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Inside Monero’s ‘Last Ditch Effort’ to Block Crypto Mining ASICs

Developers behind the cryptocurrency monero are ramping up efforts to keep specialized mining hardware from dominating its race for rewards.

Of the coins that have a strong privacy focus, monero – launched in 2014 – possesses the largest market capitalization by far with an estimated $1.5 billion valuation. The annual mining rewards generated by the now 5-year-old blockchain total roughly $62 million, according to data site Messari.

But such rewards appear to be increasingly falling into the hands of ASIC operators, nudging out smaller, independent or hobbyist participants. To keep an even playing field, monero developers have conducted regular hard forks to stave off ASICs – but analysis suggests that this approach has proven ineffective as of late and that ASICs are keeping ahead of such efforts.

“ASIC manufacturers can make equipment far faster than we expected,” said monero contributor Justin Ehrenhofer. “It takes maybe a month for them to have chips designed and in production so they generally can still make a return on investment even within a six month period.”

Diego Salazar, another monero contributor, told CoinDesk:

“We [also] saw that this was very unsustainable. … It takes a lot to keep [hard forking] again and again for one. For two, it may decentralize mining but it centralizes in another area. It centralizes on the developers because now there’s a lot of trust in developers to keep hard forking.”

As such, monero developers are moving forward with activation of a new mining algorithm known as RandomX, designed to render ASICs non-competitive.

The new code is based off the work of Howard Chu – CTO and founder of computer software firm Symas Corporation – who also developed the database type the monero blockchain presently runs on. Four different audits of the RandomX code are now being completed for an expected code freeze date by July.

As it stands, the algorithm could go live in October...

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