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Ballot Proposal: ASIC Resistance as a value and priority for the Foundation

Proposed ballot entry:

The Zcash community wishes to preserve ASIC resistance, discouraging the use of ASIC mining equipment in favor of GPU mining equipment. The Zcash Foundation should therefore adopt this as a priority.

- Agree
- Disagree

Background

ASIC mining has recently emerged as an widely-discussed issue in several cryptocurrencies, including Zcash but also Monero and Ethereum. Bitcoin mining has been well-known to be dominated by dedicated ASICs, since SHA256 is ASIC-friendly. Zcash's proof-of-work mining puzzle is based on a technology, Equihash, which is intended to be ASIC-resistant but GPU-friendly. Although Monero and Ethereum also feature (different) ASIC-resistant proof-of-work puzzles, there appear to be effective ASICs in use or on the Horizon. To avoid ASICs, Monero has recently hardforked to a new proof-of-work puzzle, while Ethereum is developing a proof-of-stake alternative. A discussion on ASIC resistance can be found here: forum.z.cash.

Zooko (the chief of Zcash Company) has challenged the framing of this question, arguing that we do not know if ASIC resistance actually achieves decentralization. (1) (2) As such, this is an important topic to include in the ballot to the Community Approval Panel, since it may be a point of disagreement between the Zcash Company and the broader community.

Scope of this proposal

This scope of this proposal is left deliberately vague, and does not prescribe a particular action for the Foundation to take. Nor does the outcome indicate a particular technical approach in response. If this proposal is accepted, the Foundation will adopt this as a priority and come up with an action plan to outline in a blogpost.

Possibile responses include:

  • allocating resources to investigate technical options (how feasible are ASICs for equihash? Would a parameter change be sufficient? What other proof of work puzzles would fare better?)
  • lobbying the Zcash Company to prioritize ASIC resistance in their roadmap
  • hiring engineering staff to contribute an implementation of the above