Immediately after Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first block of bitcoin in 2009, nearly anyone who knew about it could mine too with a simple desktop. The process has grown in complexity ever since and now you have to compete with mining farms using supercomputers.
However, all hope is not lost. You can participate in mining through mining pools, online platforms where many small scale miners contribute their resources to create single huge and competitive mining farms. The rewards are shared out according to individual resource contribution.
The following are some of the established pools online you can join:
This is the first mining pool to ever exist. It was founded in December 2010 by Marek Palatinus, who is indeed credited with coming up with the concept of mining pools. The pool operates out of France and contributes over 15.0 PHash/s of mining power to securing the bitcoin network.
Slush has cultivated a long history of accurate, stable and transparent payouts for its members. It uses a score based reward system, which allocates rewards proportionally as well as weighted on the time hashing power was submitted to the pool. Slush takes a 2% fees subtracted from the total.
Located in the US, this pool was founded in April 2011 by Luke-Jr and for a while, operated without an official name. When miners join, they are not required to register, as this feature is disabled. Only a bitcoin address is required, that doubles up as a username and payout address for rewards.
Eligius boasts several good features:
- it supports merged mining of namecoin, another proof of work cryptocoin
- it does not place a fee on its mining rewards
- it shares out transactions fees collected from validated transactions.
Additionally, funds are paid out directly and almost instantly via CPPSRB (Capped with Recent BackPay) payout mechanism, when a user defined minimum payment threshold is attained.
BTCguild is one of the oldest remaining pools, after having been founded by Eleuthria in May of 2011. It is located in both Europe and the USA, contributing a capacity of 12,999 TH/s of mining power.
Just like Eligius, it supports merged mining of namecoin. It pays out aggregated transactions fees contained in a block and the block reward. The pool does not take fees for the service, but welcomes donations. For 2.5% voluntary donations, miners get special priority in the time they have to wait to claim their rewards, which are paid out using PPLNSG (Pay Per Last N Groups (or shifts)).
It is one of the world’s largest pools despite having begun operations later than its peers, June of 2013. On its own, it contributes over 30% of the network hashing power – about 41 PH/s. In conjunction with a trading partner, it uniquely offers a range of options for miners to immediately trade their coins on CEX.io’s trading platform.
It supports cloud, merged and hardware services. You can also do merged mining of multiple cryptocurrencies; Bitcoin, DevCoin, Namecoin, IXC and DarkCoin. An additional option known as Multipool pro, lets you mine the most profitable coins at every moment. Block rewards and transaction fees are shared out to pool miners using PPLNS (Pay Per Last N Shares) scheme.
Unlike the rest, this pool is decentralized on a peer to peer network. This concept fits well with bitcoin’s decentralized philosophy.
P2Pool supports merged mining on a solo basis and charges no extra fee for pool membership. The transaction fees and block rewards are shared using PPLNS payout scheme.
This is not a conclusive but a list of the major mining pools. Before opting into one, it is important to carefully consider their features – sharing schemes, privacy, scheduled payouts, philosophy and other comparison variables. You can also use whomined and blockorigin, two sources of latest information about mining pools.