Almost a decade has passed since the creation of the Bitcoin network and cryptocurrency ecosystem. The protocol has spawned many users, infrastructures, businesses, and influential parties such as developers and miners. Since the beginning of Bitcoin mining history, individuals have mined many coins using central processing units (also known as home computers). Later on, characters like Artforz started the graphics processing unit (GPU) arms race, a moment in history that eventually led to a world of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that changed the game significantly.
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The cryptocurrency ecosystem is made up of a diverse group of people, but some specific “pools of people” provide a great resource in securing the cryptocurrency as an incentive. Love or hate them, bitcoin miners have been processing our blocks for years, the very blocks that contain the millions of transactions that are carried across the network. Although the miners simply followed the protocol as it was written, these people were always called “tendentious ”by certain groups and social personalities within the cryptocurrency industry. Mining pools have suddenly become “evil groups” allegedly planning malicious attacks on the network.
Artforz becomes the Bitcoin community’s first mining villain
Through an incentive-based system called Proof of work (PoW), Miners are rewarded with freshly minted coins when they find a new block. In the early days, guys like Satoshi Nakamoto and Hal Finney mined BTC using CPUs for the first year in Bitcoin’s life. But not long afterwards an anonymous person called ‘Artforz‘figured out how to get large GPU mining farms to harvest BTC. Artforz, who controlled a lion’s share of the hashrate at the time, launched an angry community argument that led Satoshi to ask the community to slow down the mining arms race.
“We should have a gentleman’s agreement to postpone the GPU arms race for as long as possible for the good of the network. It’s much easier to bring new users up to speed when they don’t have to worry about GPU drivers and compatibility. It’s nice how anyone with just one CPU can compete pretty equally right now. ” explains Nakamoto.
In 2010 it was said that a person named Artforz controls the vast majority of the BTC network’s hashrate.
The age of application-specific integrated circuits
An ASIC device.
A few years later, after Nakamoto left the company, numerous manufactured ASICs appeared on the scene and changed the industry forever. Gone are the days when bitcoins were mined from home computers, and neither can they be mined using GPUs as the machines do not benefit from it. These ASIC devices and their operators are one central topic of discussion among the participants of cryptocurrency networks for a long time. There have been many ASIC manufacturers as well, and many of them have failed, but some of them have lasted from the very beginning. Since the beginning of the ASIC evolution, the mining industry has been controversial for numerous issues such as the use of too much electricity and banding together to sabotage the network.
Do you remember when Ghash.io controlled 51% of the network?
Fears of mining conspiracies had plagued the crypto community for some time after ASICs pushed GPU farms out of the picture. Soon after the appearance of ASICs, solo mining and “home mining” individually, even with ASICs, became unprofitable for solo miners, so many of them began mining in “pools”. Groups of pools can find blocks more easily, and winnings are shared between members with a contractual arrangement. Pools were few in the beginning, but as time went on, more groups joined in to split the network’s hashrate. In June 2014, a pool sparked considerable controversy.
The Ghash.io incident is often forgotten, but as of the summer of 2014, this pool dominated over 51% of the BTC network’s hashrate.
At that point, the mining pool was Ghash.io commanding more than 50 percent of the network hashrate, which theoretically meant the pool could reject validated transactions. The event caused a stir in the community and made headlines in the mainstream media. Eventually the heated arguments subsided and Ghash.io finally broke up into smaller factions.
“Selfish and Greedy Miners”
One year later, in December 2015, Scaling the Bitcoin Conference got the community going again when a viral photo of nearly 70 percent of the network’s Hahsrate pool operators sat on a stage. At that time, mining pools such as F2pool, Antpool, BTCC, Avalon and others stood together on the stage for the first time to discuss the scaling debate. Since then, year after year miners have been plagued by conspiracies and accusations of being “selfish and greedy miners” – exactly what the Bitcoin protocol tells them to do.
This photo caused quite a stir in 2015, as the picture represents almost 70 percent of the hashrate of the BTC network at the time.
The discussion became controversial again last year when the community objected to the use of covert ASIC boost mining. This specific controversy, among other conspiracies, led some proponents and developers to start talking about changing Bitcoin’s PoW consensus. At the time, the alleged use of covert ASIC boost mining caused cryptocurrency-centric forums and Twitter feeds to erupt in vitriolic energy. The topic has started making the rounds again on forums and social media about how the community is discuss now an ASIC Boost patent and mining pools that openly use the technology.
Miners continue to process blocks – despite the negative sentiment
The fact is, no one can really explain why miners are constantly being unpopular and crucified for what they do, but they have been since the beginning of the Code. The mining dispute has caused the issue to penetrate other cryptocurrency communities as well. ASIC mining has made some digital asset teams, such as Monero, think about changing their consensus algorithms to avoid ASIC domination at all costs. It also processes the hashrate of the BTC network over 28 exahash per second, even at a time when mining has become a little unprofitable in some regions, suggesting that miners are still believing.
Why do you think miners have such a bad reputation across the cryptocurrency ecosystem? Let us know what you think on this matter in the comments below.
Images via Shutterstock, Scaling Bitcoin Hong Kong, Brady Bunch, Bitcoin.com, Ars Technica and Antpool.
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antminers, artforz, ASIC, ASIC Boost, ASIC Mining, Bitcoin Mining, Bitmain, Blocks, BTC, Dispute, Controversy, CPU, Evil, Ghash.io, GPU, Hal Finney, Hashrate, Mainstream Media, Miners, Mining Pools , N- Featured, Network, Satoshi Nakamoto