Here a Fork, there a Fork…

Soft Fork, Hard Fork, Pitch Fork? Which Fork? No doubt you have heard of Forks?

Of course, other coins fork too, but for this discussion, we will stick (no pun intended) with Bitcoin forks.

In this case, a “Fork” is a technical term used by developers. It’s applied to open-source projects, which means they can change or tweak the protocol from the original and create a “new” coin should they reach a consensus. Of course, if no consensus is reached, no fork happens.

When is the last time you forked? Have you updated your cell phone? Your computer? Your printer software? Think about it and you will have your answer. Every time you update, in essence, you have forked from the old version to the new!

How Many Bitcoin Forks Are There?

Bitcoin Fork Coin Count

There are 105 Bitcoin fork projects in total.

Of those, 74 are considered active projects relevant to holders of Bitcoin (BTC). The remaining 31 are considered historical and are no longer relevant.

Additionally, there are 22 altcoin fork projects which have some similarity to Bitcoin fork projects but have their heritage from a major altcoin.

*forkdrop.io

Although most forks you hear about today are “hard forks,” there are “soft forks” as well as “Temporary Forks.

Just suppose:

Say you got together with a group of your friends and you all decided to play a game of Gin Rummy. But instead of the rule saying the person with the least amount of points in his hand at the end of each round wins the round, you all decide to create a new rule that says the player with the most points in his hand wins the round.

OK, this works fine for this little group. But what if you all decide this rule should be changed universally and adapted by all who play Gin Rummy. Now you will have to get the majority consensus to agree to this new rule to be able to change the game for all.

What if the idea failed to create a consensus? The majority wanted to keep the rule as it is. This would create a “fork” in the game. The majority of the players stay with the original game rules, and a minority of players go with the new rules.

This is what happens with Bitcoin’s code as well. A group of developers may decide to change something in the coding and create a new version of Bitcoin. The change could be because of a flaw discovered or weakness or as with Bitcoin Cash to increase the speed of the transaction time.

Let’s discuss Hard forks, Soft Forks and Temporary Forks

Hard Fork

A hard fork happens when there is a separation from the previous version. A new set of rules is introduced by consensus into the blockchain, which is not compatible with the old previous version. You could say that a hard fork is a software upgrade that isn’t compatible with the older software. All miners and network participants are required to upgrade to the new version. Any node which has not updated to the latest upgrade protocol will find their blocks invalid. Nodes who continue to run the previous version of the software will have to upgrade. Then follow the new set of consensus rules for their nodes to become valid once again on the forked network. If there is still mining support for the minority chain, then the two blockchains can continue running side by side.

Hard forks usually fall into one of two categories; a planned Hard fork or a Contentious Hard Fork.

Planned Hard Fork: Simply put, a planned Hard Fork is one that has already been made clear and understood by project developers. Generally, a high-degree consensus has reached by the project developers, and the community has already notified before the Hard Fork occurs. Monero’s hard fork in January of 2017, which added a new privacy feature known as Ring Confidential Transactions (RingCT), is an example.

Contentious Hard Fork: When there is a strong disagreement between stakeholders in a project, including project developers, network users, and miners, the result can be a Contentious Hard Fork. This typically happens when there is a strong belief in the community that significant changes in the code will result in a superior blockchain. The Bitcoin Cash hard fork is a well-known example of a contentious hard fork. The majority of the community believed that increasing Bitcoin’s block size from 1MB to 8MB would make for faster transaction speeds in the network.

Soft Fork

A method of upgrading a blockchain that is “backward” compatible with previous versions of the software is called a Soft Fork. These Soft Forks do not require that nodes on the network upgrade to maintain consensus because all the Blocks on the soft-forked blockchain follow the old set of consensus rules and the new ones. However, blocks that conform only to the old game of consensus rules violate the new set of consensus rules and will become “stale” by the majority that upgrades. The reason for this is because for a soft fork to work, the majority of miners must recognize and enforce the new set of consensus rules. If this new majority consensus works, then the old network will fade out, not being used.

For example, a network creates and implements changes in its block size from 1MB to 500KB, creating a Soft Fork. Nodes that follow the old set of consensus rules will continue to see incoming transactions as valid because these nodes follow the old set of consensus rules as well as the new. However, mining nodes that have not upgraded; when attempting to mine new blocks. as it does not conform to the new set of consensus rules (500 KB block sizes.) This will cause the network that still uses (1 MB blocks) to fade eventually as the miners enforce the new consensus Rule (500KB blocks.)

