Going to War: Monero Sticks to Anti-ASIC Guns with Emergency Software Update

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Say what you will about their position, but the developers of Monero are sticking to their guns.

Over the weekend, Riccardo Spagni — lead maintainer of the privacy-centric cryptocurrency — released Lithium Luna, the latest version of the Monero source code. The update itself was planned, but included in the software is an emergency provision intended to prevent ASIC miners from operating on its network, which uses the Cryptonight Proof-of-Work (PoW) hashing algorithm.

These miners — so named because they use Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chips — maximize efficiency to such an extent that it becomes no longer profitable to mine with GPU miners, whose chips are general-purpose and use for everything from PC gaming to searching for extraterrestrial life.

Monero had already fired a preemptive strike of sorts at ASIC manufacturers last month — specifically China-based Bitmain, which currently dominates the ASIC market — vowing in a blog post to alter its mining algorithm slightly every six months to render producing an XMR-compatible ASIC economically impractical.

However, that warning shot wasn’t quite so preemptive as it initially seemed, as Bitmain announced the Cryptonight-compatible Antminer X3 — the first mass-produced Cryptonight ASIC — just weeks later.

The decision that Monero would update its hashing algorithm to render the Antminer X3 ineffective in the upcoming software release followed soon after.

But though the decision appears to have broad community support, some have questioned whether it is wise to take such a hostile stance toward ASICs, particularly given that Monero is a favorite among cryptocurrency mining botnet operators, who use malware to infect and control zombie CPUs.

However, Monero’s developers have not minced words about Bitmain, who they deem a “bad actor” based on their actions toward both the Bitcoin and Siacoin networks.

Consequently, they have vowed that while Monero’s network may eventually become dominated by ASICs, they will strive to make the transition “as egalitarian as possible” to prevent hashpower from becoming centralized.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Josiah is an assistant editor 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. He holds investment positions in bitcoin and other large-cap cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter @Y3llowb1ackbird or email him directly at josiah.wilmoth(at)ccn.com.