Grin Cryptocurrency Executes First Hard Fork

Wednesday's planned system upgrade for the Grin blockchain tweaked a mining algorithm.

Jul 17, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:12 a.m. UTC

Privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Grin has just executed its first backward-incompatible upgrade, also called a hard fork.

Today's planned upgrade introduces key changes to the nearly $60-million network that will optimize for maximum miner decentralization and usability. Grin launched in January 2019.

“It was planned since way before Grin launched,” Grin developer John Tromp told CoinDesk. “We would do four hard forks in the first two years, at regular six-month intervals, to introduce new features.”

Tromp said that today’s upgrade did not result in a network split. Rather, the old Grin network simply halted “in its tracks,” effectively forcing users to update their software. The upgrade was completed at 9:45 UTC.

Tromp explained:

“In a classical fork, the chain can split into two mutually incompatible continuations. … In Grin, there is no way to continue growing the ‘old’ chain since the old code refuses to accept any blocks past the [hard fork] height.”

One of the most integral changes introduced on the Grin network today is a tweak to one of two mining algorithms. As previously reported, Grin supports a mining algorithm that is friendly toward both general-purpose computing devices called GPUs and specialized hardware called ASICs.

However, Wednesday's fork looks to dissuade specialized machinery from being built for the GPU-friendly algorithm.

Quentin Le Sceller, a Grin core developer and software engineer at blockchain startup BlockCypher, explained:

“It's not really forking ASICs from the network but ensuring that no one is building ASICs for the [GPU-friendly mining algorithm.]”

In order to ensure that ASICs don’t hold a monopoly on the Grin mining industry – estimated to generate over $100 million annually by today’s coin prices – Wednesday’s update ensures the playing field remains ASIC-resistant for the short-term future of the Grin protocol.

In another six months, additional tweaks to the newly implemented mining algorithm will be activated by Grin developers. Tromp, who is in charge of these mining algorithm edits, also affirmed that for the second Grin fork, developers will take the first step toward adding payment channels to the network.

“[Payment channels are] a way for two parties to perform many off-chain transactions between them,” Tromp said. “[It requires] one on-chain transaction at the outset and one settlement at the end.”

Payment channels were first popularized on the bitcoin network as a way to scale transaction volume by decreasing confirmation wait times.

Beam, another cryptocurrency built on the privacy-enhancing blockchain protocol mimblewimble, is undertaking a hard fork in August. Like Grin's upgrade, Beam will also be adding payment-channel functionality and a mining algorithm update meant to keep ASICs in check.

Grin image via Shutterstock

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