If cryptocurrencies’ greatest common asset is their decentralized nature—the inability of any one person, corporation, or united group to control a coin’s future—then there’s no existential threat quite like the rise of crypto-mining ASICs. Application-specific integrated circuits are chips specially designed to perform the kinds of computations needed to mine a chosen currency more efficiently than general-purpose hardware can.

That miners can use ASICs to gain an advantage probably wouldn’t represent such a threat if one company, the Chinese firm Bitmain, hadn’t come to dominate the market. Now David Vorick, the founder of the three-year-old blockchain-based file storage service Sia, and his team are going head-to-head with Bitmain, the mining industry’s Goliath.

This piece first appeared in our twice-weekly newsletter, Chain Letter, which covers the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Sign up here—it’s free! Vorick’s ASIC manufacturing company, called Obelisk, is an attempt to make an end run around Bitmain’s relentless production of new ASICs.

But it also responds to a larger urge in the cryptocurrency community to keep coins “ASIC resistant” by tweaking their software. The hope is that such tinkering will beat back big mining players like Bitmain.

But Vorick says it’s a fool’s errand, and he speaks from personal experience. Bitmain actually beat Obelisk to market with an ASIC tailored to mine Siacoin, though the new startup plans to ship its first-generation miners in about eight weeks. Read more from technologyreview.com…

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