Bitcoin mining firm Marathon has announced its pool will stop mining only OFAC-compliant blocks and start signaling for Taproot activation.
Mara Pool, the bitcoin mining pool operated by digital asset technology company Marathon Digital Holdings, will update its miners to the latest Bitcoin Core 0.21.1 software to signal for Taproot activation, and stop censoring transactions, according to a press release.
“Marathon is committed to the core tenets of the Bitcoin community, including decentralization, inclusion, and no censorship,” said Marathon’s CEO Fred Thiel. “Over the coming week, we will be updating all our miners to the full standard Bitcoin core 0.21.1 node, including support for Taproot. By adopting the full standard Bitcoin core node, we will be validating transactions on the blockchain in the exact same way as all other miners who use the standard node.”
The announcement comes in great contrast to Marathon’s actions in the past few months. In late March, the company announced its bitcoin mining pool would filter transactions to mine blocks compliant with U.S. regulations, including anti-money laundering (AML) and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) standards, effectively censoring transactions. And earlier this month, the company successfully mined its first “compliant” block.
Thiel later added that “[Marathon] looks forward to continue being a collaborative and supportive member of the Bitcoin community and to realizing the vision of Bitcoin as the first decentralized, peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users rather than a central authority or middlemen,” per the release.
Taproot is a soft fork to the Bitcoin network that could improve Bitcoin’s privacy and scripting capabilities. For example, the upgrade could make smart contracts more efficient and private by only revealing the relevant parts of the contract when spending. Additionally, it could improve Lightning Network privacy by making Lightning channels look like regular bitcoin transactions.
Taproot’s current deployment method is called Speedy Trial, a variation of BIP9 versionbits described in BIP341. The process is characterized by miners and mining pools helping coordinate the deployment of the soft fork by signaling its support in their mined blocks. If 90% of blocks in a signaling epoch of 2,016 blocks between May and August show support for Taproot, the soft fork gets locked in as a Bitcoin protocol upgrade for November.
According to data from Taproot.watch, 240 blocks have been mined in the current signaling epoch at the time of writing –– an only six have not signaled for Taproot activation. Therefore, over 97% of the present epoch’s mined blocks have signaled support for the upgrade.
But not all of Mara Pool’s mined blocks have signaled for Taproot activation –– amounting to half of the total of non-signaling blocks in this epoch. However, by upgrading its miners, Mara Pool might start signaling for Taproot as early as next week, according to the release, leaving Bitcoiners very optimistic about the soft fork’s activation.
If Mara Pool indeed stops censoring transactions and Taproot gets locked in as a Bitcoin protocol upgrade for November, the year 2021 would be etched in Bitcoin’s history as a vital year for the network, bringing improvements in privacy, fungibility and scripting capabilities while laying the foundation for further improvements down the road.