What is the Bitcoin Network?
The Bitcoin Network is made up of everyone running the bitcoin software (better known as a bitcoin “client”).
What does the network do?
People (well, bitcoin clients) on the network talk to each other.
And by “talk to each other” I mean pass on information about what’s going on in other parts of the network. This is done by sending each other messages.
For example, a message could be information about a new transaction.
This sharing of information (e.g. transactions) is what allows the everyone on the network to keep up-to-date, which is pretty important if you want to run a digital currency on the Internet.
The Bitcoin Network is described as a “peer-to-peer network”, because:
- Everyone is connected to each other, so it’s a network.
- Everyone on the network is equal, so we are peers.
Who makes up the network?
As mentioned, anyone with an active Internet connection and running a bitcoin client.
Seriously, anyone can join the bitcoin network. All you need is an internet connection and a bitcoin client, which is a piece of software like any other.
And once you’re up and running you’ll be referred to as a node on the bitcoin network.
How can I join the network?
That’s the spirit.
All you need to do is download (and run) a bitcoin client.
When you run the client it will connect to other nodes and start downloading a full copy of the blockchain (the file that contains all the verified transactions). After that, your client will start receiving transactions from other nodes and relaying them around the network.
Congratulations, you are now a node on the bitcoin network.
You may need to edit some settings in your router to allow other nodes to connect to you, but this is just a minor configuration. By downloading and running a bitcoin client you are 95% of the way to becoming an active node on the bitcoin network.