A couple examples of prior soft forks:

  • Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) 66: A soft fork on Bitcoin’s signature validation
  • Pay to Script Hash (P2SH): A soft fork that resulted in multi-sig addresses on the Bitcoin network

Temporary Fork

When miners on cryptocurrency systems discover blocks at the same time resulting in two split competing blockchains, this results in a Temporary Fork. Temporary forks are resolved in proof-of-work systems such as Bitcoin. Miners select which chain to add new blocks to, and the longest blockchain viewed as the “true” blockchain.

Soft Fork and Hard Fork

Soft forks and hard forks are slightly different from temporary forks in that they constitute a permanent change in the protocol’s underlying rules. such a change can occur for various reasons, including:

  • increasing functionality to the network in the form of upgrades
  • Changing a core rule in the protocol, such as increasing the network block size

About the author

Gail holds one of the most challenging role in the Compumatrix Leadership: Membership. She ensures that that members and potential members enjoy the benefits of being part of the Compumatrix community.

Comments

  1. very good info Gail — normally only mess with my kitchen fork — lol — but this explanation and the history with it — just good learning and definitely understand better what has happened over last 10+ years — thank you and will read this again —

  2. That just blew my mind! I thought the process of forking was rather simple but this explanation demonstrates it isn’t. I am so glad we don’t have to understand all this to be able to use it. It’s like electricity. When you flip the light switch, you don’t have to understand how electricity works, you just use it.

  3. Just when I thought a fork was a fork was a fork, I find out there IS a difference!! (actually I HAVE read about forks before) I never knew exactly how they worked but this simple explanation helps me envision the process in my mind. Thanks!!

  4. Thank you for this ma’am Gail. I enjoy learning more about how Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work and this venue is a great learning tool! It is up to us to use these tools to the best of our ability and to apply them to our personal businesses. No doubt we will all go far with Compumatrix!!

    1. These discussions reminded me of the days when I had to figure out word problems in college. As much as I like the financial sector and trading within cryptocurrency; I seem to have a misconception of how exactly smart contracts work. I understand that the platforms of ethereum and chain-link somehow allow these contracts to come together and now I’m learning from this blog it maybe forks that put them together. Here nor there, this may be a sector that I might not master. But I am looking forward to growing my Compumatrix business and continuing to figure out these word problems.

  5. Another check in the Compumatrix column on learning something new today. So agree Catherine, that is good to know that you don’t need to know everything in order to use it like the electricity example. Reminds me of how new breakaway religions came out of different interpretations of the Bible! New “hard forks” happened.

  6. I was forking some hay and you have to throw a wrench in my forking Gail. Now the simple act of using my fork in the manner I’m used to will forever leave me questioning what exactly I’m doing.
    Great article, thanks for making us think once again and not just take things for granted. Such is the world we live in now and we have to change our mindset to keep up. Well done. If working in the garden is giving you fuel to blog, then get back there often. lol.

  7. Wow, an eye-opener. I kept trying to understand the fork by reading several articles on what It meant. I got the gist of what they were saying just a little bit. The way you explained it turned the light on. Thus I am enlightened. I recently forked my computer from windows seven to windows ten. We had to follow Microsoft’s new upgrade, or we would not have their assistance for upgrades and security. Therefore we had to change from windows seven to operate windows ten an have a more compliant and smoother operating system that had newer upgrades and technology applied to their platform, am I too far off?
    As I have said before, I appreciate how you breakdown the knowledge we need to understand the Cryptocurrencies and how they process through the blockchain and how it operates from the purchases of our coins until they are depositesecured in safe wallets etc.
    Gail, what you do for us in Compumatrix, is greatly appreciated.

  8. Hi, Gail Once again a great informative article about forks other than used in food or on the farms. I have watched and read about various articles about Forks pertaining to Cryptocurrency. However, your blog did make it easier to comprehend in the way you described, and thank you for the same. Looking forward to similar events in our venture soon, I hope for the benefit of all. Keep on blogging these information educative topics. I benefit a lot. I hope others do too.

