Chasing Profit? Bitcoin Miners Swap Networks As Difficulty Swings

A change to bitcoin cash has provided further clues as to its evolving relationship with the bitcoin blockchain.

Aug 23, 2017 at 4:45 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 6:51 a.m. UTC

Since bitcoin cash split from the bitcoin blockchain, miners have had a choice: which of two blockchains to mine?

At play in their considerations are two factors: ideology and profitability. But while it's possible some miners are choosing bitcoin or bitcoin cash based on preference, a certain contingent seem to be following the money.

How do we know? At block 481,824 yesterday, the bitcoin cash blockchain saw a notable difficulty adjustment.

At the time, blocks were being found on bitcoin cash at a rate of about one 1-2 minutes, or less. As a result, the difficulty went up by 300%, the maximum allowed under the difficulty adjustment rules.

Both bitcoin and bitcoin cash adjust difficulty downward every 2,016 blocks, though in the case of bitcoin cash, the length of time this takes varies depending on how long it takes blocks to be discovered. If the previous 2,016 blocks took less than two weeks, difficulty goes up, if more than two weeks, difficulty goes down.

Changing the dynamic between the chains is that because of this unique rule and yesterday's change, bitcoin cash is now much less profitable to mine than bitcoin.

And miners seem to be responding, as a lot of mining hash power seems to have left bitcoin cash and moved to bitcoin. At its peak, bitcoin cash had 44% of all hash power compared to bitcoin's 56%.

As of this writing, BCH has about 26% compared to BTC's 74%, according to data from fork.lol, a data site that has sprung up to cover the narrative.

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As of this writing, bitcoin is averaging slightly less than six blocks per hour over the last eight hours, while bitcoin cash is averaging a little over one block per hour in the same time period.

The next difficulty adjustment on either chain is expected to be when bitcoin hits block 481,824, on August 24.

Escalator image via Shutterstock

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