When mining pools grow too big, there is a genuine cause for concern. Although a 51% network attack against Bitcoin seems unlikely, miners need to distribute their hashrate between. Foundry USA has quickly gained market share in recent weeks and now represents over 33% of the network’s mining power.
It isn’t abnormal to see specific Bitcoin mining pools gain or lose market share. Users will always choose the most profitable option. For most people, that means joining the most significant pool. After all, it gives individual miners a higher chance of helping find network blocks and earning rewards.
Unfortunately, that behavior also leads to certain projects becoming too big for their own good. Bitcoin has always had a fairly balanced mining pool landscape. Some entities are “bigger” than others, but that is to be expected. However, Foundry USA has grown into a powerhouse and reached alarming levels of network control.
Today, Foundry USA has a market share of 33.33%. That isn’t sufficient to do anything nefarious to the network. Nor has the pool ever indicated they aim to do so. However, relying on one such entity for one-third of all hashrate operations isn’t good. it introduces a degree of centralization into a network promoting decentralization.
Moreover, the pool represents nearly 100 exohash/second of mining power. That is rather spectacular, as AntPool, the second-largest pool, is it half that number. Its market share of 16.78% is also roughly 50% of Foundry USA. F2Pool, in third place, sits at 15.17% or 45.5 exohash/second.
Things would get problematic if either F2Pool or AntPool colluded with Foundry USA to attack the Bitcoin network. Although F2Pool’s market share wouldn’t be sufficient to reach 51%, miners aren’t “bound” to their current pools either. So it isn’t impossible to envision a scenario where additional hashpower is mobilized to make that attack successful.
It is remarkable to see Foundry USA gain such market share. The pool was at 26.42% in December 2022. Since then, it has gained much momentum, whereas AntPool lost almost a quarter of its market share. In addition, the hashrate on Poolin has also gone down, although that is a small player in the space right now.
Given the sheer number of Bitcoin mining pools, it wouldn’t be hard for miners to distribute the load a bit more. Seeing one pool surpass 30% of the network hashrate is a tad problematic. It isn’t indicative of a future issue with the network or miners, but certainly, something to monitor. However, it is good to see a non-Chinese pool lead the industry in 2023, even if its growth needs to be kept in check.
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