Provisioning the Bitcoin network with full nodes just got a little easier. Again.
Fullnode.co relaunched this week. The service launched earlier this year to automate the process of deploying full nodes—an important piece of the Bitcoin network. Fullnode.co gives charitable Bitcoin users the option to donate toward full node deployment, rather than taking the resource-intensive route of running a full node on their own computer. It is another option for those who want to help.
A full node contains a copy of the entire blockchain, and is important for network security. Full nodes provide redundancy for the Bitcoin network: they relay blocks and transactions to other nodes and enhance node synchronization. Preferably, there should be a large number of them.
Depending on who you talk to, the decline in full nodes is a pressing issue. As the blockchain continues to grow, it becomes harder for everyday users to contribute and run a full node on their computer. Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik started the BitSats project—which sends Bitcoin nodes to space in satellites—partially to further distribute nodes.
At the Web Summit in Ireland last month, however, chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, Gavin Andresen, indicated that the number of full nodes is not yet a big issue. Full nodes require around-the-clock connectivity to benefit the network. Andresen warned against everyday users running a full node, partially because they may only run them in the daytime.
Fullnode.co steps around this problem. The nodes are placed on virtual private servers that never sleep. So far, nine full nodes are deployed on Fullnode.co. Donors can send any amount, and each time the Fullnode.co wallet reaches $20 in Bitcoin donations, the service launches a node for a month. The cost covers the virtual private servers and the nodes live on either DigitalOcean or Linode.
Users can verify that the server was launched by checking the bottom of the website, where they can see whether the servers are full nodes by searching for the IP address at Bitnodes, which lists node locations around the world.
The project announcement sparked interesting on the Reddit thread. One user expressed concerns about the potential for Sybil attacks, and another wondered whether the project inadvertently runs counter to Bitcoin's decentralized ethos.
Or Weinberger, developer of Fullnode.co, responded that fully decentralizing the project is currently infeasible:
“You're right, it's not decentralized at all for now, I have yet to come up with a way to make it decentralized other than just explaining [to] people how to run their own full nodes (which I actually do in the FAQs).”
As far as Sybil attacks go, he proposed an interesting solution:
“If there's a mathematical formula that I can use to calculate the likelihood of running a successful sybil attack given a total of X full nodes in the network, I'll be happy to set a very safe limit for the total full nodes fullnode.co will ever run.”
He also stressed that Fullnodes.co is an open-source project. Other developers can run their own full node hubs, or improve the code:
“You can run your own fullnode.co service to reduce this risk.”
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