When the concept of Bitcoin was first introduced on a cryptography mailing list by Satoshi Nakamoto, certain developers purported to have already “proven that decentralized consensus was impossible”. Today, the same developers offer a similarly specious “proof” that the implementation of long-published ASIC optimizations is some kind of “attack” on the Bitcoin network.
We’d like to clear the air.
Bitmain has tested ASICBOOST on the Testnet but has never used ASICBOOST on the mainnet as implied in Gregory Maxwell’s proposal. We ask conclusive proof from whoever claims this to be false because such baseless claims are toxic for the Bitcoin space. We also believe the math used by Gregory Maxwell is incorrect and that the method is not practical in a production environment.
Our ASIC chips, like those of some other manufacturers, have a circuit design that supports ASICBOOST. However, the ASICBOOST method has not been used by us on the mainnet. We have not seen any evidence yet on the main net that anyone has used it in the patented way.
Bitmain holds the ASICBOOST patent in China. We can legally use it in our own mining farms in China to profit from it and sell the cloud mining contracts to the public. This, however profitable, is not something we would do for the greater good of Bitcoin.
The mining equipment produced by Bitmain for its own use is in no way intended to be technically superior or more power-efficient than the equipment it sells to the public. The ASICBOOST method has not been employed by Bitmain to increase the power-efficiency of the miners in its own mining farms.
Bitcoin mining equipment depreciates rapidly. Bitmain has constantly been introducing newer more efficient miner models for all. As such the statement that the deployment of ASICBOOST, which can lead to a 20% difference in power efficiency, is some kind of negative development for Bitmain’s business model is false. Bitmain has shown the ability to adapt and thrive in the constantly changing and extremely challenging Bitcoin mining environment. Whether ASICBOOST is used or not, Bitmain will continue to produce more efficient miners.
Bitmain had always supported the Hong Kong Agreement, which means Segwit plus a hard fork to 2MB block size, until we no longer felt that it was going to happen in the foreseeable future. In fact, Bitmain is publicly on record as historically supporting SegWit and Lightning Network in the context of the Hong Kong agreement, and any accusations to the contrary are completely false and specious.
Miners love multi-layer solutions like Lightning Network. To support these off-chain solutions, Bitmain is very supportive of fixing malleability issues. At the same time, we also believe the first layer, which has been well-tested by time, is very important and should not be crippled. We are worried about the policy and precedence set by Bitcoin Core in this regard.
“Tothemoon”, an extension blocks plan proposed recently by Purse.io using a new Bitcon protocol implementation called Bcoin, could be designed to be incompatible with ASICBOOST much like Segwit is. ASICBOOST is not a deterrent to Bitmain’s support of SegWit or Tothemoon. SegWit is not running in production because the conditions made clear in the Hong Kong agreement have not been met, in which we foresee a non-witness block size increase coming together with SegWit. Bitmain’s co-CEO Jihan Wu has clearly expressed support for Tothemoon recently. Tothemoon is a real and standard block size increase, but not through an arbitrary witness discount policy.
Gregory Maxwell’s recent proposal suggests changing 2^32 collision to 2^64 collision to make ASICBOOST more difficult. The result of this would be a loss for the patent owners and the Bitcoin protocol. The patent owners will get nothing and Bitcoin protocol will become more complicated. The only beneficiary will be the technical bureaucrats who are engineering it. The more complicated the protocol is, the higher the cost and barrier to have multiple implementations become. We confirm that we support multiple implementations because they will bring more innovation and better security to the network, while threatening the monopolistic position of certain developers.
Bitmain has continuously been advocating for increasing the Bitcoin block size. Increasing the block size will make the collisions even more difficult, damaging the potential benefits of Bitmain’s gain from the private ASICBOOST assumed by Maxwell’s proposal. The conspiracy theories do not add up here.
There are better ways to resolve the issues that Gregory Maxwell’s proposal seeks to address. Adversarial thinking is not the only way. We suggest working with the patent owners so that the patent could be used by the public. If all mining equipment could use ASICBOOST, it will lower the J/GH cost and the total network hash rate will increase, making the Bitcoin network even stronger. So, the ASICBOOST method is not a “covert attack” on the Bitcoin PoW function. It is an engineering optimization.
The best method to leverage ASICBOOST is by using the Bitcoin block header’s version bits. Patent owner Timo has mentioned it in the patent. Gregory Maxwell’s proposal seems to be missing this point. Usage of these bits was proposed by Timo Hanke through Bitcoin Core’s BIP process but it was declined by Gregory Maxwell and Core developers.
Bitcoin Core is now almost controlled by a small secretive committee. Anyone with a basic sense about human history can tell that this is the starting of a dictatorship. Calling out an optimization an “attack” is playing a political trick to grab power.
The proposal mentions “reverse engineering of a particular mining chip demonstrated conclusively that ASICBOOST has been implemented”. This statement seems directed towards Bitmain. We believe the Bitcoin community needs more constructive contributors than it needs such policing.
The proposal does not mention Bitmain, however, an orchestrated troll army within the community was effectively able to spread rumors around Bitmain. Most Bitcoin companies currently have a strong fear of such notorious assets working for certain people. Bitcoin’s value of liberty is in danger.
The Bitcoin community suffered a grave misfortune when Maxwell lead the coup against Gavin Andresen and removed his Github commit access. It is now incumbent upon us as a community to figure out how to find a new core developer group that does not busy itself with attacking one of Bitcoin’s largest investors (Ver), one of its largest exchanges (Coinbase), and its largest mining equipment provider (Bitmain).
There is a history of character assassinations against those who have spoken against SegWit or Core’s roadmap. Gregory Maxwell’s latest round of attempts follow his previous patterns. Maxwell has previously attacked one of most important Bitcoin maintainers Gavin Andresen, one of the earliest public Bitcoin advocates and investors Roger Ver, founder and CEO of one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges Brian Armstrong, the first author of Lightning Network Joseph Poon, and now Bitmain’s co-CEO Jihan Wu. He has even called his fellow Core contributors who signed the Hong Kong agreement “dipshits”. Such hostility is destructive for Bitcoin.
We have very firm belief that the block size of Bitcoin will be increased. It is the Bitcoin that our co-founders signed up for, it is the roadmap designed by Satoshi and it is the destiny of Bitcoin. We will protect it at any cost.
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