What is a node?

When you read about a crypto or blockchain project, they often talk about the blockchain network. There are then some players that are part of this network. These can include miners, validators, or nodes. The difference between miners and validators is obvious to many people, while the difference with nodes is a lot less so.

What is a node?

A blockchain consists of a network of participants. These participants are also called nodes. The nodes together form the network of the blockchain, and all have a copy of the entire blockchain on their machine. By the way, that is not the only thing that nodes do.

The main job of nodes is to perform verification. As you know, there are minders and validators who add blocks to the blockchain. To do this, they will first have to check all the transactions. For example, they check if someone can perform a certain transaction and has enough coins for this.

Now a miner can also deliberately accept his own transactions, while they are actually not valid at all. There is no intermediary who could check this, you might think. This is exactly where nodes do their work.

Nodes check from each other whether they are performing their tasks correctly. If there are any nodes that think someone is not doing a good job, they could report this to the network. Then a vote will take place to determine if someone is actually not doing their job properly. If at least 51% of the network agrees with a particular choice, that choice will become a reality.

The difference between miners, validators, and nodes

Many people think that nodes, miners and validators are the same. However, there is a pretty big difference between all three terms. Fortunately, this difference is very easy to understand.

Namely, nodes are all the participants of the blockchain network. When you participate in the network, you are always a node. This means that miners and validators are also nodes. The other way around is not necessarily the same. A node is not always a miner or validator.

A miner is someone who validates transactions within the network of a Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain. Thus, when a transaction is sent into the network, the miner will "compete" against all other miners to have all transactions processed the fastest. Then these transactions can be added to the blockchain in a block. The new block is then also stored on the machines of the nodes (and therefore the miners).

In a blockchain that uses Proof of Stake (PoS), it is validators that ensure that transactions are validated. They do not compete against other validators but are chosen to validate based on the stake they put in. When they finish a block and add it to the blockchain, these blocks are again stored as copies on all nodes (and therefore validators) in the network.

It's probably a lot clearer to you now what the difference between nodes and miners/validators is. You could say that everyone starts as a node, and then can take an extra step to become a miner or validator.

Masternodes If you thought that there are not multiple players in the network of blockchains, you are wrong. Besides the normal nodes, you also have masternodes. These are, as the name implies, nodes that are more important than the normal nodes.

Master nodes have more responsibilities and make sure that nodes do their work in the right way. For example, they control certain nodes and ensure that updates are distributed across the network.

Because masternodes have to perform more tasks, they often need a larger machine. Most masternodes are therefore large servers that run continuously. Incidentally, you will not find masternodes everywhere, such as on Bitcoin's blockchain. You do find masternodes when a blockchain uses Proof of Stake and Delegated Proof of Stake.

Of course, masternodes also get a greater reward for the work they perform. After all, they also provide much more energy and computing power to move the blockchain forward.

How do I become a masternode?

Becoming a masternode yourself is in most cases not easy. You will first have to start as a normal node to build up a certain reputation. Once you have gained this reputation you will have to gain more fame among all the nodes. There is always a vote about who the masternodes can be.

At the moment you are a masternode, it is still an art to remain one. You can also be voted out. This can happen when the other nodes think you are not performing your duties properly. In this way the blockchain wants to ensure that only the very best are allowed to be active as a master node.

Is running a node profitable?

Most people who run a node naturally want to make money from it. Since you receive a reward for the work you do, it is possible to live on the income it brings in. However, this is not the case for every blockchain. In fact, there are very few blockchains where you can earn a lot by running a node.

When you run a node, you spend less on hardware and energy than when you are a miner. Mining crypto costs a lot more energy and hardware, because the work is much more intensive. The rewards, by the way, are a lot higher. Still, in many cases it is not profitable.

Even when you have a masternode, this does not always mean it is profitable. This is because there are many costs involved in running such a node. So, it's important to always do proper research on the blockchain before you choose to run a node on it.

Staking

It is also possible to bet money on a node. This is also called staking. In effect, you invest money in someone else's node, increasing the chance that the node can perform work. The more work a node can do, the more profit they can make. The rewards that the node receives are then distributed among everyone who has put in their stake. Staking can actually be very lucrative to earn an interest on your crypto.

Conclusion

We often hear about miners, nodes and validators, while many people don't really know what the difference is. For example, they think that nodes also validate transactions, when in fact they do not. Nodes are simply participants of the blockchain network that essentially check other nodes on their performance.

When a node is not doing its best, all nodes can decide to remove the node from the network. This is decided by a vote among all nodes in the network, where at least 51% of the nodes must agree with the decision.

The main difference is that nodes are not always a miner or validator. However, a miner or validator is always a node. So, you see nodes as the basic participants of a blockchain network. Without them, the network of the blockchain could not exist.