Monero to alter its mining algorithm to maintain ASIC resistance, but “Monero Classic” hopes to spoil the party

Privacy-centric cryptocurrency Monero has followed through on its promise to alter its mining algorithm to maintain ASIC resistance, but “Monero Classic” (XMC) hopes to spoil the party.

Monero activated its semi-annual hard fork on Friday, bringing a host of new upgrades to the 10th-largest cryptocurrency. One particular upgrade, though, threatens to split the network into two competing chains.

As CCN reported, Monero earlier this year announced its intention to update its instance of the Cryptonight Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining algorithm at regular intervals to prevent mining hardware manufacturers from developing Monero-compatible ASIC miners, as critics allege that these devices lead to mining centralization and threaten the network’s health.

Shortly after that announcement, Bitmain — the world’s largest ASIC manufacturer — revealed that it had developed a Cryptonight ASIC, and Monero responded by including an emergency PoW adjustment in this week’s planned hard fork.

The move appears to have broad community support, but at least one faction — a pseudonymous group operating under the name “Monero Classic” — says that it will continue to mine the original chain.

From the group’s website:

“Around 80% of the current Monero hash rate agrees with our stance and refuses to follow the POW change. That is why we declare in advance that we will maintain the original software which follows the original rules. We reject centralised developer Control and we believe that’s voluntary participation for both users and miners Will uphold the principles of decentralisation.”

It’s unclear whether the group is truly pro-ASIC or is merely using the fork as an opportunity to turn a quick profit by creating a new cryptocurrency, but it’s notable that AntPool — which is operated by Bitmain — has opened a Monero Classic mining pool and has encouraged users to claim XMC.

In any case, that 80 percent figure cited on the Monero Classic website is, of course, misleading. Users are always slow to upgrade to new software versions, so failure to upgrade in a timely manner does not necessarily mean a miner rejects the PoW change.

Additionally, an unknown percentage of the hashrate belongs to ASIC miners — the very devices the fork renders obsolete. Of course they will continue to mine the original chain — they have no other choice aside from directing their hashpower at another Cryptonight coin.

Finally, it’s no secret that Monero is mined by a number of botnets, and while seasoned hackers will deploy updated payloads to their zombie computers, “script kiddies” won’t have the tools to do this and their botnets will continue to mine Monero Classic in perpetuity.

Regardless of which chain they choose to follow, Monero’s developers have warned that spending coins on both chains could have adverse effects on user privacy — even for users who only interact with a single network.