In many/most cases, typing 'status' in the daemon will prompt the daemon to respond with "8+0" meaning that there are eight outgoing connections, and zero incoming connections. In this example, your node is receiving information only because it initiated contact with other peers on the network. Do those peers to which your node has connected have their firewall port 18080 open? If not, how are they connecting?

It seems like not forwarding port 18080 is detrimental to the decentralization of the network. Further, if port 18080 were never forwarded, then peers would never connect. Can this be right? It sounds almost insane to me, so I'm guessing I'm missing a piece of this puzzle.

If it's still on topic, I'm also curious about the unintended consequences of forwarding port 18080. Let me know if I should edit this question out and create a new question for it.

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Theoretically if no node accepted incoming connections then the network would be limited to transactions originating from any of the aforementioned nodes. The network would survive as miners would still process those transactions.

The biggest effect would come in the loss of third party services that require a remote node to operate (for example some light wallets). It is worth noting that this is highly dependent on the implementation of the service. For example markets supporting Monero run a full node to handle Monero network transactions and typically call in via the RPC interface to accomplish this. In this case (RPC) the services would not be affected.

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