While Reddit now reports that the pool’s hashing rate is below 36%, its propensity to gain momentum to potentially threaten the Bitcoin system’s stability is attracting increasing scrutiny.
“It'll just happen again given some time,” user u/ vo931814 said, while many commented that the 36% figure was still considerably too high.
While an official statement from Ghash.io has yet to surface, this could reflect what experts have often considered to in fact be a relatively benign phenomenon. Following a similar incident with Ghash.io in January, Andreas Antonopoulos spoke out about the issue in a Q&A session at the LA Bitcoin Meetup.
“To me, the 51% attack is a very interesting academic and theoretical experience or experiment, but it has very few practical implications for the actual Bitcoin network,” he said.
An explanation followed which cited the scope for gains using such an attack being limited in comparison to the profits possible from continuing to mine as normal.
“If you were to successfully execute a 51% attack,” Antonopoulos continued, “you would be able to, for a couple of blocks, execute a double-spend, until the entire network sees what you’re doing, and then reacts.”
In short, the damage to the system is limited by virtue of those using it. “You can’t run away with everyone’s coins just because you got 51%,” he concluded with a shrug, “all you can do is affect the next block… big whoop!”
“You can’t run away with everyone’s coins just because you got 51%, all you can do is affect the next block… big whoop!”
Ghash.io was similarly vocal at the time, as newsbtc.com reports, writing in a statement:
“If something happened to Bitcoin as a whole it could risk our investments in physical hardware, damage to those who love Bitcoin and we see no benefit from having [a] 51% stake in mining.”
For now, then, it would seem that what is not hot air has more to do with reputation than practicalities. For the more reasons appear to doubt the absolute integrity of the Bitcoin network, the harder it will become to present it to more impressionable consumers as a ‘viable alternative’ to their existing methods of transacting.
“I’m not worried,” Antonopoulos concluded.