With SegWit Activated, Is AsicBoost Still a Problem?

With Segregated Witness successfully activated on the Bitcoin network, some valid questions are being raised. One is whether or not we will still have to contend with the so-called covert AsicBoost problem, which gives specific mining hardware a competitive advantage over other devices. It seems the current SegWit implementation will not be getting rid of shenanigans related to AsicBoost entirely. In fact, it appears Antpool is mining empty blocks at this time.

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 in the form of a much higher hashrate. Although this technology is not native to just one company in particular, Bitmain has gotten a lot of flack over its implementation of AsicBoost technology.

However, the company has always stated – and continues to do so – that it is not using AsicBoost. Whether or not that is the full story remains subject to substantial discussion. There will always be people who claim Bitmain and Antpool are up to something and are trying their best to hide it. It is certainly true Antpool remains the biggest Bitcoin mining pool to date. However, Bitmain also manufactures a lot of hardware, which makes the latter point somewhat less surprising.

Now that Segregated Witness has successfully activated on the Bitcoin network, any activity related to Asicboost should effectively be 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. Indeed, all of these AsicBoost issues should be put to rest once and for all. This does not mean there will not be any future discussion related to this technology in the future, though.

A recent discussion on Reddit touched upon Asicboost again. One user questioned whether covert AsicBoost was still a problem. On paper, that should not be the case. This does not necessarily mean Antpool will play nice all of a sudden. The company recently mined a Bitcoin network block which was empty. Although there is no such thing as an entirely empty block, the block in question did not include any transactions other than those from 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 have been another statement by Antpool and Bitmain about how they would not support Bitcoin in the form most people would like them to. They continue to 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 returned 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 be effectively rejected by the Bitcoin network. However, pools could still 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.