Bitcoin mining provider Bitmain delivers “overt Asicboost” amidst controversy

Bitmain, a producer of ASIC bitcoin mining hardware has today announced the release of firmware for the Antminer S9 to facilitate the controversial overt AsicBoost functionality in Bitcoin block mining.

According to the announcement, Bitmain plans to release the firmware to activate the functionality in other BM1387-based models, namely the Antminer R4, S9i, S9j, T9 and T9+ in a week’s time. It is hoped that this step will increase the future effectiveness of several Antminer models and provide the framework for a strong long-term network.

New Firmware Enables Overt AsicBoost

An excerpt from the announcement blog post reads:

“Initially, we decided against activating this mathematical function in mining hardware produced by us, largely because of the legal uncertainty surrounding the use of AsicBoost. As an organization, we didn’t want to violate patent laws or act in any way that was untoward. Instead, we continued to focus our efforts on R&D and building the industry’s most efficient mining chips. It’s worth noting, as outlined in an April 2017 blog post, our ASIC chip BM1387 has the capability built into the chip technology.”

Having observed new hardware manufacturers advertising the use of AsicBoost, and thereafter discovering blocks being mined on the blockchain using AsicBoost, Bitmain decided to offer AsicBoost mining services to users of its mining pools BTC.COM and Antpool.

The company was at pains to point out that the overt AsicBoost functionality does not impact negatively on the Bitcoin protocol, but merely “uses version bits different from those that other manufacturers have been using”.

Bitmain also noted that based on legal opinions from several jurisdictions, there is little basis to suggest the existence of a patent right over AsicBoost, which means that all miners will be able to decide freely whether or not to use overt AsicBoost without any single entity having exclusive rights to it.

According to the AsicBoost website, the functionality was invented by Timo Hanke with Sergio Lerner as a partner. AsicBoost is described as a patent-pending method of Bitcoin mining which lowers total cost per Bitcoin mined by approximately 20%. Its methodology is based on an ingenious new way to process work items, both inside and outside of the Bitcoin mining ASIC. It reduces the gate count on Bitcoin mining chips whereby improving the metrics of energy consumption and system cost.

A few days ago, Braiins drew the world’s notice when it announced in a tweet:

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