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What's Next for Bitcoin Cash? Making Profitless Mining Profitable

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You might not expect bitcoin miners to leave money on the table – but according to estimates, some are, and lots of it.

Rather than simply mining the version of the bitcoin blockchain that’s purely the most profitable (today it’s the original BTC blockchain), a portion of the network is instead choosing to earn less by directing computer power toward bitcoin cash (BCH or BCC), a version of the blockchain created in a fork earlier this month.

But, far from just another data point in the ongoing flame war between the two camps, it’s a development with some interesting implications.

That’s because the results, while early, appear to provide a counterpoint to the thinking that has so far driven decisions in the field of “crypto economics,” wherein protocols are built to combine economic incentives and game theory.

Should more money be available on one version of the blockchain, it would stand to reason, some miners would simply switch.

But the continued existence of bitcoin cash shows that short-term profit isn’t the only consideration.

While some argue that blockchains that failed to garner majority hashing power will die off – and bitcoin cash still could – it is now providing the latest example that this theory doesn’t necessarily work in practice.

And, as bitcoin heads for potentially more forks ahead, this suggests more versions of the blockchain could persist, possibly splitting miners and diluting the network.

Political value

So, who’s mining bitcoin cash? And why are they OK with losing money?

To begin, there are currently only a few mining operations, the largest an unknown actor (or pool of actors) controlling roughly 90 percent of the hash power on bitcoin cash.

Some speculate the motivation driving these miners is a purely ideological devotion to bigger blocks, the reason bitcoin cash supporters split from bitcoin in the first place. (Bitcoin cash boasts 8MB blocks, as opposed to 1MB blocks on bitcoin).

Others believe it’s more personal, and there’s reason to suggest it could be both.

ViaBTC, the first mining pool to enable its miners to support bitcoin cash, has called for the developers of bitcoin’s most popular software implementation, Bitcoin Core, to be fired. Further, Jihan Wu, co-CEO of Bitmain, one of the world’s largest miners, spends much of his day sending memes mocking the team on a popular bitcoin cash WeChat thread.

The anecdotal evidence would suggest then that “political” or “ideological” motivations are also coming to play a role in mining. After all, there is always a certain intangible value to validating your own arguments.

Others, though, believe there’s more at play than simply a digital “I told you so,” and that miners are banking on bitcoin cash’s future profitability.

The mining loop

Another question is how to gauge “profitability,” as there are many factors that contribute to how profitable it is to mine any cryptocurrency. This includes its price, how hard it is to mine (“difficulty”) and how often block rewards are released.

Against these metrics, it’s safe to say bitcoin cash is having challenges, so far.

Today, it’s taking longer for bitcoin cash miners to mine blocks, and coupled with the fact that its price is roughly 6% of bitcoin’s, most miners don’t seem particularly interested (yet) in moving over to the new network.

This creates a kind of chicken-and-egg scenario, one the creators and users of bitcoin cash appear to be aware of as evidenced by their complex efforts to make it easier mine. But, it is taking a long time for these changes to be enacted.

Still, supporters are hopeful that bitcoin cash can reach an equilibrium at which more miners might have an economic motivation to make a switch.

As bitcoin cash difficulty slowly adjusts downward toward a targeted 10-minute block time, the cryptocurrency is growing easier to mine. Several blocks are now being mined an hour.

Eventual profit

Still, even if bitcoin cash finally reaches the point where it’s as profitable or more profitable than bitcoin, it’s unclear what will happen.

Scott Morgan, co-founder of bitcoin wallet Airbitz, expects some miners, serving their profit motives, to move over to bitcoin cash.

Morgan told CoinDesk:

“There are some miners that are going to be smart. They’ll wait to see what the blocks look like, and then divert some attention to it.”

The profit could be even greater seeing that miners of bitcoin cash can use older, less-expensive mining rigs. And at this point, mining pools, which provide the software for many smaller miners, could be tempted to enable the option.

China-based BTC.TOP, for example, plans to let miners in its pool mine the cryptocurrency once it becomes profitable. It’s possible that even mining pools that are ideologically opposed to bitcoin cash and its scaling goals might do so for the profit.

But we might not have to wait and see for long.

According to a Reddit post, bitcoin cash could have its first “non-emergency” difficulty adjustment this weekend. At its current price, and with the difficulty adjusting downward by about 60%, some believe bitcoin cash could then eclipse bitcoin, becoming more profitable to mine than the latter.

