Bitmain Releases Ethereum ASIC
ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) are specialized machines designed to mine cryptocurrency with greater efficiency using general-purpose computers. The use of ASICs greatly contributes to the security of a blockchain, but greatly limits the mining community due to high investment and operational costs. To avoid the need to have their networks dominated by ASIC miners, a number of cryptocurrencies, like Ethereum and Monero, were initially built to have ASIC resistance.
Despite the barrier to entry, leading ASIC manufacturer Bitmain has announced an ASIC that mines using the ethash algorithm, which is the algorithm used by the Ethereum network.
Following Bitmain’s announcement of an ethash miner, the Ethereum community has split itself into two sides: ramp up resistance against ASIC or do nothing and focus on Casper protocol.
Side 1: Ramp Up ASIC Resistance
Primarily composed of GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) miners, this camp maintains that the decentralization of the Ethereum network rests on the relatively low barrier of entry for miners to mine in an ASIC-less network. However, this poses the security risk of a 51% attack on the network, should it not be addressed.
The call to maintain Ethereum’s ASIC resistance is also based on Ethereum’s whitepaper, which promised that Ethereum will be built ASIC-resistant. Hardforking into a different algorithm will hopefully push out any secret ethash miners and reveal the extent of ASICs mining on the Ethereum network.
Side 2: Do Nothing and Focus on Casper Protocol
This camp argues that the mining problem will be fixed by the upcoming Casper update, which will transition Ethereum from its original Proof-of-Work consensus model into a Proof-of-Stake model. Doing nothing also benefits the Ethereum network as more time and resources can be invested on the Casper protocol, instead of being split into other endeavors.
Moreover, without knowing how the ethash miner works, hardforking immediately might prove to be a costly move—considering that the miners in question might just update their system for little to no cost at all. Not to mention the impossibility of an ASIC-proof PoW consensus model that is completely immune to any hardfork.
With so many unknowns, this camp argues that the best course of action is to do nothing to resist against ASIC and focus on the casper protocol. While there may be ethash miners running on the Ethereum network right now, their presence should be tolerated for the time being. Overtime, the ethereum community can learn more about this ethash miner prior to taking any drastic actions.
Developers are Waiting
For now, ethereum developers are doing nothing but focus on the Casper Protocol. However, they have expressed intent in aligning their course of action to the community’s consensus. They have also stated plans to prematurely release the Casper update—with unfixed bugs and all—if the situation demands it. Focusing on the research and development of the Casper protocol remains the top priority for Ethereum and majority of its community.
Further reading: 10 Best Ethereum Based Coins