Chinese mining rig manufacturer Bitmain has unveiled the first Equihash ASIC miners, making it likely that it will soon be unprofitable to mine Zcash using GPU-powered devices.
Bitmain began accepting preorders for the Antminer Z9 mini on Friday, and the miners will begin shipping in June.
The Z9 mini is the first application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miner built to mine the Equihash Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining algorithm, which is currently used by Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, and a variety of lesser-known cryptocurrencies.
The deployment of these devices will alter the nature of Zcash mining, which until now has been done primarily with GPU chips, which are available at most electronics retailers.
ASICs — which are only available from specialized manufacturers like Bitmain — are significantly more efficient than GPU miners, meaning that Zcash GPU mining will likely now be restricted to hobby miners who do it for fun — not profit.
Zcash originally adopted Equihash because it was ASIC-resistant, making it difficult for a single company — namely Bitmain — to dominate the production of Zcash miners.
However, now that Equihash ASIC miners are set to hit the market the Zcash community must grapple with whether to make its peace with this development or adopt a hard fork to render the Z9 mini incompatible with the cryptocurrency’s network.
However, maintaining ASIC resistance will likely require regular changes to the coin’s mining algorithm, and even then few believe that it will be able to stave off ASICs forever.
Zcash founder Zooko Wilcox acknowledged this in a forum post discussing his evolving views on ASICs and the mining landscape in general.
“I’m really chagrined that I let it sound like we were committing to a social contract of ongoing ASIC-resistance. That is absolutely never what I had intended to commit to,” he wrote of the original decision to adopt Equihash.
However, he added that — at least right now — he still believes that ensuring the network has a wide distribution of coins is more important than “locking miners into a large sunk-cost investment in the cryptocurrency.”
“Oh, bottom-line, by the way, is that I’m basically still in the same place now that I was four years ago when we first decided to go for widespread-distribution-of-coins at the expense of sunk-cost-incentive-alignment,” he concluded. “I still think that widespread-distribution-of-coins is more important (but I still think that it can’t last forever, and that the other side of the trade-off may also prove to be important).”
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