nChain’s Dr. Owen Vaughan explains ‘what it means to be peer to peer’ at Wales Tech Week

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The recently held Wales Tech Week featured a session on “Blockchain Research: Digital Assets and Beyond,” with nChain Director of Research Dr. Owen Vaughan as the speaker. In his presentation, Dr. Vaughan took a look at the Bitcoin network, in particular, Bitcoin nodes, and the way that they are described in the Bitcoin whitepaper.

Here are a few takeaways from Dr. Vaughan’s presentation:

What is a node?

A node is a member of the Bitcoin network that is involved in the economic process of finding proof of work (PoW) and when they do find the PoW, they have to broadcast that to other nodes on the network. Nodes are also responsible for upholding the consensus mechanism of the network.

What does it mean to be peer-to-peer?

“Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic cash system” is the title of the Bitcoin whitepaper. Many people believe the peer-to-peer aspect means that we can pay one another directly, that Alice can send money to Bob without working through a financial intermediary. However, according to Dr. Vaughan, this is a bit of a misunderstanding, when you read the whitepaper closely, these types of peers refer to nodes on the network, and it’s a cash system that does not rely on one central body.

Scaling up vs scaling out

You can scale up by making your machine more powerful by adding memory, bandwidth, etc. and the other solution is scaling out, replicating the same functionality on many machines. “In Bitcoin SV, where we are increasing the blocksize, we are taking the scale-up approach and in the future, we are going to scale out,” said Dr. Vaughan.

Who uses nodes?

Users might be service providers like social networks, storage entities like a database, autonomous agents like smart contracts, or it might be a wallet software.

“But it’s important to note, that these users, no matter if they are every day like you or me, or enterprises, don’t play any role in block production or validation, it’s only the nodes that are producing blocks that have any say in consensus,” Dr. Vaughan said.

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