B itcoin’s software is open source, which means that the code is free and available for all to view and utilize. However, for those wishing to participate in the Bitcoin network as a miner, node operator, or wallet administrator, updating and maintaining current versions of the Bitcoin software code ranges from important to absolutely necessary.
As Bitcoin grows, some changes need to be made to the set of rules. These changes can vary from adding new traits (such as the enabling of multi-sig) to changing a hub metric of the protocol, such as increasing the maximum block size.
In open source software, a fork usually refers to the event of a project turning off to another project by doubling codebase and running it.
This is the guide to hard and soft forks will explain the most common questions related to forks why does it happen and how important is it.
Understand What Is Meant By Fork
When the term fork is being used in reference to cryptocurrency, it commonly refers to a split of one cryptocurrency into two discrete cryptocurrencies, or you can say it splits into two versions of the identical one. Bitcoin splits into Bitcoin and BCH (Bitcoin Cash) could be taken as an example of a fork.
When And Why The Concept Came Into Existence?
It came into reality when one cryptocurrency is being created from the existing blockchain of another, or when the underlying software of a cryptocurrency is being updated. It occurs because a cluster of people just want to create another cryptocurrency that they consider will be better to the old one, that serves a different function, or for other reasons.
What Is Hard Fork?
Hard forks are a software upgrade that is not friendly with older versions. All participants must upgrade to the new software to continue contributing and validating new transactions. Those who didn’t update would be separated from the network and cannot authenticate the new transactions. This separation results in a lasting discrepancy of the blockchain. As long as there is support in the marginal chain that too in the form of participants mining in the chain, the two chains will simultaneously exist.
Understand What Is Soft Fork
A soft fork is a software update that is well matched with older versions. This means that contributors that did not update to the new software will still be able to participate in validating and verifying transactions. It is much easier to implement a soft fork as only a majority of participants need to upgrade the software. All participants, whether they have updated or not will continue to distinguish new blocks and can maintain compatibility with the network. A point to take note, however, is that the functionality of a non-upgraded participant is affected.
An example of a soft fork is when the new rule states that the block size will be changed from the current 1MB (1,000KB) to 800KB. Non-updated participants will still continue to see that the incoming new transactions are valid. The issue is when non-upgraded miners try to mine new blocks, their blocks (and thus, efforts) will be rejected by the network. Hence, soft forks represent a gradual upgrading mechanism as those who have yet to upgrade their software is incentivized to do so, or risk having reduced functionalities.
DISADVANTAGES OF FORK
Both hard forks and soft forks incline to bring about many positive outcomes. However, sometimes forks can also create a lot of drama and lead to infighting between miners and developers for a specific cryptocurrency. A perfect example of this was the proposed Bitcoin Segwit2X hard fork. Segwit2X was a hard fork that was proposed for the Bitcoin blockchain in 2017.
This proposed hard fork completely divided the Bitcoin community and resulted in a fierce debate between the two opposing sides within the community. The planned hard fork ended up being canceled as consensus was not formed. So, forks can sometimes create a lot of tension and arguing in the Bitcoin community. Though, sometimes strong debates are required in order for the right decision to be made.
Many people are cautious of both soft forks and hard forks because they believe that too much transformation can lead to a lack of stability in a cryptocurrency and will make it look flippant or weak. Some people also believe that when a hard fork occurs, and if the new cryptocurrency takes a name similar to the original, then it is a co-opting of the original currency’s brand.
A lot of investors inside the crypto community who believe that are the case with Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold. With these two coins, users who were opposed to the naming of “Bitcoin Cash” and “Bitcoin Gold” believe they are too close to the original name and are tantamount to intellectual property theft. Despite opposition, many hard forks continue to occur in the cryptocurrency industry, especially with Bitcoin.
The world of crypto is innovative by its nature. There are also many people in this space who are continuously looking to make improvement and changes. Some currencies are inclined to go through a number of different forks. Bitcoin is one such example of crypto space and there is always been a high-level drama around each fork proposal.
Ultimately, most forks bring about positive change, but some do bring about negative revolution. As long as the cryptocurrency marketplace keeps on growing, both soft and hard forks are going to be a long-term feature of this industry.