What is Merged Mining?
First proposed in 2010 by Bitcoin’s anonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, merged mining allows miners to enhance revenue by earning rewards from two or more blockchains in which one or more support merge mining with a main blockchain, such as Bitcoin.
Merged mining is also sometimes called Auxiliary Proof of Work (AuxPoW).
The AuxPoW protocol allows blockchain networks with lower hash rates to access additional computational power through miners that generate hashes for multiple networks concurrently. The miner earns a mining reward if a match is found for any of the networks.
How Does Merged Mining Work?
Merged mining works by sending hashes to two or more blockchain networks simultaneously.
Let’s break that down to explain the process in more detail.
Proof of Work Hashing
First, hashing refers to encrypting an input using an algorithm. The output is a fixed-length string of seemingly random (but not random) numbers and letters. The same input will always create the same output.
|Double SHA-256 Output
Bitcoin and other PoW blockchain networks use hashing at several steps during the process of building a block.
Mining involves generating the correct hash to find or “mine” a new block to hold pending transactions.
Merge Mining: Main Blockchain and Auxiliary Blockchain
Merge mining involves using an additional field for both the main and auxiliary blockchain when generating hashes.
The main blockchain is also sometimes referred to as the parent blockchain or master blockchain.
However, the main blockchain ignores the additional data (the auxiliary block hash, shown below).
For example, a Bitcoin miner could simultaneously mine Bitcoin while also mining Namecoin or Syscoin, all of which use the double SHA-256 algorithm.
If the miner finds a block for any of the supported networks, the miner earns a block reward for that network.
Merge mining does not require additional hardware or additional energy. The AuxPow protocol simply looks for solved hashes on any of the networks supported by the pool or mining software.
The computational work from miners contributes to the total hash rates of all the blockchains the miner is merge-mining, making each more secure.
Difficulty Differences and Submitted Blocks
Auxillary networks typically have lower difficulty compared to main networks, although this isn’t always the case. Merged mining accounts for this disparity on either end.
The block is submitted to the chain for which it meets the required difficulty.
- If the miner finds the correct hash at the main network’s difficulty level, a block for the main network is assembled and sent to the main network. Extra information in the “Coinbase” is ignored.
- If the miner finds the correct hash for the auxiliary network, a block for the auxiliary network is assembled and sent to the auxiliary network. However, this block contains additional information relevant to the main blockchain’s block. This additional information is only used to prove the work was done.
- It is possible to earn a block reward on both chains simultaneously if the miner solves the hash at the higher difficulty level of the two blockchains.
- The blockchains remain independent, with only the mining process itself merged.
Merged mining can make mining more efficient. There are, however, some prerequisites.
What is Needed for Merge Mining?
Your mining hardware should be suitable for the main blockchain. For example, to mine Bitcoin, you’ll likely need an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) or multiple graphics cards, such as the NVIDIA GeForce RTX series.
Assuming you have suitable hardware for the main blockchain you want to mine, the requirements thereafter are simple yet essential.
- Supported Pool: If you’re using a mining pool, the pool needs to support merge mining for the cryptocurrencies you want to mine. For example, The Mining-Dutch Merged Mining pool supports several cryptocurrencies when hashing with the Scrypt algorithm. Litecoin is the main blockchain, but miners can merge mine Dogecoin, Dingocoin, Worldcoin, Earthcoin, and other supported blockchains that use Scrypt.
- Supported Blockchain: To use merge mining, the auxiliary blockchain must support it. Typically, AuxPoW support requires a hard fork, in which the chain splits into a before and after. Not all blockchains that share a hashing algorithm support AuxPoW.
Is Merged Mining Slower?
Because mining for multiple blockchains happens simultaneously, using the same hashes, merged mining does not slow the mining process. However, merge mining may be more data-intensive, possibly requiring an upgrade of data lines.
History of Merged Mining
Merged mining as a notion dates back to 2010 when Satoshi proposed merged mining for Bitcoin and BitDNS, noting one of merged mining’s advantages: the ability to attract miners to smaller networks.
Several other SHA-256-based blockchains followed suit.
However, the idea caught fire with Dogecoin, a Scrypt-based blockchain, which forked to support merge mining with Litecoin in 2014. Today, Dogecoin has a larger market cap than Litecoin, the main blockchain.
Several other Scrypt-based coins also support merged mining with Litecoin. Scrypt miners can earn rewards from up to eight blockchains with one mining rig.
Pros and Cons of Merged Mining
Examples of Merged Mining
Merge mining hashing algorithms primarily center on Scrypt and SHA-256. However, not all pools support merge mining, and supported coins may vary amongst merged mining pools.
|Merged Mining Cryptocurrencies
|Dogecoin, Dingocoin, Worldcoin, Earthcoin, Newyorkcoin, Myriadcoin, Viacoin
|Lyncoin, Terracoin, Syscoin, Namecoin, Xaya, Emercoin, Myriadcoin, Rootstock