Thursday, October 6, 2022

In the Cryptoverse, AsicBoost Controversy Picks Up Steam

In the Cryptoverse, AsicBoost Controversy Picks Up Steam

There are no “Sleepy Sundays” in the land of cryptocurrency and today is no different with the latest episode seeing Twitter and both Bitcoin subreddits explode with emotion over the proposed merging of patented overt AsicBoost technology into the Core reference implementation.

Also see: How Coinbase Added Bitcoin Cash (It Wasn’t as Easy as You Think)

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Debate Reaches Fever Pitch

Caught in today’s drama is Andreas Antonopoulos, thanks to a 2017 Q&A session regarding Bitmain, Core Developer, and Halong Mining entrepreneur BtcDrak, as well as long standing community member @CobraBitcoin.

The action started with a tweet by bitcoin mining pool Slush Pool revealing that Halong Mining hardware with overt AsicBoost had successfully mined its first block using their pool.

Halong Mining is owned by Core dev @btcdrak and was launched during the intra-community political impasse over scaling and SegWit in 2017.

With the airing of the Slush Pool tweet, another controversial Twitter identity, Cøbra, unleashed a series of tweets taking aim at BtcDrak’s recent pull request which Cøbra claims will make it easier to use Halong Mining’s patented AsicBoost technology, effectively favoring one company over others.

Twitter was quick to respond. Some pointed out that within the pull request, Core developer Matt Corallo noted:

“Without some kind of review in the form of several mining hardware manufacturers weighing in that they feel comfortable building in asicboost into their hardware, I don’t think we can give this kind of implied approval of it’s use”, but Cobra countered by pointing out that such a fuss was made over Jihan Wu and Bitmain’s ‘blocking of Segwit,’ but now the Core development team may be degrading the network to benefit a specific company that happens to be owned by a Core developer.”

In the GitHub comments section, contributor “FivePiece” also responded with:

“[N]othing stops anybody from using asicboost already. This proposal only standardizes overt asicboost using nversion rolling, which is the cleanest type of asicboost. It doesn’t require small\empty blocks and is not dangerous in requiring transaction index permutation……Let’s wait for the rest of the community to react to this proposal before putting words in their mouths.”

Other well known figures lept to the Core development team’s defense, like Vortex:

Everyone and Their Mother Sounds Off

The exchanges also ignited a flurry of heated activity on Reddit, especially r/btc, which dragged Andreas Antonopoulos’ name into the debate.

Antonopoulos pictured.

In an April 2017 Q&A Andreas spoke at length about Bitmain’s use of covert AsicBoost, explaining his view that covert use of AsicBoost “is unacceptable” and implored that “if you’re going to do it, do it with the overt version.”

To this end, Redditors like u/zongk were quick to jump on Antonopoulos, suggesting that the scholar would not speak out against Slush Pool’s use of a patented technology because he sided with the Bitcoin Core development team:

u/zongk wrote:

“The difference: overt works with segwit while covert does not. Core is using their control over the protocol to fuck with Bitmain.”

This sentiment is to be expected on Reddit, however a counter to that line of thought was posted in response to Cøbra’s tweet that echoed the “hypocrisy” theme, with @ProfessorPMills noting that the pending patent owned by Halong Mining is a defensive patent and part of a group in which members agree to transparency and the sharing of patented technology.

But of course, this is crypto and the mudslinging and calls of “hypocrisy” and “shilling” came thick and fast. Both major bitcoin subreddits seemed confused on how to approach the subject of the covert and overt AsicBoost, often allowing the conversation to delve into the quagmire of ulterior motives and which messengers can be trusted.

u/tophernator noted that:

“[M]y point wasn’t that people should trust Cobra. If anything it’s the exact opposite. The top level post seemed to imply that if Cobra was criticizing BTC or anything to do with it he must be on BCH’s side. I see similar attitudes displayed by the people defending Craig Wright. He can’t be a bad guy if he spouts pro-BCH or anti-BTC soundbites. In the real rational world people are complex. Cobra’s comments about the ASIC-boost hypocrisy have absolutely no relevance to his views on BCH.”

Over on r/bitcoin the arguments led back to AsicBoost and the insinuation that Bitmain were blocking SegWit to maintain their monopoly and would use patents to make China the dominant force in Bitcoin.

To that effect, u/metalzip wrote:

“[…] it was offensively-patented (instead of defensively), so they could use police (or most likely lawyers etc) to kill any competition (or at least in China, but that’s what counts nowdays).”

The drama surrounding BtcDrak’s pull request and the use of AsicBoost technology is unlikely to end anytime soon, especially with the still simmering tensions between the big and small block camps. Such melodrama seems poised to rear its head again and again for the near future.

What’s your take? Are you in favor of, or opposed to, overt AsicBoost? Sound off in the comments below. 

Images via Pioneering Minds, psichika

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