Bitcoin Gold aims to break up a mining monopoly

| by Bradley Cooper
Bitcoin Gold aims to break up a mining monopoly

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The discussion of hard forks in the bitcoin blockchain has picked up steam, with the creation of Bitcoin Cash a few months back, and the more recent launch of Bitcoin Gold.

Each fork seeks to resolve a key point of contention in the bitcoin world: Bitcoin Classic was designed to solve the scalability problem with block size; Bitcoin Gold aims to address the centralization of mining.

The creators of Bitcoin Gold changed the bitcoin proof-of-work algorithm from SHA256 to Equihash to pave the way for new miners to come into the sphere.

According to the Bitcoin Gold FAQ page:

The purpose of Bitcoin Gold is to make bitcoin mining decentralized again. Satoshi Nakamoto’s idealistic vision of 'one CPU one vote' has been superseded by a reality where the manufacture and distribution of mining equipment has become dominated by a very small number of entities, some of which have engaged in abusive practices against individual miners and the bitcoin network as a whole.

Bitcoin Gold claims it is not positioning itself as a competitor to bitcoin, since it has a completely different mining infrastructure that consists of general purpose computer hardware rather than ASICs, which are used by both Bitcoin Cash and bitcoin.

The response by experts has been mixed.

The positive perspective

"There have been years of fear, uncertainty, and doubt within the Bitcoin community about the 'risk' of hard forks," Bob Summerwill, chief blockchain developer at Sweetbridge, wrote in an email. "It is apparent to me that most of that noise has been coming from groups that favor coercion and censorship over free markets and the right to secede. There is no such thing as a 'bad fork.' You don't have to cheer one team or the other. Experimentation and competition are good. Let the market decide, and participate where you see value."

Summerwill brought up the Ethereum Classic and Ethereum spilt as an example of a positive spilt, since both cryptocurrencies were able to go off and do their own thing.

Rob Vigilione, co-founder of ZenCash, said that sometimes the only way a project can have "big breakthroughs" is through the messy process of evolution.

Though others might not be as positive about the change, they still understand the motive behind it. Abhishek Pitti, CEO and founder of Nucleus, said that supporters of Bitcoin Gold believe it will help shift the power away from big centralized miners to individual users.

The naysayers' side

Many question Bitcoin Gold based on the technical aspects of the solution and the issues it raises with bitcoin as a brand.

"Saturating the market with different versions of bitcoin is confusing to users, and discredits the claim that there are a limited number of bitcoins — since you can always fork it and double the supply," Sol Lederer, blockchain director at LOOMIA, wrote in an email.

"Instead of coming to agreement, the community, developers, and code are fracturing into different groups. We're learning that while a blockchain gives you consensus on a distributed ledger, it does not give you consensus on the codebase — that is, what code to run. This does not bode well for bitcoin's future, where it will face new and bigger challenges requiring further upgrades to the codebase."

Luis Cuende, co-founder and project lead at Aragon, thinks Bitcoin Gold is not a good solution for technical reasons. He claims that Bitcoin Gold lacks replay protection, a safeguard that prevents network attacks intended to repeat or delay valid data transmission.

Pitti also sees this as a critical problem with previous hard forks such as Bitcoin Cash. Because it lacked replay protection and backward compatibility, many major developers refused to accept it, according to Pitti.

To fork or not to fork?

It's possible that we are seeing the floodgates opening opened with bitcoin, and that we will see a greater number of hard forks for the cryptocurrency in the future. Whether this will create more chaos or help craft better tools is an open question.

Ultimately it will come down to philosophy and values for individual members of the bitcoin community as they make the choice to embrace a more centralized solution or a more libertarian one.

Topics: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Investment / Valuation, Mining

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

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