As the first pool operator to get back to me fully, including responding to all follow ups, the first pool to be detailed in The Chia Plot’s series on the Chia Pool situation will be 21Chia. Self described as “We’re crypto enthusiasts with decades of experience in software engineering. We ran pools during the 2014 crypto bull run and we’re here to be the best Chia pool you can find.” the team prefers to remain anonymous and we will be referring to them as The Team.
I’m going to be honest, this put me off to start. This is a financial operation, and the idea of someone holding my money who is anonymous is deeply disconcerting. I actually put off writing this piece until I talked to a few more pool operators to get a sense of how normal that is. It turns out, it is normal and might not be the red flag it felt like to me as a cryptocurrency outsider. This is something that the insiders may want to consider as they attempt to bring in new farmers that may not be used to this.
The Team has been involved in the development of pools before, by their admission both successfully and unsuccessfully. They have managed a p2pool many years ago, as well as a centralized pool that did not attract enough miners at launch to take off. They think this gives them an advantage against other teams starting off for the first time. Especially since the demand for pools is so high and the 21Chia team sees massive opportunity in doing things well right out of the gate.
21Chia is based entirely on the on-chain pooling protocol being developed by Chia Networks, and because of that they are very confident that they will have a secure, reliable product when it launches. They are working on it in testnet right now, and the Chia team has apparently been very responsive in helping them get off the ground. This is great news, as official dev support is one of the main selling points behind the on-chain pooling protocol. This decision will mean that you will need to replot your farm with the upcoming portable plots.
The other main selling point is the reward security. One of the primary issues with the current self-written pools (Hpool, CorePool) is the double-farming issue. In a nutshell, this allows farmers to join the pool but also farm those same plots solo. When the pool gets a reward they take their small share, but if they uncover a block for the pool they will take the entire 2XCH block reward and simply take the ban from the pool they are part of. 21Chia is firmly convinced that use of the Chia Networks protocol will completely eliminate this problem. They will be able to offer their service without any client side software installation, simply by using the official Chia software. I sincerely hope this is standard for the on-chain pools, as it eliminates a major concern of mine, and of the other pools themselves.
In fact, they are so convinced that their system will be secure that they will allow anonymous memberships to their pool. What this means is that you will be able join the pool, farm and collect rewards entirely on the blockchain without signing into their website or creating an account. This is actually pretty awesome, and I will be following up with all other on-chain pool operators to see if they will be enabling this functionality. There will, of course, be tools offered by 21Chia that will only be available while authenticated to their website.
Because of this they suspect that many, many farmers will leave the initial custom pools for the on-chain pools in droves. The 21Chia team thinks that they will be offering significantly higher payouts due to the hidden fees caused by the double-farming issues and high administrative overhead. They are nervous, to a degree, that the long development windows for getting pools out may put off a large number of farmers before they are ready to launch. I agree with this assessment, and I think the golden window is starting to close.
21Chia will be offering 0 fees for the first few weeks of farming, as well as 0% lifetime fees for farmers who sign up during the first week after launch. Their normal fees after this initial launch window will be 0.5%. This seems significantly better than the current custom pools. We will have to see how it compares to the other upcoming on-chain pools.
After speaking with their team, my main concern remains the anonymity. I think there will be a lot of opportunity in this space for pool operators who use their identities and can garner some trust from the community. I do think the 21Chia team is sincere in their efforts, but if they turn out not to be there will not be anyone to hold accountable.