Temporary upticks

Still, even if mining pools move over, bitcoin developer Alphonse Pace argued this could only be a temporary move. Switching from cryptocurrency to cryptocurrency to chase profit is a common practice, he argued.

“Mining will eventually reach a parity where mining one chain is equally profitable on any chain,” Pace said. “If it becomes more profitable, it will be temporary until difficulty swings back, and it’s no longer.”

The arguments for temporary spikes in bitcoin cash mining only get more complicated from there.

Bitcoin Unlimited chief scientist Peter Rizun highlighted another potential scenario: Mining bitcoin cash blocks could be more profitable to mine than bitcoin during short periods that have to do with its difficulty algorithm, contingent on its price increasing.

“Because the difficulty adjusts only very slowly, bitcoin cash becomes twice as profitable to mine as bitcoin. Hash-per-hash, miners would earn double by mining bitcoin cash,” he said.

Basically what Rizun’s saying is that if the price of bitcoin cash rose, the long difficulty adjustment window would give miners a longer time period to make money. But Rizun said that could also be temporary.

Based on the bitcoin cash’s unique mining algorithm, miners might earn more for a couple weeks, before the difficulty would adjust back up again.

Miners follow users

But whether bitcoin cash and its mining mechanism will be profitable isn’t solely based on this “break-even” point where miners are incentivized by profit.

“It’s a gamble,” Airbitz’s Morgan said, arguing the price of bitcoin cash could just as likely go down, since many users still intend to sell off the coins they received simply by being bitcoin owners during the fork.

Some bitcoin cash owners might not yet know how to sell their holdings, Morgan continued, or haven’t been able to because the slow block times have led to transaction backlogs.

He concluded:

“A lot of volume hasn’t been touched yet.”

Sources also stressed that bitcoin’s rise has been more about user adoption, and that it will likely be the same for bitcoin cash.

The argument is that bitcoin’s long-term viability, and mining profitability, has depended on (and will continue to depend on) consumers and businesses actually using the cryptocurrency, and that the blockchain with the most users is the most valuable.

It’s an increasingly common philosophy in the bitcoin space due to how recent game theoretic events related to scaling have played out, one that also advances understanding of the nascent science driving it all.

Bitcoin developer Daniel Krawisz argued:

“I think investors matter a lot more than miners. [Bitcoin cash] should worry about them.”

Gold nugget image via Shutterstock. 

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at [email protected].

Database Giant Oracle Wants Better Governance for Blockchains

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Multinational software provider Oracle is working on a way to introduce “fair” governance to permissioned blockchains, according to a newly published patent application.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released the application for “Accountability and Trust in Distributed Ledger Systems” on August 17, after it was initially submitted in late May 2016. Specifically, it focuses on so-called permissioned blockchains – those in which participants are limited to approved parties.

For the basis of the patent, the firm draws issue with some approaches to maintaining permissioned blockchains, particularly when it comes to the subject of policing the activities of nodes.

As the application details:

“Even in permissioned ledgers, however, a participating node may violate a fairness policy, for example because it has been hacked, its software is defective, or its operator is dishonest. In principle, permissioned ledgers make it easier to hold nodes accountable for fairness policy violations: once exposed, a violator may lose a deposit, may be expelled from the ledger, or may be sued. In practice, however, reducing the opportunities for internal fairness violations, and detecting them when they occur, is a non-trivial problem.”

Such problematic behaviors also include transaction censorship, as well as “dropping or reordering transactions” within nodes. Oracle’s application proposes a method to resolve these concerns, constituting a system that utilizes a modified version of the open-source code developed by blockchain startup Tendermint.

“Accountability and Trust” is the second patent application submitted by Oracle to date. Last year, CoinDesk reported that the software company had filed an application focused on the use of blockchains to verify data in the workflow process.

Oracle image via JPstock/Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

Couldn't Claim Your Bitcoin Cash? BTC.Com Now Has a Tool for That

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Users who weren’t able to claim their bitcoin cash in the wake of this month’s hard fork now have a better chance of retrieving their lost funds.

Announced this week, BTC.com has launched a recovery tool for the cryptocurrency, one designed to let users whose wallets didn’t support the switch to claim their coins.

