So I had a videochat with Jihan Wu


#1

Last Thursday (5/24) I finally managed to sync up with Jihan Wu for a videochat. We had spoken to each other briefly at LABitConf in Buenos Aires about a year and a half ago, right after Zcash launched, but we hadn’t communicated since then as far as I remember.

Here are my notes from our talk. Anything that’s a quotation, I got from my notes that I was typing as we talked. Everything else is my own paraphrase or memory of what was said.

I started by telling him that we as the Zcash community have to decide what to do about potentially changing the Proof-of-Work, and that there was a serious “trust gap”—a lot of people are highly suspicious of, and angry at, Bitmain. I said that I myself was annoyed at him (because they hadn’t given me a heads-up about their new ASIC Zcash miner) but that I wasn’t as deeply suspicious and hostile as most people, but that a lot of people—including people that I need to work with in order to maintain and improve Zcash—are very suspicious of Bitmain and that this “trust gap” prevents cooperation to produce value for everyone’s benefit.

Jihan said that they are in China and there is a large communication gap between them and the West, so that they don’t know how to communicate to Westerners. I agreed that this communications gap is a major reality, since that I have the reciprocal problem: I don’t know how to communicate to people in China.

Jihan said that a specific group had taken advantage of this communication gap to spread a lot of lies and conspiracy theories about Bitmain (note: by telling you what he said in our conversation, I’m not endorsing it. I’m just telling you what he said), and Bitmain didn’t know how to counteract those lies over the communications gap, so they had adopted a policy of just not engaging, being quiet and just releasing their products without saying anything. For example, he said, we don’t even say that the Z9 Equihash miner is for mining Zcash!

I said that a large fraction — maybe 60% or so — of the XMR hashrate had disappeared from XMR and switched to XMO, and asked if that was Bitmain’s mining operation. He immediately replied “No, it was not us. We released the Monero miner right after the samples.”

For what it is worth, I didn’t get the feeling that he was lying about this. I felt like he was telling the truth. I asked him again if they had been doing any Monero mining with ASICs, because it really seemed like someone must have been, and he said something like that he saw the theory that there was a large-scale stealth ASIC miner, and that he hadn’t had time to look into it to tell if it was real or just a hypothesis, but that in any case it wasn’t them. Again, he sounded sincere to me.

I said that the hashpower that stopped mining on XMR appears to have moved to XMO, and that XMO is sponsored by Bitmain/Antpool. He said Monero Original contacted them and they provided the sponsorship, but it is not something that they are actively seeking.

He said “We have never been doing a stealth mining strategy.” He said that the reason they decided not to use stealth mining is that they wouldn’t be able to keep it secret. He said they have 2000 employees, and a large-scale mining operation would require hundreds of employees to be involved in the whole process.

“Is it written down anywhere — your policy about this?”. He said no, it’s not written down.

I asked whether they use a pool for their own mining operations. I said, assuming that their mining operations are sufficiently large, they might not even need to use a pool at all. He said that was a good point and technically correct, that a large enough mining operation wouldn’t necessarily need to pool, but that they point their mining operations at their own pool.

I asked “Are you mining Zcash right now?”. He replied “Uh, are we mining Zcash right now? Yes, I think so because there is already some sample miner produced and we have also opened the service for mining Zcash in Antpool right now, and we have a few miners right now in testing. And right now in I think one week or two our first batch of ASIC miners will be shipped.”

Again, I had the feeling that he was telling the truth here.

I asked if they operated GPU mining. He said they don’t have a very large GPU mining farm, they may have some but it is just for a development use case for their own mining pool.

Then I said, I’m thinking how to say this respectfully, because you are a much more successful businessman than I am, but may I give you some advice about how to start rebuilding trust? He said yes, please.

I said, okay I think of three things. First of all, re-engage with communication. I’m well aware of how badly that went last time, with Twitter flamewars and all that. I’m not saying it is easy or I know how to do it, but I believe it is possible to do it and get better results, and I will give helpful advice if I can.

Second of all, commit to policies in writing. In a large and well-organised Western company, if there were some issue that had important consequences, they would write down a policy saying what the company will and won’t do, precisely, and post it for both internal and external people to know what the company has committed to, and they would explicitly update it if the policy changes.

