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Block (formerly Square) Building Its Own Bitcoin Mining System

Block Inc logo is seen displayed in this illustration taken, April 10, 2023. 

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Jack Dorsey says that his payments company, Block (formerly Square), is expanding its bitcoin mining ambitions from designing chips to developing a full bitcoin mining system.

In a post on Tuesday, the global tech firm announced that it had finished the development of its own standalone three-nanometer bitcoin mining chip and was now in the process of working through the design with a “leading global semiconductor foundry.”

Block also unveiled plans to broaden out the scope of its mining project to include system design.

“We’ve spent a significant amount of time talking to a wide variety of bitcoin miners to identify the challenges faced by mining operators,” Block writes. “Building on these insights and pursuant to our goal of supporting mining decentralization, we plan to offer both a standalone mining chip as well as a full mining system of our own design.”

Democratizing access to bitcoin mining — the process of creating new bitcoins by solving increasingly complex computational problems — is a big part of the mission statement of this project.

“Mining isn’t accessible to everyone,” Dorsey wrote when Block first entered the business of building mining hardware in 2021. “Bitcoin mining should be as easy as plugging a rig into a power source. There isn’t enough incentive today for individuals to overcome the complexity of running a miner for themselves.”

Indeed, members of the bitcoin community have long been concerned that hardware vulnerabilities might compromise network stability. The ASIC chip used in mining rigs, for example, is manufactured in China, a country that has proven hostile to the crypto sector in recent years.

Block said in its memo on Tuesday that the goal of this project is to both decentralize the supply of bitcoin mining hardware and the distribution of hashrate — a proxy for industry competition and mining difficulty.

To that end, the fintech firm is solving one major barrier to entry: Mining rigs are hard to find and expensive, and delivery can be unpredictable.

The company was light on the details in this latest announcement, but Dorsey posted in 2021 that the company was considering a “bitcoin mining system based on custom silicon.” At the time, Dorsey went on to share his thoughts on the need for more of a focus on vertical integration, as well as on silicon design, which he says is too concentrated among a few companies.

Block’s general manager for hardware, Thomas Templeton, previously disclosed plans to improve reliability and the user experience of mining, addressing common issues around heat dissipation and noise production.

The announcement comes just after the most recent bitcoin halving, which took effect late on Friday. The event happens roughly every four years, and it cuts the issuance of new bitcoin in half.

The idea of making the mining process more accessible has to do with more than just generating new bitcoin. Instead, Dorsey sees it as a long-term need for a future that is fully decentralized and permissionless.

“Mining needs to be more distributed,” Dorsey posted on X in October, when he first floated the idea. “The more decentralized this is, the more resilient the bitcoin network becomes.”

Toward that end, Block’s venture arm backed Gridless, a company that operates bitcoin mines from renewable power sources in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia.

Jack Dorsey backed start-up taps into geothermal, hydro and solar power to run bitcoin mines across Africa

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