Sia Community Concerned About Bitmain’s New ASIC Miner

The release of Bitmain’s new A3 ASIC miner designed specifically for Siacoin has many long-time members of the community concerned about the mining hardware manufacturer’s potential impact on the Sia network. Core contributors Eddie Wang and Nick Hansen wrote a detailed Medium post on behalf of hundreds of community members that outlined their objections to the new ASIC miners and suggested a fork to prevent Bitmain hardware from¬†mining on the network.

Siacoin (SIA) is a fairly large altcoin with a market cap of $1.4 billion and an innovative cloud storage network that could be very disruptive. Nebulous’s coin has grown rapidly in recent months — it jumped from $183 million to $966 million in December and hasn’t looked back since.

The world’s largest ASIC manufacturer releasing a miner that only runs Sia’s Blake(2b) hashing algorithm suggests the coin could be gaining additional traction and the A3 is already sold out. While this seems like good news for Siacoin, long-time community members were immediately concerned based on¬†Bitmain’s¬†controversial track record, which includes¬†mining empty blocks for profit¬†and releasing powerful mining hardware without warning currency developers. The Sia team echoed the community’s concerns in their post,

“When Bitmain announced Sia miners without warning, we were naturally concerned. Bitmain has a strong track record in Bitcoin of actively working to undermine core development, blocking important network upgrades (Segwit), backing contentious forks (Bitcoin Cash), building in backdoors (Antbleed), and much more. We consider Bitmain a bad actor in the cryptocurrency space.”

According to Nebulous, “choosing to fork would mean compromising on our values as a company and a community,¬†even though Bitmain poses a serious threat to the Sia network.” While the company may pose a threat, Sia’s team claims the additional¬†hashpower from A3 miners will be good for the network as a whole, and actually lower the risk of a 51 percent attack. Additionally, the A3 provides Siacoin miners with a second option besides Nebulous’s own¬†Obelisk SC1.

Based on these factors, Nebulous stated that they would not be pursuing a soft-fork currently, as it would be a “centralized, monopolistic move, rather than a proactive, protective measure.” However, they did leave the option on the table if Bitmain doesn’t “behave.”

“Forking is still an option if Bitmain openly attacks the Sia network, or actively resists important software updates. The community can still decide to invalidate all Bitmain hardware if we are attacked.¬†If Bitmain takes any action to harm the Sia project, we will soft-fork to invalidate their hardware.”

The new mining hardware has caused quite a rift in the Sia community. Meanwhile, the network’s total hashrate has gone up 10x in the last 5 days as A3’s come online, and several other companies have thrown fuel on the fire by announcing their own Sia-specific mining hardware.

Here’s an excellent timeline of events created by¬†mtlynch on Reddit:

The players

Nebulous is the company that develops Sia and employs all Sia developers.

Obelisk is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nebulous. It manufactures ASIC miners for the Sia and Decred cryptocurrencies.

Bitmain is the largest ASIC manufacturer in the world. They have long produced Bitcoin ASICs, and recently announced that they are producing a Sia ASIC miner.

Halong Mining is a new ASIC mining manufacturer. They have not yet shipped any hardware, but recently announced that they are producing a Sia ASIC miner.

What happened?

2017-06-23:¬†/u/taek42¬†announces¬†the formation of Nebulous’ hardware manufacturing subsidiary, Obelisk, whose mission is to produce Sia ASIC miners.

Obelisk begins collecting batch one of pre-orders for the Obelisk SC1, a Sia ASIC miner.

As an incentive to pre-order early, Obelisk promises that they will not ship any SC1 units until at least 6 weeks after all batch one units have been shipped.

Obelisk becomes the first company ever to announce plans for a Sia ASIC miner.

2017-11-24: Obelisk’s batch one sale ends with¬†3,598¬†SC1 units sold.

2017-12-30: Obelisk begins its batch two pre-sale of the Obelisk SC1, estimating a batch two shipping date of 2018-08-31.

2018-01-06: Obelisk announces a ship date for SC1 batch one buyers of 2018-06-30 or earlier.

2018-01-17: At 12:23am ET, Bitmain announces and immediately begins selling the Antminer A3, a Sia ASIC, promising shipping within 10 days.

This makes Bitmain the first Sia ASIC manufacturer to market, beating Obelisk by several months

A3 units sell out, but Bitmain does not reveal the total number sold

Community members note that Bitmain advertises the A3 as a “Blake2b miner” instead of a “Siacoin miner.” This contrasts Bitmain’s other mining products, which are advertised for a particular named cryptocurrency.

2018-01-17:¬†/u/taek42¬†reveals¬†that the SC1 has, “an extra feature… that would allow [Obelisk] to invalidate the Bitmain hardware without invalidating the SC1.”

The mechanism would be a soft fork in the Sia blockchain consensus algorithm, which Nebulous controls, as they maintain the Sia code.

This revelation leads to heated controversy in the Sia community over whether this feature should exist and whether Nebulous should implement the soft fork.

2018-01-17: Bitmain creates a Siacoin mining pool, immediately representing ~10% of total Siacoin network hash rate.

2018-01-17: Halong Mining announces that they will soon begin selling the DragonMint B52 miner, a Sia ASIC miner.

They have not provided an estimate of when the miners will ship

This makes Halong Mining the third known manufacturer of Sia ASICs and potentially the second to market

2018-01-18:¬†/u/taek42¬†announces on Discord the existence of a fourth ASIC manufacturer “that does not wish to be named”

2018-01-19: /u/0ptim0s of /u/luxordevs announces that he is implementing proposed code for an ASIC-invalidating Sia soft fork

2018-01-19: Discord member @toaster announces work on a separate hardfork from the existing Sia codebase¬†and¬†/u/0ptim0s’s softfork: “My fork is about implementing some different ideas in the codebase. The fact that Sia could migrate to Nick’s codebase and thus rescue the current Obelisk situation and the fact that A3s could point at my fork and not be bricked would be opportune.”

2018-01-19: On the Sia Discord channel,¬†/u/taek42¬†states, “The Nebulous entity is not actively pursuing a fork, and I personally am not actively pursuing a fork. However, if a fork manifests from elsewhere with substantial traction, I am ready to put my weight behind it. And I believe the Nebulous entity would also put its weight behind the fork…”

2018-01-22: /u/I_CAPE_RUNTS posts pictures of a Bitmain A3 in-hand and mining (unclear if their own machine or a repost of images found online).

2018-01-22: /u/stulentsev points out that hashrate on SiaMining is rapidly increasing, suggesting ASICs joining the pool. 34% increase in hashrate since midnight 2018-01-22.

2018-01-23: Luxor publishes an open letter to Nebulous advocating a soft fork, signed by 89 community members, including most of the known third-party Sia code contributors and developers of platforms that build on top of Sia.

2018-01-23: Nebulous promises a response to the letter as soon as possible.

2018-01-25: Nebulous¬†announces their official decision: no fork unless Bitmain “openly attacks” the Sia network.

More: Sia Devs Won’t Prevent Bitmain’s A3 Devices from Mining
Referenced: Response to the Sia Community and Bitmain
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