Third, transparency. Bitmain will have to be much more transparent than a smaller and less important company would have to in order to get a similar level of trust. So, I advise you to disclose to the public a whole bunch of information that might be uncomfortable or problematic and that a different company wouldn’t need to reveal, such as:

  • Corporate structure — who owns what, who controls what, financial statements, who profits
  • What’s your policy about stealth mining, exactly.
  • Start publishing a whole bunch of statistics, like once a month or once a quarter, about how much hashrate your mining operation is running, which blockchains it points at, which pools, any policies about what sort of transactions/blocks, etc.
  • Disclosure about non-production (dev and test) mining

He said he would talk to his team about doing these steps.

And, I said, you should really show up at Zcon0! I think that being face to face with someone and looking in their eyes really makes a difference. Probably a big part of the reason that I’m not quite as suspicious of you as most people I’m working with nowadays is just the fact that we met in Argentina and looked into each other’s eyes for five minutes. So I really think it would be worth showing up at Zcon0. He said he would definitely try to make it.

I said that I wanted Bitmain to contribute back more to the community. I said that it wouldn’t work at this stage to donate money. Any donation, such as to the Zcash Foundation or to sponsor developers, would be perceived as a bribe or buying influence. But, I said, maybe they could actually do things for Zcash, such as integrate Zcash support into the BTC.com wallet.

I asked, is it true that the BTC.com wallet is now pre-installed by default on all Huawei phones! That’s amazing if true. He said he had heard something about that but wasn’t sure of the details and that he would ask about it.

I asked is BTC.com wholly owned by Bitmain. He said yes.

I asked who are the owners of Bitmain. He said he owns around 25–28% of Bitmain, and that the other co-CEO, Micree, owns more than he does. And that there are three other natural persons who are shareholders, an option pool for employees, and that there are a few venture investors who collectively own less than 5%.

I asked if there is anyone who can fire him. He seemed confused by the question. I explained how in a typical Western company, like the Zcash Company, there’s a board of directors who can by majority vote fire the CEO and replace them.

He said oh, no there’s nothing like that. I said well could Micree fire you or vice versa. He said his shares and Micree’s shares each have 10X the voting power of anyone else’s shares.

The conversation was in that “we’re winding down” kind of state at this point, where people throw in things that they almost forgot to mention.

I said I hadn’t decide whether to publicly mention that we had this conversation at all, or what to publicly reveal about what we had said in the conversation. He said it was totally up to me what I wanted to say — I could keep it confidential or make it open. (I appreciated that, I thought it showed honesty/transparency.)

I said Oh yeah, before I go: Bitmain is valued at $10bn, correct? He said yes. (Bitmain is one of the four cryptocurrency decacorns — $10bn companies — Coinbase, Bitmain, Upbit, and Binance.)

I said, Bitmain’s revenue in 2017 was $7bn, correct? He said no, it was actually $2.5bn. I said is it okay to publish that number, too, and he said “yes, it is already a public number, even if it is not widely noticed. It is a public number.”

As we were saying good-bye, he said “Zooko, thank you very much for the help.”. I felt like he was emotional about it, like he was sincerely grateful for the conversation. I said something like I haven’t helped much yet, but I hoped to.

The end.

POSTSCRIPT: shortly after this conversation, but before I wrote up these notes, Bitmain started posting these reports on twitter that they term “radical transparency”:

This seems like a big step in the right direction! Transparency about orders and shipments of the Z9 aren’t one of the things that I asked for, but I definitely would have if I had thought about it — it is very central to the burning questions about whether Bitmain — or anyone — is running stealth ASIC mining, whether they mine at scale with their own equipment prior to offering it to customers, how much of the total Zcash hashpower is ASIC vs. GPU, how concentrated the ownership of the ASIC miners is, etc.

I still want to see the other stuff that I asked for, especially the total hashrate owned and operated by Bitmain for different PoW algorithms, which chains/blocks/txns they target with what part of that hashrate, etc.

I look forward to seeing what The Zcash Foundation (which is separate and independent of me and of the Zcash Company that I lead) comes up with from its investigations into ASIC resistance. For now the Zcash Company’s position on ASIC-resistance is unchanged from our previous statement.


#2

Thank you for clear that up. I’m sure some of people wouldn’t believe that though.

Probably it’s easy to find out Who’s mining What and How much they are mining.

