Can public cryptocurrencies remain public?
This is the simple question that is at the center of a complex debate that is happening Among the major cryptocurrencies, where developers of different projects such as ethereum, monero and zcash are in arms about what to do for the arrival of a new form of hardware that could upset the delicate balance of their distributed communities.
Designed specifically to allow operators to earn a larger share of their networks' rewards, "Application-specific integrated circuits", or ASICs, have emerged to extract a handful of cryptocurrencies that previously were only able to be guaranteed by those using GPU hardware.
At stake, however, it is precisely the access and the opening of the protocols themselves.
Taking a step back, it is important to unpack only what happens during the "extraction process", a phrase a bit complex that denotes the practice with which anyone can theoretically dedicate the backup computer hardware to the management and the protection of block networks.
Ethereum, monero and zcash can all be extracted today with GPU hardware, graphic cards sold in major computer stores and available for a few hundred dollars. The most expensive ASICs, however, are designed specifically for an optimized mining process and this is at the heart of some of the complaints against the arrival of this new series of products.
This is because, as the bitcoin has shown in the past, GPUs will not be able to coexist with ASICs, as their arrival is likely to push the hahrer to a level where other types of miners will become unprofitable.
And the threat and opportunities that await us are now dividing cryptocurrency users, many of whom may have previously invested in products that are now actually obsolete.
For example, a miner who passes by the "fpbitmine" handle has come to the point of accusing Zooko Wilcox, creator of zcash, of not doing enough to support those who have invested in helping the value of the network.
"You're biting the hand that feeds you," wrote the miner on a zcash forum, adding:
"ASIC's acceptance of mining would mean that every single miner who supported the zcash network will be moved and forced to change coins or invest in new hardware."
The front and back
As such, many miners threaten to take their hardware elsewhere or create alternative versions of the cryptocurrencies they are already extracting, something they can do freely by cloning the base code.
Last week, privacy-centric criptovaluta ran a hard fork, a system-level software update, to remove the ability for ASIC to be used on the network. But in turn, three groups were forced to create their own versions: classic monero, original monero and zero monero. (Each new software is compatible with and open to ASIC miners).
The divergent ideas about whether ASICs are useful or threatening, they reflect the opinions of other cryptocurrency communities.
For example, the developers of ethereum have spoken out against a difficult emergency fork in response to ASICs, with its creator Vitalik Buterin who even asked for "no action" on the problem. Yet, in response, an ethereal miner called Buterin's point of view a "slap in the face".
"Anyone who thinks they can convince people that the community is opposed to a difficult obstacle to prevent ASICs are misguided."
Echoing this sentiment, the Twitter handle vertcoin he tweeted about how he believes action is needed.
"We are sad to see reports of possible ASICs created for ethereum." We believe it is time to take a stand against the monopolized mining industry, "he said.
And the same reversal is happening in the zcash community.
While a zcash miner warned on a forum that "there are consequences" for an encryption that can not keep out the ASICs, Zcash Zooko founder Wilcox told CoinDesk he believes he is moving away from the ASICs "it could also hurt more that's good ".
In addition to this, IC3 researcher Phil Daian said anti-ASIC efforts are similar to censorship, and others argued that such efforts increase the power of the main development team.
But all these complaints about anti-ASIC sentiment seem to be on the minority side of the debate.
As a method of measuring sentiment, numerous surveys were conducted on Twitter[[[[1, 2, 3]that shows a majority that relies on anti-ASIC forks, a procedure that requires the modification of an algorithm underlying cryptography.
do what you want
Yet those from the other side of the debate are not particularly enthusiastic; instead, their comments seem a sort of "good release".
For example, talking to CoinDesk, Rob Stumpf, the moderator of EtherMining, the subreddit of ethereum mining, said: "If a developer thinks he can improve [ethereum] and want to start their own fork, they can do just that. "
And the monoprote developer "rehrar" said during a recent call that there were no "no hard feeling" towards divergent monero groups.
"It's a change of mind for people, who I'm not used to yet, that power is in their hands to have the discussions they want to have," Rehrar said.
A discussion about the fact that this chaos is back in the limelight is the interest of ethereum to demolish mining from the demonstration of work to the test of the post. Buterin told the developers at a recent meeting that ASICs would be emptied with the update, so there is not much to worry about (even if there is still a date set for that change).
Speaking of the interest of the developer of ethereum for the elimination of mining, Stumpf said: "Mining has always been condemned since the beginning, it is only a bomb to ticking difficulty waiting to explode. "
And Wilcox echoed this, telling CoinDesk:
"Maybe we should instead work on some other solution, such as moving to proof-of-stake, or get major hardware companies like Nvidia and Huawei to sell hardware miners to anyone."
Monero Research Lab's pseudonym, Sarang Noether, even seemed to think that the drop between 70% and 80% of the hash rate that occurred after the hard fork was proof that ASICs were secretly used on the network. And then they left.
The developer Monero "hyc" told CoinDesk:
"The community is, as always, mixed, most seem to recognize that the development team has simply continued its commitment to egalitarian extraction."
Cracks in the image on the screen via Shutterstock