Mysteriously low bitcoin difficulty growth projected, again

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On July 12, the bitcoin mining community was able to breathe easy for the first time in over a year. The all-important difficulty rate, which had been climbing by massive amounts since May of 2013, grew a measly 3.08%. While this didn’t mean that mining profits would be going up, at least the pressure to perpetually adding new hashing power in the mining arms race was off for another 2016 blocks.

The next difficulty increase is expected on Saturday, and while it may not be as small as the last one, current projections make it debatable if it will cross into double-digit territory. According to some projections, the difficulty increase might be as low as 9.1%, rising to 18,916,156,267.

As welcome as this news is, one lingering question remains: With all of the new, high-powered, low-cost ASICs hitting the market, and massive industrial mining infrastructure coming online in record amounts, why isn’t the difficulty growing more rapidly? The network hashrate is currently 126,584,248 GH/s, up nearly 2.5 PH/s from the last increase, and well worthy of a 9% increase in difficulty.

But with new mining hardware in the 2 TH/s range currently hitting the market, why isn’t the hashrate exploding? Is this a reflection of hobby miner fears that newer rigs won’t pay for themselves, or is it more an indication that large amounts of less-efficient equipment are being replaced with smaller orders of more powerful machines?