The distributed cloud storage blockchain network Both successfully completed a programmed fork hard, modifying its consent rules to prevent the extraction of some specialized hardware on the network.
"Everything works normally now," David Vorick, co-founder and CEO of Nebulous, the for-profit company behind the Sia network, told CoinDesk.
The fork, planned for the previous day, had to take place at block 179,000 of the Sia chain, but the miners found themselves blocked at block 178,999 for hours because, as Vorick wrote in a community forum Wednesday evening, an error in the code meant that the miners "will need to extract at least one block to full difficulty before the start of the adjustment, which may take between 6 and 48 hours".
The block was found just before 6:00 ET. Following this block, the difficulty – a parameter that blockchains use to ensure that blocks are extracted at fairly regular time intervals, regardless of the total computing power of the network – decreased by 98%, allowing miners to resume finding blocks every 10 minutes on average.
Following the fork, however, the Sia network had far fewer miners.
The purpose of the change in Sia's consent rules was to "brick" or disable the specialized mining hardware produced by Bitmain and in particular by Innosilicon. And in this regard, Vorick said: "the trick of hard work has worked".
As a result, there is only one type of mining equipment capable of shelling the new hash algorithm that is fast enough to compete – and these are produced by Obelisk, a Nebulous subsidiary.
Obelisk was inaugurated in June 2017 as a chip manufacturer to challenge Bitmain, the dominant player in the market for integrated cryptocurrency (ASIC) integrated circuits, as specialized mining equipment is known. Obelisk announced that his first product would be an ASIC for Sia, but within a few months it became clear that Bitmain had beaten Obelisk on the market and was using its ASICs for both mines on the network in secret.
In January, Bitmain became public with its product, and in April another producer, Innosilicon, came out with an even faster ASIC. Obelisk had not yet sent his ASICs and the deadline of June 30th to make it come and go. Threats of legal actions followed. The first Obelisk ASICs were shipped in August, with the last one released in mid-October.
Nebulous still had an ace up his sleeve: a kill switch that would have allowed the company to change the algorithm either in a way that would have disabled other miners, but let the Obelisk miners keep working. After almost a year of debates, Nebulous announced at the beginning of October that it would overturn that killing switch and spin the network.
Vorick told CoinDesk on Thursday:
"The reason why we had the secret circuit was to activate it in the event of a malicious mine attack: although there was never a direct attack on the consensus system, most of the community believed that the secret development of ASICs was an attack, and I felt also that a farm that owned 45% of the hash rate was risky and justified to force a [proof of work] modify."
Not everyone was happy with the bifurcation decision – especially those that had invested in Innosilicon hardware. While Vorick characterized the community's support for the move by more than 90 percent, some have characterized it as a "protectionist" rescue plan for the company that drives it.
As has happened with other controversial hard forks – particularly ethereum after the DAO theft – part of the community decided to continue using the old Sia protocol. Both Classic, as this group defines itself (with a conscious mention to Ethereum Classic), has created a separate and separate social media forum.
The group also published a "Declaration of Independence". Both Classic miners continued to find blocks without interruption, although the "main" chain, called the nebula, stopped short.
Both Classic "has a very low community support," said Vorick. "They say they still believe in the vision and want to have a collaborative relationship with the main chain. If Sia Classic gets support, then we are happy to involve them collaboratively, but so far we have seen little evidence of effective support outside of Both Classic. "
Both Classic did not respond to multiple requests for comments.
At least two other non-nebulous groups emerged: Sia Prime, who Vorick said was "collaborative also with Nebulous", leaving the mechanism that finances Nebulous in the code in what he called "a great sign of good faith".
Finally, Hyperspace is "a contradictory fork that wants to replace Nebulous," said Vorick, although "they did not write any storage platform code". Hyperspace did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Vorick characterized the fork as a success for the Sia community. "The hashrate is much more decentralized than before the fork," he said, estimating that 87% of the computing power of the network was "community members".
Although it may be too early to say it, however, it seems there can not be a single community anymore.
Image of forks through Shutterstock