Forks, a term we hear quite often in the cryptocurrency world, isn’t it?
What are forks?
Forking implies divergence, division, separation or parting. It could be temporary or permanent. It happens when a blockchain splits or divides into two branches as a result in software update or a division in consensus, which is the process used to achieve an agreement on a data amongst all participants within a distributed system as the blockchain. Forks can be divided into two categories according to the nature of cause: hard forks & soft forks.
Hard Forks are permanent changes to the previous version of the blockchain. The new version will no longer accept nodes, blocks or transactions in the older version, creating an entirely new chain, and about 90 to 95% of the miners must agree to these changes. In order to continue with the new version users must perform the update. Hard forking is a major change in the protocol making previous version invalid, which leads to forking or a separation, one chain following the old rules and another chain following the new.
In cryptocurrency this will inevitably lead to a new coin. Many embrace the duplication in chain and protocol, because it intitles the holders of the old cryptos to receive the new. Yes, free coins.
“Overall, hard forks are an inevitable aspect of cryptocurrency at this point. Some of them are legitimate, while some have been outright scams. However, we must respect the right of the community to develop such projects if we are to stay in-line with the principles of decentralization and open-source code.”
- By Aziz, Founder of Master the Crypto
Soft Forks are adaptable changes to the blockchain software, where the new updates are still honoring the old version, backwards compatible. In this case the new chain will keep responding to the old rules, and it requires only a majority consensus as opposed to 90–95% acceptance as in hard forking.
A soft fork can also happen when non-upgraded miners continue to operate only under old rules, even though the newest version accepts and verifies the old, eventually their blocks will get orphaned or abandoned by the majority of miners which have already adopted to the upgraded version and may agree to not accept non-upgraded blocks. As every node adapts to the upgrade, in contrast to hard forks, only onechain will remain.
“Soft forks do not carry the double-spend risk that plagues hard forks, since merchants and users running old nodes will read both new and old version blocks.” — Noelle Acheson a coindesk.com writer.
Forks in the future.
Forks are an important part of cryptocurrency, it means change and growth. It is an inevitable thing, because it is the flexibility the cryptocurrency blockchain has proposed since the very beginning. The changes in protocols should be seen as a good thing, better ideas allowing this technology to evolve and mature.