With Segregated Witness successfully activating on the Bitcoin network, there are some valid questions being raised. One is whether or not we still have to contend with the so-called covert AsicBoost problem, which would give specific mining hardware a competitive mining advantage over other devices. It seems the current SegWit implementation will not get rid of shenanigans related to AsicBoost entirely. In fact, it appears Antpool is mining empty blocks despite SegWit activating.
AsicBoost is no Longer an Issue, Sort of
The Bitcoin community was up in arms over the AsicBoost scandal not too long ago. This particular “technology” seemingly has the potential to give Bitcoin mining hardware manufactured by select companies an advantage over other miners. It can result in a much higher hashrate. Although this technology is not native to just one company in particular, Bitmain has gotten a lot of flack over their implementation of AsicBoost technology.
However, the company has always stated – and continues to do so – they are not using AsicBoost by any means. Whether or not that is the full story will always remain subject to substantial discussion. There will always be people who claim Bitmain and Antpool are up to something and trying their best to hide it. It is certainly true Antpool remains the biggest Bitcoin mining pool to date. However, they also manufacture a lot of hardware, which makes this factor less surprising.
Now that Segregated Witness has successfully activated on the Bitcoin network, any activity related to Asicboost should be effectively a non-issue. Considering how Bitmain allegedly never used this technology in the first place, it should not matter to them all that much whether or not it is still a useful technology. All of these AsicBoost issues should be put to rest once and for all. This does not mean there will not be any future discussions related to this technology in the future, though.
One recent discussion on Reddit touches upon Asicboost again. One user questions whether or not covert AsicBoost is still a problem. On paper, that should not be the case. That does not necessarily mean Antpool will play nice all of a suddenly. The company recently mined a Bitcoin network block which is empty. Although there is no such thing as an entirely empty block, it does not include any transactions other than coinbase. This means the block itself is pretty much “wasted’ as there are always Bitcoin transactions waiting to be confirmed by miners.
Considering how this block was identified more than three minutes after the previous block, there is no reason not to fully validate it like other pools do. This appears to be another statement by Antpool and Bitmain regarding how they will not support Bitcoin in the form most people would like them to. Instead, they still have high hopes for SegWit2x, although they are also actively engaged in mining Bitcoin Cash. Some Bitcoin supporters wouldn’t mind if Antpool stuck to BCH and never came back to mining the Bitcoin chain, but that seems highly unlikely.
In the end, it is important to remember SegWit effectively nullifies Asicboost completely. However, there are two different versions of this method, one of which is not easily detectable whatsoever. Without SegWit transactions in a block, any AsicBoost trickery will effectively be rejected by the Bitcoin network. However, pools can still successfully mine empty blocks to oppose this scaling solution in its current form, since that has nothing to do with AsicBoost. It is an interesting situation, but it appears ASICBoost technology is no longer a threat.