Nice of him to give us ETA.

Another nice gesture.


Let’s talk about ASIC mining
#3

Bravo!

20 chars
20 chars


#4

Thx for sharing!,keep up the good work!


#5

I see a man of culture - i upvote


P.S. Another nail in the GPU-mining coffin


#6

Nice read and thx for sharing. It was interesting due several reasons.

First of all giving some insight. Second, rarely someone has a chance to ask directly questions and get direct and (hopefully) honest answers. Third, for your transparency in this case and sharing it with us. Pretty sure many others wouldn’t bother to make notices and share with the community.

To comment some of the issues:

I take the argument with the communication issue. Even me as an european had some issues in the past. About 25 years back i had business relations mostly with US partners. To say it softly, communication was a problem, not due the language but because every discussion ending with “We US are most democratic, most advanced, most everything, what do you know”, cutting you off directly without any chance.

With china there is as well a problem. For example i try to purchase still some Baikals, impossible. We are running in a circle for 6 weeks now. I tell them send me the total amount and bank info and they send back what do you want to buy, no matter i listed it allready. Communication problems at it’s best.

About the stealth mining, you should have him asked when they test with how many units they test. I’am 50/50 on this issue to be honest. On one side i would understand them that currently it is dangerous to reveal a miner and than having maybe the majority of the coins forking away putting even the own mining operations at risk and of course the sales. On the other hand, mining isn’t their priority income, so i would make sense that they have not much need of stealth mining at all.

I actually believe with the monero story due different facts. First, the Antminer was the last one released on cryptonite. Baikal was the first and must have most of them online. Having in mind until some days baikal sold the cryptonite miner for pay 1, get 5, suggests that they have most units. No garantee of course, but it would indeed make sense.

However, i doubt it will change much, even in our community here. Allready to many hardliner rumour believers that prevour 3rd hand information instead of 1st hand information.


#7

Why didn’t you as well post the tweet this was directed to?

MrHodl:
Well. Some of us give two fucks about your 2MB hardfork.

At least everybody can see the context why he answered like that, not that it was the best way for a CEO, no doubt here.


#8

I feel ashamed.

Bitmain has the right to keep private his operations, revenue, shareholders and future releases.

This is a shame because you are using him as a punching bag, you are authoritarian against him and you feel powerful enough to ask those questions whereas you don’t dare to do that to Nvidia nor extort them to release future plans, revenues and private operations of what they do. You don’t even dare to meet with the CEO and ask those unrespectful questions because you know you won’t get attended nor answered.

This is the Bitmain witch hunt.

This guy has more skin in the game than Nvidia and all of you combined. He has a lot to lose if Zcash fails unlike Nvidia yet you still bully him. For that reason he is probably scared of your authoritarian power but in my opinion he shouldn’t have answered any of your questions. You own the brand and have the connections with the exchanges, he knows as for now you have an absolute power over ZCash.

You said you are annoyed for the fact that he didn’t let you know he was releasing a product, really, ask yourself who are you? you don’t have any right to know that.

It’s a shame you always refer to a supposedly “community” yet you don’t include Bitmain. Who’s the community? I wonder…

This is a shame, a violation on the presumption of innocence and an attack of the freedom of enterprise.


#9

OMG - did he say something mean on the internet. unsure the world will ever recover from this.


#10

asking questions is authoritative? okay… lol… hope zooko didn’t hurt bitmain’s feels.


#11

w00t !! top notch shilling action right there! i’m proud!


#12

lol…nVidia and AMD are publicly traded companies subject to the rules and regulations of the SEC. You can go get all that as a matter of public record from both of them. Anything else they wouldn’t disclose is because they have a duty to their share holders to not do so until the appropriate time. However, you can safely assume that because of rules regarding publicly traded companies, the information they withhold is still above-board.

Bitmain isn’t subject to ANY of those same rules. Most of what they choose to share would be voluntary and there isn’t any repercussions for misleading (or outright false) information.

This is much like all the FUD about the S11 ASIC miner. They publicly stated that they have not offered an “S11 miner” and that they haven’t made any public statement about one yet. However, at no point do they actually say “it doesn’t exist” only that any attempt to sell one is fraudulent.


