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"Hashrate" is Currency-Specific

November 3rd, 2017

Sometimes people will compare Bitcoin and Ethereum by saying things like:

BTC uses 11 exahash/second, while ETH uses just a millionth of that at 10 terahash/second.

In cryptocurrency "hashrate" means "how many nonces can you try in a second", but this depends dramatically on how much work it is to try a nonce. With Bitcoin you hash a small amount of data while the developers of Ethereum intentionally chose to require much larger inputs. The Ethereum white paper describes this as:

The Bitcoin mining algorithm works by having miners compute SHA256 on slightly modified versions of the block header millions of times over and over again, until eventually one node comes up with a version whose hash is less than the target. ... The current intent at Ethereum is to use a mining algorithm where miners are required to fetch random data from the state, compute some randomly selected transactions from the last N blocks in the blockchain, and return the hash of the result. [See Ethash.]
Any coin that becomes worth a lot will lead to special-purpose hardware (ASICs) for mining it unless it's specifically designed, like Ethereum, not to be amenable to that. So BTC is mined mostly on Bitcoin ASICs, LTC on Litecoin ASICs, DASH on Dash ASICs, etc. So people will often speak of hashrate as if it's a property of the device. In these cases it's just that there's usually just one coin that the device is well suited to mine.

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