Mining is the process of securing, validating and confirming blockchain transactions by contributing excess computing power in return for the opportunity to earn cryptocurrency rewards. The idea, at least in theory, is to give people the opportunity to contribute to a network that is free from centralized control. However, as we have seen within the Bitcoin eco-system, the introduction of ASIC devices has led to a small group of entities controlling the vast majority of hashing power.
This was something that the Ethereum blockchain was built to restrict, insofar that the underlying technology was coded in such a manner to be resistant to ASIC devices through its Ethash algorithm. That was until Bitmain announced in April that it had built an ASIC mining chip capable of bypassing these restrictions with its very own Ethereum-compatible Antminer device.
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As a result, many within the cryptocurrency community have expressed their distaste for the introduction of Bitmain’s ASIC and have even threatened to walk away from the Ethereum blockchain.
To further amplify the frustrations of the Ethereum mining community, the impending hard fork, known as Constantinople, will result in the amount of ETH paid to miners being reduced from 3 ETH to 2. Ultimately, this makes it even less cost-effective for those using GPU devices. Recognizing these frustrations, CoinDesk reports that the Ethereum Foundation is currently in the process of putting a code change proposal to the community, with one such option being to ban ASICs in their entirety.
One code change in particular that could meet this objective is an algorithmic mechanism called ProgPoW. The underlying technology is designed to utilize 80% of graphic card capabilities, meaning that when someone attempts to use an ASIC device, its strength would only mirror that of a GPU.
Reaching consensus, however, might not be an easy feat—especially taking into account the amount of hashing power ASIC devices are accustomed too. This also rings true for the much anticipated transition from PoW over to PoS, whereby ASIC manufacturers will be keen to keep the blockchain tied to the former. Nevertheless, as is quite common with all proposed changes to the Ethereum code, the ProgPoW upgrade will take some time before it is ready for implementation—even if it does get the go-ahead.
This will also include a thorough testing period by the two main GPU manufactures: Nvidia and AMD. Taking this in to account, it might be too late to include ProgPoW into October’s planned Constantinople hard fork.
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