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

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Over the weekend, Riccardo Spagni — lead maintainer of the privacy-centric cryptocurrency — published Lithium Luna, the most recent edition of this Monero source code. The upgrade itself was planned, but contained in the program is an emergency provision meant to prevent ASIC miners from operating on its network, which employs 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 using GPU miners, whose chips are general-purpose and use for everything from PC gaming to looking for extraterrestrial life.

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

But that warning shot was not quite so preemptive since it originally seemed, as Bitmain declared the Cryptonight-compatible Antminer X3 — the first mass-produced Cryptonight ASIC — just weeks later.

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

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

However, Monero's programmers 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've vowed that while Monero's network may eventually become dominated by ASICs, they will try to make the transition «as egalitarian as possible» to prevent hashpower from becoming centralized.