What is a Hard Fork?
The world of cryptocurrency has been functioning with the beneficial use of blockchain technology as the underlying backbone, facilitating effectiveness, safety, and transparency. However, as time progresses, innovative development takes precedent, providing easier utilization for its users, but how does this affect blockchain networks?
The development of blockchain technology up to its current forms has been increasingly intriguing, as without enhancements, a lack of user attractiveness would be seen.
On this premise, the development of blockchain software, called forks, have been introduced in more recent times, leading to the inevitable question, “what is a hard fork?”
Hard Forks is essentially an upgrade in blockchain software without the need to connect with any previously-used software or applications. A hard fork is practically creating a new network with no connections with its previous ones.
Hard forks are results of visionary developers unsatisfied with certain functions or networks, leading to eventual upgraded development of their own to solve previously found issues. Such networks are often created with rules of their own, but still operate in parallel with the original, but the input transactions would be processed separately.
How do forks work?
A fork is an upgrade of a blockchain network through upgraded software and functions to enhance capabilities or solve issues found in its predecessor network. Forks can occur in every coin’s blockchain network, even Bitcoin’s.
Intentional forks are often the general case, resulting from developers’ visions, but they can also be found in an accidental fork form, such as when two duplicated blocks are created due to complex technical issues.
Intentional forks are the product of developers’ drive to push forward a new change or upgrade in blockchain technology.
What’s the difference between Soft and Hard Forks?
Fork upgrades can be divided into hard and soft forks. Soft forks are an upgrade of an existing blockchain network, wherein the new one can still function with the previous. While hard forks are upgraded blockchain systems that separate themselves entirely from the previous and do not function together at all.
Need for hard forks
Hard forks can occasionally be created for testnets that experiment with new functions, before being launched on mainnets. This is essential as upgrades without testing would be immutable.
Hard forks can also be the result of conflicts between various networks’ users.
Such occurrences have appeared on many occasions. For instance, Bitcoin was hard forked into Bitcoin Cash as a number of users wanted scalability and block size changes for faster and cheaper transaction processing. However, a number of users within Bitcoin’s network viewed the matter differently, thus leading to an eventual hard fork into Bitcoin Cash
An additional example of hard forks is Ethereum and Ethereum Classic. In the past, the original Ethereum network was often found to be buggy and problematic, frequently leading to loss of funds and damaging impact for users. As a solution, a number of users suggested reversing the network back to a state before any of the incidents occurred, which was challenged by the remaining group of users, leading to an eventual hard work into Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.
The currently popular variation of Ethereum is in fact the hard forked version of the two.
Decisiveness on the network
Conflicts in public blockchain networks are not only resolved by the decisions of developers, but also by a majority of users in that certain network and their desired direction of movement.
Though it is factual that every blockchain network has a different set of rules and regulations, they all function on a decentralized basis. Therefore, decisions are not forcibly made by developers alone but are also decided on by the users/nodes as well.
In the world of blockchain, resolving small issues or network updates can be performed with soft forks. However, with larger and more structural matters, hard forks can be the most beneficial, especially for the user majority as, with decentralized networks, no single authority is in power, meaning that development, investigation, monitoring, and investment can be performed by everyone involved.
Moreover, regardless of the forking method, the goal is often to better lead the network at hand to a better and safer future, while also resolving present issues for users’ ease of use as well.
Reference: Investopedia, Coinmarketcap, Cryptocurrencyfact, CFI