The Peer-to-Peer Network of Bitcoin
Bitcoin is built as a peer-to-peer network architecture on the Internet. The term peer-to-peer or P2P means that the computers (nodes) connected to the network are equals. That is, there are no special nodes and all nodes need to provide specific network services. The Bitcoin system is therefore operated by all nodes.
A System of Equals
Nodes are connected with each other in a mesh network based on a “flat” spatial arrangement. This means that there is no server, no centralized instance (monitoring the network), and no hierarchical structure. Nodes in a P2P network simultaneously provide and consume services. Reciprocity is the main incentive for them to participate in the system.
Resilient and Decentralized
P2P networks are fundamentally resilient, decentralized and open. A suitable example of a P2P network architecture is the early Internet itself, in which the nodes in the Internet Protocol network were equals. Today’s Internet architecture is hierarchically structured, yet the Internet Protocol is still “flatly” arranged.
Bitcoin is Inherently Based on a System of Equals
Bitcoin’s P2P network architecture is much more than a spatial arrangement. Bitcoin is by nature a digital payment system based on and operated by peers. The Bitcoin network architecture is both a structural foundation and a central feature of its own philosophy.
Antonopoulos, A. M. (2017). Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain (2nd ed.). Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media.
Narayanan, A., Bonneau, J., Felten, E., Miller, A., & Goldfeder, S. (2016). Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.