Monero Set for Hard Fork to Brick ASIC Miners

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Monero developers are set to fork the network in their continued efforts to brick application specific integrated circuit (miners) on the blockchain. The move should significantly lower hash rate allowing small-scale mining operations running graphics processing units (GPUs) to compete favorably and make the network’s PoW algorithm less ASIC-friendly.This according to a Reddit post, February 11, 2019.

Monero Hard Fork on March 9th

A Reddit user by the name of “sech1” announced the news on the Monero subreddit on Monday (February 11, 2019). Sech1 published what appears to be a group discussion of the Monero development team.

According to the post, the upcoming fork will occur at block height 1,788,000. The network upgrade will bring about changes to Monero’s PoW algorithm by adjusting blocksize. The team chat also revealed that Monero devs would activate the fork on the 0.13 branch.

As part of the preparations for the fork, reports indicate that miners running XMRig and XMR-stak are gearing up for the network update. At the time of the announcement, there was no word on whether any CPU/GPU miners were already offering support for the proposed PoW algorithm.

For the Monero dev team, the March 9 hard fork should effectively brick existing ASIC miners. According to sech1, the new PoW algorithm will reduce the hash rate capabilities of ASIC miners by a factor of more than 2.5. Meanwhile, there is also another hard fork tentatively scheduled for October 2019.

While many commentators lauded the move, there are some who say the decision didn’t follow due process, with the core development team agreeing to the plan unanimously without more extensive consultations.

ASICS and PoW Mining Centralization

At the heart of the decision to implement the network upgrade, is the prevention of ASIC mining centralization. Cryptocurrency networks like Monero and Sia among others continue to perform upgrades to their PoW algorithm to prevent miners from running ASIC’s which render GPU and CPU mining obsolete, as is the case with Bitcoin.

In a Medium post published by a member of the Monero dev team dubbed “MoneroCrusher,” it was revealed ASICs account for 85 percent of the network’s hash rate. Also, the report stated that these hardware units had capacities of up to 128 kh/s which far exceeds the hash rate of GPU miners.

After the October 2018 hard fork, MoneroCrusher states that a sharp decline in hash rate occurred as was expected. However, this decline didn’t last long because as at the end of December 2018, the network developer reports a steady increase in hash rate more than double the bottom set immediately post-October 2018 hard fork.

Critics of the move say it connotes elements of socialism which they say is antithetical to the philosophy of blockchain technology. Also, some commentators say nodes running ASICs could attempt a 51 percent attack with the lowering of the hash rate that occurs after the hard fork.

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