Following the news that Ghash.io was nearing control of 51% of the bitcoin network’s hashrate, industrial bitcoin mining facility operator BitFury has released a new statement saying that it has moved 1.5 petahash of its hasing power out of the major bitcoin mining pool.
The company, which operates two large-scale mining facilities in Finland and Iceland and recently raised $20m, further indicated it will move additional petahashes out of Ghash.io over the next 72 hours.
Marc Aafjes, BitFury’s chief strategy and communications officer, suggested that the company felt compelled to take action due to the widespread community concern, stating:
“The high level of combined hash power in the Ghash pool is concerning to many participants in the system. As a leader and trusted partner in the bitcoin system, BitFury has decided to transfer some of its hashing power away from Ghash to help reduce these concerns.”
Should Ghash.io’s share of total bitcoin mining power continue to increase, Aafjes indicated that BitFury may be willing to take additional steps to reduce the influence of the pool, adding:
“We will continue to monitor this situation and if the pool comes too close again to 51% we will move more of our capacity.”
At press time, Ghash.io accounted for roughly 48% of the bitcoin network’s total hashing power, according to figures from Blockchain.info. The second most powerful pool, Discus Fish, holds 11% of the network.
The threat of a 51% attack
Due to the difficulty of a given miner discovering a block, many bitcoin miners join pools, which consolidate mining power and increase miners’ chances of discovering a block and receiving proportional shares of a given reward.
As pools constitute a majority of the network’s hashing power, there has been growing concern in the community regarding the outsized influence of Ghash.io.
Though some notable bitcoin community members suggest the threat is not as grave as widely believed, a mining pool with more than 51% of the network’s hashing power could theoretically double-spend transactions, prevent confirmations and keep competing miners from discovering new blocks.
Such a threat is not unique to bitcoin, as earlier this year litecoin mining pool Coinotron grew toward 51% of the network’s hashing total before individual miners in the pool withdrew from the cooperative.
The varied responses to Ghash.io’s growing influence in the mining network were perhaps most visible on reddit, where bitcoin miners and enthusiasts partook in an impassioned discussion throughout the day.
Some reddit users took to the social network to suggest potential peer-to-peer solutions to the growing influence of centralized mining pools, while speculating on how other mining pools were able to avoid exerting such an influence on the network successfully in the past.
Still, other miners defended Ghash.io and mining pools, arguing that they are a necessary part of the ecosystem that enables independent miners to profit from bitcoin.
Image via BitFury