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So let's assume I don't care about energy consumption and mining the famous reward for discovered block. Is it possible to set up a workstation optimized to harvest just the transaction fees? Do I need to participate in a pool and run mining software?

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No, it doesn't work like that. The fee for a transaction can only be collected by a miner who creates a block including the transaction. Creating a block also entitles a miner to collect the "famous" block reward (they could decline to collect it, but that would be stupid). There is no easier way to collect transaction fees; you have to mine like any other miner (either solo or in a pool), and at least for Bitcoin, you can't economically do that with ordinary computer workstations.

  • I think you can safely remove the word 'economically' these days. – Jannes Jul 17 '14 at 0:24
  • Thanks. This is a big problem for any financial institution who want to enter the business of payment processing... I guess there's no such business in bit coin – Francesco Cerofolini Jul 17 '14 at 18:28
  • @francesco: Indeed, there's no such business. There isn't any other "processing" that Bitcoin payments need. – Nate Eldredge Jul 17 '14 at 20:10
  • @NateEldredge thanks! It's more clear now. I just wonder what will happen the day mining will not be profitable anymore... Who will process transactions? – Francesco Cerofolini Jul 17 '14 at 21:03
  • @francesco: This has been covered in previous questions on this site. Different miners have different costs depending on the hardware they use, the price they pay for electricity, their overhead, etc, so it won't become unprofitable for everyone at once. As it becomes less profitable, miners drop out, mining difficulty drops, and profitability increases again. So in principle equilibrium is maintained. – Nate Eldredge Jul 17 '14 at 21:25

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