  9. Thank you for this very informative blog Gail. It is an eye-opener. I knew about a hard fork and a soft fork but the temporary fork is new to me. This knowledge adds to the things I already knew about the cryptoworld and for sure it deepens the understanding of it.

  10. Great explanation of all the bitcoin forks…Did not really realize there were so many. Sure makes it much more understandable and how they work when a bitcoin fork happens. Always great to keep learning more on cyptocurrencies. You can never know or learn too much..

  11. Another educational blog, thank you, Gail. This term is common when someone or a group wants to make changes for better or worse. The first time I saw it was when Ethereum forked from Ethereum classic, which was necessary ( in my opinion).
    I pray that we at Compumatrix won’t have to see a forking event unless it’s for the betterment of the company.

  12. Very good information learning the difference between soft and hard forks I did not realize so much is going on in the back ground with these currency’s must be a lot of workers on this with meetings and voting ect… there is so much more to it then we know…..lots of work going on 24/7 with meetings and decisions.

  13. what a great read thru again the blog is that detailed and informative and reading thru replies you see how much help this blog has been to the many of us here — understanding forks and how they play such an important part of the past 15 years or so and the crypto world is just another Wow moment for me — thanks G —

  14. I think this article is very informative and helpful because it is very important for us to know and understand as much about Cryptocurrency as we can. I have heard of forking many times but never truly understood it. I liked how you gave modern day examples of how we use forking everyday. I also never knew soft fork and hard fork was a thing so I am glad I now know about those.

  15. What a great want to explain forking to people. I am trying to learn how to simplify explanations – trust me haha: I am like the kid who is intently watching everything. Thank you for your explanation! I knew about hard and soft forks, but I did not know about a temporary fork.

  16. Thank you Gail, I loved the article, before COMPUMATRIX I had no idea what a fork was. When we had our first, then the second fork with bitcoin it was amazing. The history you provide is very helpful and gives us a good understanding of what it really is besides just something you eat with.

  17. A very complete and extensive explanation of Bitcoin Forking. It plays a very important part in the crypto world but hard to comprehend, at first. Something more to learn and forking helps to step up the ladder and improve performance in general, usually for the better, for cryptocurrencies.

  18. I was thinking that a fork was a rare and almost never occurring thing, but apparently not. I like the idea of forking of course as when BTC forked and gave those who were holding BTC at the time the same amount in BTC-Cash. That’s not a bad thing to get some free money now and then for those who were holding at that time.

  19. part of the mystery we call life — there is one split after another == some in the financial world would these Forks ?? others would just take the moment and learn from it and move in the correct direction — others would also take moment and understand in Crypto world that a Fork soft or hard just took place ?? i love the biz aspect of currency forks or learning how new parts of daily life is actually legit part — time will always tell the whole story Truth —

  20. It’s a crystal clear that the world is greatly transforming. New versions of things are evolving. If you just miss a concentration, you will lag behind. This’ a great advancement. I only knew the word “Fork” as part of the Cutlery? But, here in the Cryptocurrency it means “Upgrading” or “Updating”. Making the matter worse. There are several varieties of Forks; Hard Fork, Soft Fork, Pitch Fork etc. And, it’s adopted through a consensus.

    So, any variation and validation. We us the members must co-operate and coordinate as a team for the best achievement. Am learning great things here. Handful knowledge ~ Gail

  21. Vey informative and eye opener. Gail all of your blogs are so helpful to the members. The more knowlege that we have will help us as we more foward. Thinking that forks were a simple event means so much more with this article. It is important that we educate ourselves about thr crypto currency industry

  22. Thank you Gail for the post about the forks. That has always been a mystery to me and you explained it so simply that even I (who have little knowledge how things are done in the technical world of cryptocurrency) was more than able to understand it.

  23. so important to read this blog again and will again because though have basic understanding one of the best parts of reading here is the great info that is in most every blog posting by all here — however for basic understanding of Compu I read and read again Gail — just great stuff and learnable each week get a little better at understanding —

  24. this great posting of information by Gail is so informative and as I grow inside on the Biz ladder — this type of Info can not be just schluffed away — we as a biz person has to put this info into the thought process of everyday Biz protocols — and literally as Biz Entrepreneurs and being a part of Compu biz it does make me smile to see the Truth and forward thinking in the Blog postings here — much appreciation and gratitude — truly — rj

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