AntPool, the world’s biggest Bitcoin mining pool, finally makes its actions speak rather than its words. After complaining about the unsolved capacity problems, the pool mined a couple of Bitcoin Unlimited blocks. But the story is far from clear.
You can say a lot of things about Jihan Wu; as the co-founder of BitMain, the world’s most important manufacturer of mining hardware, and of AntPool, the world’s largest mining pool, you could say that Jihan Wu is the most powerful person in Bitcoin in the whole of China.
But you cannot deny that Jihan Wu announces what he plans to do. Wu has repeatedly made clear what he wants and what he expects the Core developers to do; keep the agreement some Core developers made with the miners last year, which has become famous as the “Consensus of Hong Kong.” In this time, when a consensus between all parties was still imaginable, the miners promised to not run consensus-breaking software like Bitcoin Classic or Bitcoin Unlimited, and to activate SegWit - if the Core developers present at the meeting release the code for a block size increasing hard fork.
There have been many discussions about the agreement, and there exists a wide variety of ideas about how binding it is, the interpretation of its wording, who is affected by it, and if it has been the miners or the developers who broke it first.
The fact is that the agreement seems to have done serious harm to the relationship between Core developers and Chinese miners and that Jihan Wu, clearly a leader in Chinese mining, expected that the developers would deliver a hard fork. He repeatedly and explicitly pointed this out. Recently even the usually silent co-founder of BitMain, Micree Zhan, openly said in one of his rare interviews that he prefers Bitcoin Unlimited over SegWit - while Jihan Wu made harsh accusations against Core which “exists as dictatorship and tyranny” and has become “the biggest threat to the long-term development of Bitcoin.”
Many people asked when Jihan Wu finally will suit the action to the word, stop complying with the broken agreement of Hong Kong and mine with alternative software. Now we know the answer; on March 6, AntPool started to mine the first Bitcoin Unlimited blocks. The agreement is officially dead.
When AntPool released the first Bitcoin Unlimited block, it was unclear, if this was just a test. By March 7, it became apparent that it was not just a test, but also that AntPool only partially mines BU blocks. Only a part of the blocks of the pool have the BU tag. According to the coinbase transaction, the blocks found by the Beijing-based nodes of AntPool are BU, while the US-based nodes still mine neutral blocks. As a result, AntPool only mined six BU blocks during the last 24 hours.
At the time of writing, there was no statement from AntPool. So it is not known if the pool does only partially mine BU blocks because AntPool is still testing and upgrading its nodes, or if it does because it just wants to give Core a ‘warning shot.’ Some speculate that this is just a statement following ideas circulating in the developer mailing list to activate SegWit not by miners, but my users. While no official Core developer consented to the proposal, Jihan Wu reacted angrily to the idea.
With the six BU blocks, AntPool becomes the eighth pool to mine Bitcoin Unlimited. Right now it only contributes a small part to BU’s total block share. But this still is enough to push Bitcoin Unlimited’s share of the blocks to a new high of 28.5 percent, surpassing SegWit. If AntPool ultimately moves its share of roughly 15 percent of the total hash rate to BU, the alternative client would have a hash rate of more than 40 percent.