I am still confused even after reading the Dev docs on the differences between nodes. Would someone be able to help explain to me the point of a participation node and why it is needed?
Welcome to Algorand!
Have you looked at https://algorand.foundation/algorand-protocol/network ?
I am still confused by the different types of nodes as well. I’d definitely recommend checking out the link provided by @fabrice - he’s one of the best blockchain engineers in the world. But, I wanted to provide an overview from my own reading of the documentation in case it may be helpful and to further discussion on this topic.
The Algorand network has two nodes types, relay nodes, and non-relay nodes. Relay nodes are primarily used for communication on the network. Non-relay nodes connect to relay nodes and participate in consensus. In addition nodes can be configured to be archival or indexed. Archival nodes store the entire ledger and indexed nodes have a more expansive search range.
Participation nodes are dynamic operations where a non-relay node is hosting participation keys for online accounts. They propose and vote on blocks using a stake within the consensus algorithm. This is a central security mechanism for the Algorand blockchain. I think one reason for running a participation node is that it allows you to have a say in consensus on Algorand and to directly engage with the core protocol.