Lowering those barriers should be priority number one for the whole blockchain ecosystem. If we can’t get more users to run nodes, we can’t drive decentralization, as this would force people to rely on other services to interact with blockchains. Blockchain nodes should be light enough so anyone can run them without dedicated equipment. The node software should also be simple enough so that non-technical users have no trouble operating with it.
Top challenges faced by blockchain networks
As an infrastructure, blockchain was created to give full governance power to its actual participants rather than a centralized entity. While it provides amazing benefits in specific use cases, such as Bitcoin (BTC) does for peer-to-peer asset transfers, the way most of the current blockchain networks are designed poses quite a challenge for new users to participate.
For once, to be able to become a participant in the network, users need to run a full blockchain node and become a validator. The brief history of blockchain showed that running a validator node requires substantial technical know-how that even most tech-savvy people often lack, along with costly investments in expensive hardware.
On top of that, users are required to host the entire blockchain on their systems, 24/7, to run a full node. Imagine having the entire Ethereum blockchain downloaded on a computer —it would require massive amounts of storage and top-notch internet connectivity to efficiently run the node.
Users who wanted to become active participants in a blockchain soon found out that, as if the technical side is not challenging enough, blockchains and decentralized applications are designed for utility and not for users: The user interfaces that should bridge the technology with the experience heavily lack simplicity, raising the entry barrier for average users even higher.
Thankfully, technological advancements allow us to find better utilization of blockchain nodes, and community feedback presents us with new ways to design more user-centric systems and applications. If the blockchain industry can overcome these challenges, it would facilitate a more inclusive ecosystem and drive further adoption.
Ethanos is a novel approach for optimizing the full node of a blockchain by including only active accounts in the verification process. It aims to downsize the full node so that it can be run by average computers, and in the future, possibly even smartphones. Over Protocol, a layer-1 blockchain network, is one such example of utilizing this approach to provide lightweight and user-friendly full nodes in a bid to improve accessibility by a much broader user base. Users can join the network by running a full node on their personal computers at home.
The quintessence of graphic user interfaces (GUIs)
Simplifying nodes is only one part of the equation, though. We also need to simplify the user interfaces. When we look at the current blockchain landscape, the most widely-used apps are coming from crypto exchanges. Why? Because, as businesses, they need the most accessible, clean screens to attract more customers.
The blockchain ecosystem can take a cue from exchanges when designing their user experience. True decentralization needs more people to become validators and running nodes of a blockchain network. Simply downsizing the node is not enough to achieve this objective. It's also necessary to design node client applications with easy-to-use graphic user interfaces (GUIs).
Better-designed GUIs would drive the adoption of blockchain networks backed by individuals instead of a select few. Over Protocol has developed OverNode as a “client for lightweight full node” to provide users with a GUI that uses an application and mouse control instead of command line operations widely used for node clients.
Long story short, a user-centric blockchain would require two key elements: One is a lightweight full node that can be run on users' personal devices, and the other is a user-friendly interface that lowers entry barriers.
When advanced knowledge of the Linux operating system or expensive dedicated hardware is no longer required, users can feel empowered to run a node and become a validator. They can contribute to the decentralization of networks. Only by adding more newcomers to networks as validators and active participants can we drive the blockchain ecosystem’s growth in a meaningful way.
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