"We joke about it being bitcoin's 'unprofitability' calculator."
That's how CEO of RandomCrypto, Josh Metnick, described his newly released tool that calculates the profitability of bitcoin mining – the process of solving puzzles to earn bitcoin, usually only possible with expensive processors called ASICs.
Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, Metnick hopes the new calculator will improve on other tools out there, which he thinks don't depict the full truth on whether mining equipment is worth buying and using. For example, using its new measurements at today's prices, RandomCrypto's calculator shows that all of the most popular mining hardware is unprofitable.
That includes Bitmain's flagship S9 and GMO's new 7nm B2, he claims.
"Our goal is not to show mining as profitable or unprofitable – our goal is to bring more truth, accuracy and transparency to [proof-of-work] mining. Sometimes mining are profitable, and sometimes it isn't. The bigger picture is to create tools and reporting systems to keep the hardware manufacturers honest," Metnick told CoinDesk.
Metnick's quick to point out previous mining scams in the industry as examples of where the industry leaves transparency and honesty to be desired.
"I spent a good portion of my life – years, really, many years – trying to chase down Butterfly Labs, Advanced Miner, and KnCMiner for the millions of dollars I sent them before they absconded with my life savings," he said.
Because Metnick himself has been actively mining since 2013, it's a project that's dear to his heart.
Metnick told CoinDesk:
"This calculator is born of many years of getting screwed in numerous ways by mining companies."
A different calculator
Online calculators let you input a bunch of variables like electricity cost, hardware cost and so forth, then output how much revenue these variables should lead to, based on the value of bitcoin at the time.
The ingredient RandomCrypto's calculator adds is pretty simple, but it was never deployed in existing models, Metnick said.
"What we have found, over several years now of observations, is that all of the major bitcoin mining calculators out there show bitcoin mining output as 'profit,' instead of what it really is: output," Metnick said.
One key thing these calculators don't include is bitcoin's programmed-in "difficulty" rating – the higher the difficulty, the more power it takes to solve the puzzle required to mine bitcoin. So far, difficulty has grown exponentially with time.
Sites like CryptoCompare and CoinWarz show difficulty as a static variable, based on what it's measured at on any specific day.
Metnick argues that because the rapid growth in difficulty isn't factored into such calculators, it makes mining machines look more lucrative than they really are. The RandomCrypto team further argues that if difficulty has grown exponentially so far, this trend is bound to continue as it has for the past nearly 10 years, and calculators need to incorporate this fact.
"Mining difficulty has been growing exponentially since the advent of bitcoin. To deny this, or not incorporate this fact, this reality, into a mining calculator, should be illegal," Metnick argued.
CoinWarz declined to comment to CoinDesk's inquiries, while CryptoCompare did not respond before press time.
Impossible to predict?
Metnick went on to say that, based on bitcoin's price at the time, smaller scale mining is not profitable currently.
"As of the writing of this email, and price of bitcoin, there is not a single manufacturer selling an ROI [return on investment] positive machine at the retail level. Take a moment to pause on that," he argued.
At least, according to his new calculator, that is.
But, is this really possible to predict?
Although bitcoin's difficulty has grown rapidly the last 10 years, there's no way to know for sure that this trend will continue.
"It's not as predictable as the sun, moon and the stars. But it is predictable within a tight range of specificity," Metnick said.
Using historical data they pulled together an algorithm that's been quite accurate so far, he continued, adding:
"The models we coded on May 8 have not changed, and we have been within 1 percent accuracy."
Calculator image via Shutterstock