Because users of some services still technically own bitcoin cash (but don’t have access to it), the tool allows them to “extract” bitcoin cash from their wallets by exporting the keys and, then, moving the currency into a new, supporting wallet.

If it sounds complex, it is. To put it simply, when bitcoin cash split from the bitcoin blockchain, anyone who owned bitcoin as the two networks parted ways were suddenly allocated an equal amount of bitcoin cash. However, many users were unable to access their new funds because the contentious and fast-moving fork caught many digital wallet providers off guard.

While some wallets supported the currency from the get-go, others decided against it because of concerns about confusing customers and a lack of technical resources to integrate the new cryptocurrecy.

In a blog post, BTC.com’s online marketing manager, Nikol Daru, explained why the tool was needed, saying:

“Recovering bitcoin cash from a bitcoin wallet in a do-it-yourself manner can be a risky process that requires serious expertise. That’s why we have developed this designated recovery tool, to make the process easy and seamless for everyone.”

There’s one big caveat, however: the service only works for specific wallets. According to the blog post, Blockchain and Mycelium are compatible with the tool, as well as unnamed others.

The launch will likely come as a relief to some in the community, including some who support bitcoin cash’s technical roadmap and others who desire gains from holding or selling off the new asset.

And those funds are looking increasingly worth retrieving. A swift climb in price in the last 24 hours has seen bitcoin cash overtake Ripple as the third largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. At press time, bitcoin cash is valued at $506, according to CoinMarketCap

Binary code image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

D+H Files for Multiple Patents on Private Blockchain Tech

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Canada-based fintech vendor D+H Corporation has filed three patent applications relating to the creation and use of private distributed ledgers.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the trio of applications yesterday, public records show, all of which share the same title: “Peer-to-Peer Financial Transactions Using A Private Distributed Ledger.” The applications were submitted on February 10.

The applications themselves focus on the ways in which a private distributed ledger can be built and managed. Unlike public blockchains like bitcoin, in which any user can launch a node or compete to add their own transaction blocks, private networks restrict users to a list of permissioned parties.

As explained in the abstract of one of the applications:

“Methods and systems for performing peer-to-peer financial transactions using a private distributed ledger are described. One example method includes allocating an initial currency value to a genesis address, the initial currency value representing a maximum value of currency to be managed in the blockchain network; identifying a new member to add to the blockchain network; generating an address for the new member; and transferring an amount from the genesis address the address for the new member, the transferred amount equaling an amount to be managed by the new member in the blockchain network.”

The blockchain-related filings are the first for the Canada-based D+H, which, as reported last year by CoinDesk, has moved to integrate blockchain into its suite of payment services.

The firm has also worked with financial institutions like Rabobank on developing blockchain applications. In the Rabobank project, D+H helped create a cross-border transaction tool that utilizes the technology.

Wires image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].

Investor Albert Wenger to Fund ‘XPRIZE’ for Blockchain-Powered Blogs

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Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger has revealed plans to fund a new prize aimed to incentivize the creation of a blockchain-powered blogging platform.

Modeled after the storied XPRIZE award, Wenger’s offer requires that the blog be built using emerging blockchain technologies in which Union Square Ventures is an investor, in particular, the Blockstack developer kit and decentralized storage system IPFS, built by Protocol Labs.

Wenger had previously written of his idea for a blog without a central authority on his Tumblr channel. In the post, he raised concerns over monetary strategies as the blogging space becomes increasingly centralized.

In particular, he expressed concern that since his portfolio company Tumblr had been acquired by Yahoo, which was in turn acquired by Verizon earlier this year, he might lose control over important features and be forced to accept ads he hadn’t agreed to.

This is the second time this week that a well-known investor has revealed his intentions to launch a blockchain prize for developers.

On Wednesday, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant confirmed he would fund a competition to build a decentralized Twitter, also using the Blockstack developer kit.

And signs suggest this may be the start of a larger trend to boost development on the Blockstack platform, as sources have told CoinDesk that more prizes may be in the works.

Earlier this week, Blockstack revealed the formation of a $25 million fund backed by five venture capital firms. It will invest solely in startups using the platform, designed to power a new decentralized internet.

Still, comments by those close to the activities suggest plans may be in early stages.

Blockstack co-founder Muneeb Ali told CoinDesk:

“High-profile investors are willing to put up these prizes for specific apps. We’re pretty excited about that, but we’re ironing out the details.”


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