Blockchain Forks: Explained
Blockchain is a decentralised, distributed system that is responsible for keeping a record of all the transactions and maintaining transparency among its users. However just like every bit of technology blockchain too requires some updates or modifications. These modifications are done by a process called Forking.
In this article we will be looking at blockchain forks, how forking in blockchain works, soft forks and hard forks.
What are Forks in Blockchain?
Blockchain forks are updates in the running blockchain to modify its working and improve its usage for the users like done in the Cardano Hardfork.
To further explain forking in blockchain let us take an example of a Computer Code. Every computer code requires regular updates for better functioning, bug removals etc. Similarly blockchain too requires error fixes, security modifications and addition of new features. These updates are achieved via forks.
However, unlike centralised systems where everyone becomes a part of the update. In a decentralised system people are free to choose whether they would like to use the forked chain or continue with the original one.
Types of Forks
Crypto Forks are broadly categorized into two types:
1. Soft Fork
2. Hard Fork
Soft Crypto Fork
Soft fork is an update which does not affect the protocol fully and is just introduced for some minor bug fixes. A soft fork is backward compatible which means that even if new changes are introduced to the system, it would still work with the older versions of the blockchain.
Making a backwards-compatible update has its advantages but it comes with significant limitations as well. To be backward compatible, the updates cannot be very big or cannot alter the fundamentals of the protocol.
Hard Crypto Fork
Hard Forks are not backwards compatible thereby making blockchain users people to update as soon as a hard fork occurs. Hard crypto forks are meant to alter the protocols and introduce new changes to the technology.
Let’s take an example for a better understanding.
In Bitcoin which runs on bitcoin blockchain any desire to update its efficiency, or fix some major bugs would lead to the introduction of hard forks. The forked chain will thus split the blocks and acts as a separate chain in the Bitcoin protocol.
Listed below are some FAQs related to blockchain forks:
If we update the hard fork and accept it, it will change the protocol. Now, what will happen to our coins?
Ans- Assume that you have somewhere close to 2 Bitcoins before the bitcoin hard forks was introduced. Now, when you update the Bitcoin protocol, you will still have the 2 Bitcoins plus, you will also get the same amount of the other coin in the separated chain.
If everyone has double the number of coins they own. What will happen to the price?
Ans- We all know that the crypto market depends on the supply and demand procedure; thus, when the two separate chains are formed after the hard fork, the coin's pricing depends on whether the market believes that the two coins will survive or not.
When the blocks of a cryptocurrency split, what happens to their original name?
Ans- Yes, both the separate chains originate from the same user base and share the same past, but they are not the same anymore, they act as separate chains and thus, they have different names. For example, the older version of the Ethereum Blockchain is known as Ethereum Classic.
To sum it all up, forks exist to perform updates and bug fixes in the blockchain with either soft fork or hard fork. Forking is an important innovation and with mixed reactions to it the future of forking looks promising with some bumps ahead.
(Also read: Hyperledger Consensus Mechanism)
Image Credits: Coinomi; bitcoin.tax; ByBit.