Manufacturer Holds Cryptonight ASIC Firesale after Monero Hard Forks

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Mining hardware manufacturers have begun selling Cryptonight ASIC miners for next to nothing after privacy-centric cryptocurrency Monero carried out its threat to adopt a hard fork to maintain ASIC resistance.

Last week, Monero activated its semi-annual hard fork, an update that included an alteration to its instance of the Cryptonight Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm.

This particular update had one purpose: ensure that no currently-existent Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miners are compatible with the Monero network.

The hard fork came weeks after Bitmain — the dominant ASIC manufacturer and a subject of scorn among many cryptocurrency communities — unveiled the Antminer X3, its first Cryptonight ASIC miner.

At least one other manufacturer — lesser-known company Baikal Miners — claimed to have developed a Cryptonight ASIC, an announcement it made several days before Bitmain went public with the much more powerful Antminer X3.

Though vastly more efficient than GPU-based miners, ASICs have a critical vulnerability — they cannot currently be reprogrammed. Consequently, fundamental changes to a PoW algorithm can “brick” them permanently.

While the devices are still compatible with other Cryptonight coins, there is little consumer demand to mine an algorithm headlined by Electroneum, Bytecoin, and Sumokoin.

Consequently, Bitmain and Baikal are sitting on piles of now nearly-worthless devices, and while Bitmain can likely stomach the losses due to its reported $4 billion in profits last year, Baikal may have bitten off more than it can chew.

To wit, the Hong Kong-based firm is now offering a five-for-one deal on its Cryptonight ASICs in a bid to recoup something — anything — from the funds it poured into researching, development, and manufacturing for the nascent product.

Meanwhile, at least five different projects claim that they will continue to develop the old Monero blockchain, including two named “Monero Classic” and one that has been promoted by Bitmain’s official Twitter account.

Monero is not the only major cryptocurrency that has considered using a hard fork to maintain ASIC resistance. Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, recently began this debate in response to Bitmain’s announcement that it had developed an Ethash ASIC miner. While the fork appears wildly popular among users, developers have thus far been hesitant to pursue the potentially “chaotic” course.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Josiah is a full-time journalist at CCN. A former ancient and medieval literature teacher, he has been reporting on cryptocurrency since 2014. He lives in rural North Carolina with his wife and children. Follow him on Twitter @Y3llowb1ackbird or email him directly at josiah.wilmoth(at)ccn.com.