Bitcoin enthusiasts will be familiar with the term AsicBoost. It is a technique developed by ASIC manufacturer Bitmain which can make mining more efficient. Surprisingly, the manufacturer has released a new firmware for some Antminer models to unlock this efficiency improvement.
Recapping the AsicBoost Debacle
The patent-pending AsicBoost technology by Bitmain has received a lot of criticism over the past few years. It allows users to mine Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash in a more efficient manner. Under ideal circumstances, a 20% increase in efficiency can be achieved. This “hidden” technology only became apparent after Greg Maxwell shared some interesting insights. His findings sparked a few rather heated discussions pertaining to Bitcoin mining.
The bigger problem with this technology is how it delayed Bitcoin’s activation of SegWit. More specifically, Bitmain’s technology and Segregated Witness are mutually exclusive. The Chinese manufacturer builds over half of Bitcoin’s ASIC mining units on the markets. It is in their best interest to ensure their technology can be used whenever needed. As such, Segregated Witness for Bitcoin was delayed by several months.
Ever since that time, no real discussions pertaining to this technology have occurred. That is coming to change fairly quickly. Bitmain is making their Overt AsicBoost firmware available for recent Antminer models. As such, owners of these devices can improve their mining revenue in a significant manner. An unexpected development, especially given the patent-pending nature of this technology.
Mining Pools Aren’t Amused
It never takes long for the community to respond to these developments. In the case of Slush Pool, they made it clear miners using this firmware upgrade are not welcome. Their infrastructure and code don’t support this feature at this time. The operators are working on a “fix”, albeit further specifics remain unclear for the time being.
Dear Miners, we strongly recommend you DON'T UPGRADE your S9 devices with the new Bitmain firmware. It is not compatible with BIP310 standard and as a result also not compatible with @slush_pool. We are working hard on providing our own fix asap and will keep you posted.
— Slush Pool ⚡️ (@slush_pool) October 22, 2018
For those willing to use this firmware, a few mining pools are available. Both BTC.com and Antpool are compatible with this upgrade. That is only normal, as both mining platforms are under Bitmain’s management. Other mining pool operators have yet to openly support or reject this upgrade. Such a decision needs to be weighed carefully first and foremost.
For Bitmain, the release of this firmware makes sense. The company wants to let miners benefit from a more efficient mining operation. If only two pools support it, miners will automatically switch to those offerings. In doing so, Bitmain can gain even more control over Bitcoin’s mining ecosystem. That is not a favorable outcome for a network which is supposed to be decentralized.
What is your opinion on Bitmain’s firmware update? Let us know in the comments.
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