One of the side effects of the ongoing ETH/ETC “war” is the decreased hash rate and resulting decreased difficulty on the main Ethereum chain. While many miners have switched over to ETC mining due to its increased profitability, obtained simply by pointing to a different pool, the miners choosing to remain on the main ETH chain have also benefited. While it is currently not as profitable, those who think the long term prospects of ETH outweigh the temporary benefits seems to continue to hold fast and mine the main chain.
Looking at the hash rate graphs from Etherscan.io, this dramatic drop off in Ethereum hash rates over the past few weeks becomes obvious.
Reviewing the above chart we can see that the trend has basically reversed course to levels last seen in June 2016. This is even more dramatic when we consider the drop off does not include all of the additional equipment coming online to mine Ethereum Classic (ETC) during this same time period.
By zooming in on the difficulty chart this trend becomes even more apparent as shown in the graph below:
By superimposing lines over the charts, we can see that this puts us back to the same difficulty levels last seen around June 23rd, 2016. Indeed, looking above the top of the difficulty chart we can see that the highest difficulty was reached on Sunday, July 24th, 2016 and has been decreasing sense. While not providing quite as much profitability as ETC, it still is giving miners who choose to stick with the main ETH chain a slight incentive to do so.
While it currently is slightly less profitable, miners may be hoping once the ETC fad has blown over, the extra few months of mining “cheap” ETH coins offsets the short-term benefits. Others will argue that you can simply mine ETC at increased profits, and in-turn exchange the ETC for ETH and still come out better than sticking with ETH. Of course there are reasons to stick to ETH besides pure short-term profit, such as maintaining the stability of the main chain ETH.
How long this trend will continue depends on how long the ETC mining profitability will continue. We can see from the below table found on fork.ethstats.net/ that the current ETC (Non-fork) hash rate is around 730 GH/s compared to ETH (Hard fork) 3860 GH/s.
Etherscan.io recorded the highest average hash rate of Ethereum as 4,449.4236 GH/s on Saturday, July 23, 2016. If we combine the current 3,865 GH/s ETH hash rate with the 733 GH/s hash rate of ETC, we total 4,598 GH/s. Doing this we can see that the overall hash rate for Daggor-Hashimoto (Ethash) chains continues to grow. There is also a fair amount pointed at other Ethash chains such as: Expanse (EXP), Shift (SHIFT), and Krypton (KR).
All this points to if or when the ETC profitability collapses, we might see a sudden reversal in this trend with the additional hash rate that has been stealthily added sine July 23rd, coming online all at once to the ETH chain.
For those considering bringing new Ethash mining gear online, while it is currently profitable, be sure to take the above points into consideration. Mining is always a risk/reward type of proposition, but having the clear facts about the current state of affairs is always useful when making such investment decisions. I hope the above outline helps bring some of the bigger picture to light.