#13

Nice to see Bitmain opening up and be transparent, evenso, they don’t have to do so …

so …77 x 10 ksols shipped from 27 may …let’s see what this does in terms of difficulty, and what coins … My gues…won’t do a much on Zcash …


#14

Come on, don’t say you believed him. So Jihan wanted to convince you that 80% of Monero hashrate (which was 400 thousand Vega 64’s or 1 million RX 570/580s at the time) mining solo was just some other miner? I don’t think that miner would have just missed V7 hard fork, that was ASICs for sure, since hashrate fell 6x after the fork. And first batch of X3’s was set to deliver in May. I don’t think you can’t connect the dots, it’s so obvious.

[Moderation edit by @daira for a matter of factual accuracy: the Monero hash rate did not fall by 6x after their PoW fork. It fell substantially, but not by 6 times.]


#15

Wait … A guy holding a quarter of a 10B$ company is not aware of such a huge deal ?!? “I don’t know” means something else here… Maybe something like “oh man, don’t ask me this…”

There is a good book about culture differences in business… I’d recommend it here…

Edit: this post is meant to continue on zooko’s quote. Not specifically targeting your comment, kek.


#16

might not be wise for him to publicly comment on this, yet.


#17

Sure, but then this transcript is a source of noise …


#18

imo, he acknowledged it without comment.


#19

Pathetic. Really Pathetic!

Jihan Wu is playing you, and he is playing everyone in the community. Just think about the questions that SHOULD HAVE BEEN ASKED!

You don’t just ask questions, you tell him what the questions should be. Do the MATH! It’s all about supply and demand. You didn’t ask anything that is related to long term Supply Chain Strategy.

Bitmain has locked in Suppliers and has virtually eliminated competition. They OWN YOU ZCASH! Your just too ignorant to realize it. This weak interview is a perfect example of weak negotiations that will lead to the end of Centralized Mining with (Reasonable) profits for the community.

It’s not just about BITMAIN mining in secret it’s the BIG PICTURE! Bitmain has locked in Suppliers and their Business Strategy is to STOP people from mining at home.

Step 1: Drive the PR Campaign to make BITMAIN look like a transparent Company.
Step 2: Eliminate GPU Mining (In process, with Equihash and ETHASH)
Step 3: Procure all the Long Lead Time items so that nobody else can get supply to Build ASICS. (Already done to SIA)
Step 4: Flood the entire industry with BITMAIN ASIC Miners, in order to raise difficulty so high that electricity stops individuals from mining, then moving the remaining GPU miners to ASIC, and specifically BITMAIN, because of the highest hash rate/price ratio.
Step 5: (In-Process) Build Mining Farms in the lowest electric locations in the world. In the USA (Washington) to secure the $.03/rate.
Step 6: Price Manipulation (Ongoing) After securing a majority of the world mining hardware sold to the public, price manipulation of miners becomes much easier, after the entire Supply Chain is now controlled by Bitmain. Bitmain can now bleed off sales to individuals as their profits trend down to the cost of electricity. During the 18month Cycle new R&D is preparing to release a new BITMAIN Antminer to begin steps 1-6 all over again.

This formula works, and it’s been working for BITMAIN. Does anyone honestly believe that BITMAIN cares about the Community? Developers have been taking a political role and they will get in bed with what they perceive is best. Again, what the perceive is best. Logic will dictate that working directly with a Company that has a history of hiding it’s Agenda is NOT a Business anyone should be doing Business with. However the folks at Bitmain, are incredibly smart and cunning. They will exploit you, take advantage of you, and before it’s all over, they will make you think that you are doing the right thing, by working with them. This is the Culture that will eventually take over the Blockchain.

It must be stopped! My fellow community, we CANNOT ALLOW Bitmain to take over the entire Cryptocurrency Blockchain. It will become Centralized, by just one organization, BITMAIN, if you do not stop them.

To Zooko:
How can we really trust your intentions? Are you too naive to lead? Are you now in bed with Bitmain? Are you now just a politician? You need to put Pressure on Bitmain! LEAD, don’t FOLLOW behind!

P_K


#20

Thats a perfect example that people believe whatever they want to believe.

In this case that Bitmains X3 have been on the net, no matter that Baikal and Innosilicon way sooner announced their cryptonite miners. Doesn’t matter, whatever, the hardliner defender just know what they want to know, not even thinking about other more logical possibilities.