If you’ve ever tried to mine bitcoins, chances are you’ve heard of or seen the name Bitmain come up severally.
This is because Bitmain is currently the world’s largest and most popular manufacturer of bitcoin mining hardware or Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) units. They are the manufacturer of popular bitcoin miners like Antminer S7 and the popular Antminer S9.
Bitmain operates out of Beijing, China, where they have their headquarters. As popular as it is, there have been quite a few controversies surrounding the company, its practices and its seeming domination of the bitcoin mining sector.
For a five year old company –it was founded in 2013 by Micree Zhan and Jihan Wu- the company is doing very well, particularly in a space where there’s so much volatility and price fluctuations.
Zhan was the guy who effectively designed the ASICs that transformed the bitcoin mining industry. In fact, Bitmain’s ASICs are to the cryptocurrency industry, what Intel is to the tech and computing industry –it’s everywhere.
To further prove how successful they are, they just recently attracted another $50 million investment from venture capitalists and investors who see the huge potential of their market control. Let’s further examine this company’s profile, their products, controversies and future plans.
Bitmain Antiminer ASIC Hardware
As stated earlier, they have the largest share of the bitcoin mining hardware market. Their machines are popular for effectively mining bitcoin whilst consuming relatively low power compared to other manufacturers.
Bitmain’s cryptocurrency harder miners aren’t just limited to bitcoin alone, they also produce ASIC miners for other altcoins like Dash, Ethereum, Monero and Litecoin.
Their efforts at diversifying into creating more mining hardware for other cryptocurrencies has met considerable resistance from some communities, chief of which is the Monero community.
These developers are working hard to rebuff Bitmain’s efforts in creating Monero mining hardware. With their Antimer line, Bitmain has basically taken over almost 70 percent of the bitcoin mining market.
Bitmain’s Antminer series is largely popular because of its energy efficiency and high hash rate.
Bitmain’s Antpool And Hashnest
While the company generates decent revenue from their sales of bitcoin mining hardware, they also do their fair share of mining bitcoins. They have a wide swath of mining pools that consist of computers and ASICs mining hardware across the globe.
The name of their mining pool is Antpool and BTC.com. These two alone take up over 50 percent of the world’s total bitcoin mining pool. The one thing that isn’t clear though is whether the equipments used in these mining pools solely belong to Bitmain or consists of equipments “leased” from other individuals or consortiums.
Then, there’s the Hashnest cloud mining service that offers to rent out cryptocurrency mining hardware to customers, but still under the complete custody of Bitmain.
So, these customers essentially pay Bitmain to rent their mining hardware in order mine bitcoins, but without having to worry about actually buying the devices –which can be expensive- or maintaining them. All that is handled by Bitmain itself.
All these infrastructures point to the fact that they can easily manipulate or influence the growth or direction of the bitcoin network.
The Antbleed Controversy
Because Bitmain controls a large share of the crypto mining industry, there have been certain controversies like Antbleeding. For those who don’t know, Antbleeding stands for the vulnerability that the Antminer Software has.
This vulnerability is essentially a backdoor that’s built into their Antminer devices that can cause them to shut down Antminer devices across the globe. This means that if Bitmain wants, they can shut down your device as long as you’re connected to the grid.
Many users and the bitcoin mining has posited that this kind of power is dangerous for any company to own. And it makes sense because no one buys devices with the thinking that they don’t own it 100 percent, particularly not at the price points that these devices go for -$2k+.
The community was in an uproar because with such power at their disposal, they knew that potentially, Bitmain can easily shut down large swaths of mining clusters to favor their own mining pools, essentially causing them to take over the mining of bitcoins and determining the cryptocurrency’s production rate.
Bitmain and AsicBoost
As a major Application Specific Integrated Circuits company, Bitmain has been working on improving the efficiency of their ASIC units so that it consumes less power, while boosting its hash rate.
This is what birthed their interest in the AsicBoost tech. there are schools of thought who think that if the tech works, and Bitmain is able to integrate it into their network and devices, the extra boost will essentially help them corner an even larger market share.
Naturally, this caused another outrage among certain supporters of Segwit, an alternative tech that Bitcoin was working on.
Bitmain’s Future Plans
The company’s founders are big proponents of artificial intelligence. Hence, the reason they are looking towards creating mining hardware, specifically for AI apps. They’re doing this through a company called Sophon.
Sophon currently manufactures ASIC processors designed to train neural networks in artificial intelligence as against cryptocurrency mining.
In the final analysis, Bitmain is currently and will most likely be the leading bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer. Their ASIC units are some of the best in the market and will probably be if they continue their innovations and improvements on their devices.