How many bitcoin miners are out there?
This is clearly a relevant question. It directly relates to the long term network viability, volatility and the risk of mining concentration. It is even more related to risk than the fraction of mining handled by large aggregators who pool the resources or subscriptions of multiple individuals and organizations.
Unfortunately, there is no metric, regulation or practice for even the most vague estimate of the number of Bitcoin miners.
Australian bitcoin miner, Andrew Geyl, is perhaps the most authoritative source of mining statistics. He maintains Neighborhood Pool Watch, a one-stop, comprehensive site of meticulously charted statistics with careful attention to accuracy and precision. You can see a phenomenal rise in MIPS, CPUs, hashing power and much more.
On his home page, he urges mining pool operators to submit data to help estimate the number of miners. But here's the rub...
There is nothing to motivate or compel the pool operators (they are responsible for 80~90% of mining) to disclose their individual clientele. In fact, there are many good reasons not to! Even if the pools were forced to open their customer books, they would be meaningless. A single participant might represent dozens of miners, or a single miner might have interests in dozens of CPU rigs spread across five continents.
The figure 5,000 miners is tossed about prominently at several research web sites. I can assure you that the number is either 5 years old or pulled from where the sun don't shine. It is ludicrous! I just returned from a Cryptocurrency Expo in Dubai. In just the past few conferences, I have probably met half that many miners. And yet none of the miners that I personally know were at any conference in the past year.
Based simply on my random contact with miners and how many are not at large gathering that attract miners, I estimate that number is well north of 150,000. Perhaps, even a lot higher.
If you are putting together a table, don't forget to include my 16 year old daughter's boyfriend. He assembles custom gaming PCs for sale on Ebay, During final burn-in, the graphics cards run mining software for 72 hours straight. Sometimes, he mines Bitcoin and sometimes Litecoin or Etherium Classic.
Ellery Davies co-chairs CRYPSA, publishes A Wild Duck and hosts the New York Bitcoin Event. Last week, he kicked off the Cryptocurrency Expo in Dubai. Click Here to inquire about a live presentation or consulting engagement.