% from 10,000 to 8,000 in just the last 4 months. The more nodes lost, the greater the threat that groups with full nodes can begin to collude to manipulate the Bitcoin network to their advantage and also increases the possibility of full nodes not being accessible in some regions.
Some of the possible solutions to this problem have gone as far as to suggest putting Bitcoin miners with full nodes into space using a CubeSat as a platform. The discussions have gotten as far as technical suggestions and even talk about the effect of radiation on memory and the possible need for a RAID setup, which has never been done on an orbital. FullNode, an open-source non-profit has what seems to be a more down-to-earth solution. This charitable organization is promising for a $10 monthly donation to permit users to name a full node on the network in what they are calling the “Adopt-a-Node Project.” The node will run on a distributed computing platform similar to DigitalOcull.
The FullNode website homepage is currently “down for maintenance” but the server list and FAQ pages are active and provide more information. The server list allows users to name their server for the address “Name”.fullnode.co. Users are also allowed to find their node or even have it top off automatically. FullNode hopes to bring together a wide variety of provider pools in order to enable a more evenly distributed network. The foundation companies, DigitalOcean and Linode already have locations in North America, Europe (UK and Netherlands) and Asia (Singapore and Japan) and they plan to add Google Compute Engine that would expand the network even further.