Grin Community is Frowning at Potential ASIC Monopoly

Key Takeaways:

  • A post regarding the development of ASICs by Obelisk CEO David Vorick sparked discussion among Grin developers regarding scheduled upgrades
  • Grin adopts a dual proof-of-work model and the possibility of delaying upgrades to the ASIC friendly algorithm was discussed
  • Multiple news sources have been referring to a potential future ASIC monopoly in Grin but a wait and see approach is being adopted by developers

A discussion among Grin developers regarding how quickly upgrades will be implemented into the protocol initiated amid fears that ASICs will gain too much power in mining the recently launched cryptocurrency. The fears were sparked after a forum post discussed new ASIC hardware models designed by ASIC hardware manufacturer Obelisk.

Grin developers put in place a plan from the start to upgrade one part of their dual proof-of-work consensus model via a hard fork every six months for a period of two years to maintain some resistance against ASIC miners. Pseudonymous lead developer of Grin Ignotus Peverell voiced his concerns regarding the detrimental effects ASIC miners could have prior to the launch of the Grin network: 

“What we’re worried about is our early years and the potential first-mover advantage that would come with an ASIC manufacturer producing rigs ready on our first day. This would lead to an extremely centralized mining market.”

While the plan mainly remains in tact, an announcement from Obelisk CEO David Vorick on the Grin forum revealing the details of new ASICs in production sparked a discussion about making potential changes to a part of the protocol upgrade schedule. One of Grin’s key developers, John Tromp, put forward the problem with sticking to the planned upgrade schedule:

“The announcement of single chip ASICs for C31 [Cuckatoo 31+] has undermined our phase out schedule, which looks like it won’t be able to serve its original intended purpose of thwarting single chip ASICs in the foreseeable future.”

Grin’s Dual PoW

As part of Grin’s carefully crafted resistance against ASIC mining centralization, the project launched with a dual proof-of-work (PoW) model. The model is in place to inhibit any negative impact ASICs may have while also allowing those with powerful hardware to mine.

The dual proof-of-work model consists of Cuckaroo and Cuckatoo. Cuckaroo is Grin’s ASIC resistant algorithm. Cuckatoo is it’s ASIC friendly algorithm and the algorithm which is the centre of these discussions. 

The ASIC resistant algorithm is the one which is forked every six months so to maintain resistance to ASIC miners. Both are based on the PoW model created by John Tromp known called the Cuckoo Cycle.

The Impact of the Discussions

Cuckatoo Start of  phase out Expected to be  fully phased out
AT31 Jan 15 2020 Aug 19 2020
AT32 Jan 15 2021 Aug 27 2021
AT33 Jan 15 2023 Sep 3 2023
AT34 Jan 15 2027 Sep 10 2027

Cuckatoo’s current upgrade schedule – Source:

The upgrade to AT31 will definitely be going ahead as planned. The governance meeting discussed the possibility of delaying the upgrade of AT32 but nothing has yet been confirmed.

The fear that is being propagated by several community members and news outlets is that an upgrade to Cuckatoo 32+ will almost guarantee an ASIC monopoly. “It will almost guarantee there will be an ASIC monopoly at Cuckatoo32 [AT32]” is a quote which is being attributed to David Vorick by several news outlets. 

From Grin developers, it is very much a “wait and see” approach as noted by Grin developer Daniel Lehnberg (@lehnberg). No alterations to the upgrade schedule have been confirmed and further discussions will take place before any actual changes are made.