Over the weekend, Riccardo Spagni, lead maintainer of the privacy-centric cryptocurrency, released Lithium Luna, the latest version of the Monero source code. The update itself was planned, but also included in the software is an emergency provision designed to prevent ASIC miners from operating on its network, which uses the Cryptonight Proof-of-Work (PoW) hashing algorithm.
These miners — so named because all use Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chips — maximize efficiency to such an extent that it becomes no longer profitable to mine with GPU miners, whose chips are general-purpose and use for everything from PC gaming to searching for extraterrestrial life.
Monero had already fired a preemptive strike of kinds at ASIC producers last month — specifically China-based Bitmain, which currently rules the ASIC market — in a blog post to modify its mining algorithm slightly every six months to render producing an XMR-compatible ASIC economically unfeasible.
However, that warning shot wasn’t entirely so preemptive as it originally appeared, as Bitmain announced the Cryptonight-compatible Antminer X3, the first mass-produced Cryptonight ASIC, just weeks later.
The decision that Monero would update its hashing algorithm to render the Antminer X3 worthless in the upcoming software release followed soon after.
But though the choice appears to have broad community support, some have doubted whether it is smart 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 developers have not minced words about Bitmain, who they deem “bad” based on their actions toward both the Bitcoin and Siacoin networks.
Consequently, they have vowed that while Monero’s network may eventually become controlled by ASICs, they will attempt to make the transition “as egalitarian as possible” to prevent hash power from becoming centralized.