Flashy startups like Coinbase, Circle, Blockchain, and BitPay are some of the most famous companies in bitcoin.
But arguably more important are the miners — individuals and organisations who form the core backbone of bitcoin, ensuring the digital currency’s integrity.
Bitcoin runs on a blockchain, a decentralised and public ledger of every transaction made on the network. By offering processing power towards this, users get a chance to win bitcoin — creating an arms race of miners scrambling to assemble ever-more sophisticated and powerful equipment to “mine” new bitcoin.
Some individuals go it alone; others join open “pools” where they combine their resources to improve their odds; some larger companies also have mining efforts. While the #1 spot can change from week to week, we have ranked the biggest mining companies using data covering August 5 to August 12 from bitcoin network analysis company Blocktrail.
Unlike some other pools, BitClub Network does not disclose its founders, saying only that it is 'run by a team of programmers, digital mining experts and entrepreneurs who have come together with MLM experts from around the world.'
MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing -- a referral system whereby a user gains bonuses for each new user they bring in, who then gains bonuses for each new user they bring in, and so on. MLMs can be controversial because they resemble pyramid schemes, but BitClub Network insists that it is legitimate and not a 'Ponzi Scheme.'
For some users, it works as a cloud mining pool: Users don't have to own their own hardware, just pay to rent some owned by BitClub. Miners with their own rigs can also join the network, however.
Ghash.io was launched in July 2013 and last year gained some notoriety through its success: In June 2014, it briefly gained control of 51% of the entire bitcoin network. This majority control is arguably the biggest threat to bitcoin, and demonstrates the power of miners when they get too large -- it could have rewritten the blockchain however it saw fit, potentially fatally unstabilising the network in the process.
Since then, its hash power has dropped off: It now sits just under 2%. Londoner Jeffrey Smith, the company's CIO, acts most frequently as its spokesperson. It also operates Cex.io, a bitcoin exchange.
Eligius is a North American public pool launched in April 2011. According to CryptoCoinsNews, its operator Luke Dashjr (or 'Luke-Jr') is a Catholic who has previously written religious messages onto the blockchain, the public ledger of all bitcoin transactions.
Saint Eligius, the pool's namesake, is the patron saint of goldsmiths and coin collectors.
BW Pool is another Chinese pool. It has almost no publicity in the English-speaking world, despite its size. It made a rare public statement in July 2015, when it co-signed a Reddit post in favour of an increase in block size -- an ongoing technicial question the bitcoin community is debating.